The Army Corps of Engineers is asking the public to comment about the city of Brookings' request to fill in the deep pothole between the end of the boat ramp and Social Security Bar.

The city has asked for a permit to take up to 50 cubic yards of river gravel each year over a five-year period from the lower third of the gravel bar to fill in the pothole that has developed at the ramp. The city would use a front-end loader and dump truck to do the work and compact and grade the area during the dry season.

Brookings city officials want to fill in the hole, which starts on the north side of the ramp and extends south beyond the other end, about 40 feet wide and 2 feet deep, so vehicles can get to the popular recreation area. Currently, only four-wheel-drives with high clearance can forge their way through the water.

Some people have grumbled that the project should be easier andndash; and less time consuming andndash; if the city would just fill the hole with gravel using a backhoe, but the Army Corps said in a report that "preliminary determinations indicate the described activity may affect an endangered or threatened species or its critical habitat."

A consultation under the Endangered Species Act will be started and a permit will not be issued until that is complete. In the consultation, the Corps will consider conservation, economics, aesthetics, environmental concerns, wetlands, fish and wildlife values, flood hazards, floodplain values, navigation, shoreline erosion, recreation, water supply and quality, mineral needs, among many other items.

City Parks and Technical Services Supervisor Tony Baron said the Chetco River has been under so much scrutiny in recent years andndash; notably with mining issues, endangered fish species, Wild and Scenic River Designation andndash; officials want to approach this in a correct and legal manner.

The pothole develops every year, he said, by cars traveling down the ramp and to the bar.

"Every time they go through, every time tires hit the puddle, it pushes more sediment out," Baron said. "It keeps working that sediment out."

And every year the city has filled it in. This time, city officials are asking for a longer-term permit so they don't have to apply every year. It will cost less than $500 and take less than a half day, Baron said.

He added that he's never seen the pothole in such bad shape, but that's likely because the city hasn't filled it in the past two years.

Doing so will be cheap, easy and quick, as well, Baron said.

"I've had several people step up and say they'll come in and do it," he said. "It'll get done. It'll get done the next day; it's that simple."

Comments should reference the project NWP-2013-43 and be sent to US. Army Corps of Engineers, Tyler Krug, North Bend Field Office, 2201 N. Broadway, Suite C, North Bend, OR 97459-2372. Comments are due no later than March 23.