Sunday, October 6, 2013

Columbia River Keepers Fact Sheet and Impact Statement.

Doubling the Size of Port Westward: A Bad Deal for Families & Farms in Columbia County

To submit a comment, email your testimony to

What is proposed?

The Port of St. Helens—the same Port that bent over backwards courting coal export companies—is asking Columbia County to change its Comprehensive Plan to allow large-scale industrial development on nearly 1,000 acres of land that is currently protected for agriculture. This is a significant change for residents who value living in a rural area and people who farm near the proposed expansion. While the Port now insists that its rezoning plans are unrelated to coal, the Port’s application clearly raises the potential for added coal and oil trains through our communities. After all, the Port hoped to bring Kinder Morgan’s coal terminal to the same area.
The Port’s attempt to double its industrial land could have sweeping consequences for the County:
 The rezoning of nearly 1,000 acres of valuable farm and riparian land at Port Westward will harm farmers, potentially ruining their businesses.
 The Port will seek to designate its newly zoned land as a “regionally significant industrial site.” This will severely limit the public’s ability to review or challenge new industrial activities – such as coal exports, oil exports, or oil refining – at the Port Westward site.
 Unit train traffic through Columbia County communities will likely increase. The Port touts its access to rail as the reason why the rezoning request should be allowed.
In June, the Columbia County Planning Commission voted overwhelmingly – by a 5 to 1 margin – to reject the Port’s request. The Planning Commission reasoned that the impact to local farmers and the area’s transportation system should not be allowed, particularly when most of the Port’s existing industrial land remains undeveloped. Now, County staff have essentially ignored this recommendation, and instead provided a staff report that supports the rezoning request. The staff’s approach subverts the process, ignoring the public testimony and thoughtful reasoning that led the Planning Commission to recommend denial.
Discussion Points for Testimony to the Columbia County Commission:
 The Board of Commissioners should deny the rezone request, following the example set by the County’s Planning Commission, who recommended denial of the rezoning application. The Planning Commission decided that protecting farmland was too important to allow the expansion of the Port’s industrial plans.
 Making a mockery of the process, the County’s staff report basically ignores the recommendations and reasoning of their own Planning Commission, instead supplanting the Planning Commission’s conclusions with the applicant’s reasoning.
This is outrageous, and it ignores hours of public input and the Planning Commission’s deliberations.
 Approving the rezone will reduce the community’s ability to give input about future developments at Port Westward. If the rezone is approved, the Port will seek to establish the area as a “regionally significant industrial” site. Under the rules established by Senate Bill 766, once the area is a regionally significant industrial site, the public’s ability to review any new project will be severely limited, prohibiting any public hearing or any appeal to the Land Use Board of Appeals.
 Rezoning farmland for industrial development will increase rail and road traffic. The Port’s application doesn’t hide the ball: it wants to double the size of Port Westward to take advantage of rail access.
 The Port has provided no detailed plans to deal with transportation impacts to Columbia County, particularly from unit train traffic, which would divide St. Helens, Scappoose, and Rainier in half. The staff report and Port application do not attempt to address the impact to the rest of Columbia County from potential unit trains.
 The proposal paves the way for dirty energy projects. (Here are the facts: In January 2012, the Port signed a lease option agreement with Kinder Morgan to export coal. In May, Kinder Morgan withdrew, citing a lack of space. The Port now seeks to rezone a large section of agricultural land with river access for industrial use. The Port’s rezoning application states explicitly that potential future uses include coal export.)
 Coal dust, industrial water pollution, and diesel emissions from trains and trucks contain toxic pollution, including arsenic, mercury, and lead. For farmers, landowners, and communities along the rail line, this pollution is more than a nuisance – it’s a public health issue. The staff report recommends weak conditions for “controls” and “monitoring” of dust and water pollution. The only adequate protection is to leave the land as it is – protected, productive farmland.
 The County should protect high quality farmland. Many people live in Columbia County because they value living in a rural area and support our local farmers. The Port’s proposal would eliminate over 600 acres of productive farmland. While the Port likes to talk about “jobs,” this rezone is not about more jobs: the Port’s own application acknowledges the type of development it wants to attract is not labor intensive.
 The majority of the existing Port Westward industrial site is undeveloped. The Port should work harder to use it first before gobbling up more farmland. Why pave over productive farmland when the majority of the existing Port Westward site is empty?
For more information, visit,, or contact: Dan Serres at, (503) 890-2441.
Submit comments to Columbia County to:

1,000 Friends of Oregon Responds to Use of SB 766 in The Case of Port Westward Clatskanie

133 SW Second Ave, Suite 201 • Portland, OR 97204 • (503) 497-1000 • fax (503) 223-0073 •
Southern Oregon Office • PO Box 2442 • Grants Pass, OR 97528 • (541) 474-1155 • fax (541) 474-9389
Willamette Valley Office • PO Box 51252 • Eugene, OR 97405 • (541) 520-3763 • fax (503) 223-0073
Central Oregon Office • 115 NW Oregon Ave #21 • Bend, OR 97701 • (541) 719-8221 • fax (866) 394-3089
Columbia County Planning Commission
Columbia County Land Development Services/Planning Division
230 Strand Street
St. Helens, OR 97051
May 29, 2013
RE: Comments on the Port of St. Helens’ Application for Comprehensive Plan
Map and Text Amendment and Zone Change to Reclassify and Rezone
Property from PA-80 to RIPD; Goal 2 Exception to Goal 3; File No. PA 12-
02 & ZC 13-01
Dear Chairman Letourneau and Planning Commissioners:
Thank you for this opportunity to present comments opposing the subject application. 1000 Friends of Oregon is a nonprofit, membership organization that works with Oregonians to support livable urban and rural communities, protect family farms and forests, and provide transportation and housing choice.
Agriculture is Oregon's second largest industry: 1 out of 8 jobs in this state is agriculture-related, and the industry is directly and indirectly linked to about $22 billion in sales of goods and services, accounting for 15% of the statewide total of sales involving all industry sectors. Agriculture is traded-sector – 80% is sold out of state with 40% exported out of the country, bringing new dollars into Oregon. And those figures have been increasing almost steadily for two decades, which is not a story any other industry can tell.
1000 Friends of Oregon believes that agricultural land should stay in agricultural use to support Oregon’s second largest industry. Over $26 million worth of agricultural products are produced in Columbia County and the backbone of the farming economy in the County is the fine soils found along the Columbia River including the excellent soils found on this site. In its testimony, Columbia Riverkeeper has done an excellent job of laying out the legal basis for denying this application. We ask that you deny the application based upon policy and the law.
Also, please note that SB 766 does not authorize, encourage, or expedite rezones to industrial. It merely provides expedited opportunities for development of lands already zoned industrial.
For the reasons above, 1000 Friends of Oregon opposes the comprehensive plan amendment proposed by the Port.
Respectfully submitted,
Steven D. McCoy
Farm and Forest Staff Attorney

DLCD Farmland Protection Program


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