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Letters from readers published Aug. 15, 2014


Log trucks are the culprit

Now that the county has “repaired” parts of Cater Road and elsewhere, I wonder if all that new money for the Sheriff’s Office is going to translate into enforcing the “no thru trucks” provision of the law.

We hear studded tires demonized as the reason our roads are a mess, but the real culprits are the endless chain of log trucks that carry extremely heavy loads down roads never intended for such use. It’s nice to have some of our road fixed, but without stopping those confounded log trucks, it’s really just a waste of time and taxpayer money.

Greg Chapman

Scappoose

[Editor’s note: The three-year, $7.07 million levy passed in May is solely for Columbia County Jail operations. No additional patrol positions or activities have been allocated through the levy’s passage.]

Enlightening debate followed oil-by-rail video screening

Last week we co-hosted an event in connection with Columbia Riverkeeper. The purpose was the screening of a documentary focusing on the crude oil shipments through both Seattle and Columbia County. We were delighted with the turnout for the event and the healthy discussion that followed the video.

What made this event particularly rewarding was the participation of two elected officials, state Rep. Brad Witt, D-Clatskanie, Rainier City Councilor Steve Massey and two candidates for election, Andrew Kaza, candidate for state senator, and Larry Ericksen, who is running for state representative.

In our view, this is the type of community gathering we need on a regular basis. It wasn’t confined to a scripted agenda. It wasn’t controlled by the clock. It was a casual setting where people asked questions and where views were challenged; and not just the views of those currently in office or seeking office. We also challenged each other. We debated and disagreed as well as supported and defended.

Does this sound like how you want your county to work? Out in the open, with elected officials sharing the spotlight, and the hot seat, with the public?

If so, we hope you will come to the events we have planned for the future. Or, maybe you might even like to become involved. Please feel free to join us at any of our open monthly meetings, which are the second Thursday of every month. More information is available at cleancolumbiacounty.info.

Our sincere thanks to Rep. Witt, Mr. Massey, Mr. Kaza and Mr. Ericksen. Your willingness to participate was much appreciated. Maybe next time more elected officials (who were invited), challengers and the public will join and participate in a dialog about the future of this county we all care about. Also, a big thank you to all the fabulous cooks and bakers who contributed food. It never hurts to start a meeting with a great meal.

Nancy Ward, President

Clean Columbia County

Letter to Kitzhaber, OTC regarding ConnectOregon V applications (Aug. 7)

We are a group of local elected officials that would be impacted by fossil fuel export facilities on the West Coast. When proposed projects impact our communities, we are at the “front lines” of addressing those impacts and helping our constituents understand and cope with them. For that reason, we are very concerned about the potential allocation of public monies to fund new coal export and crude oil-by-rail facilities. We understand that the Oregon Transportation Commission will make this decision in August.

Taken together, the projects proposed in ConnectOregon applications 1M0352, 1M0294, and 1R0350 seek a subsidy of nearly $7 million dollars to rebuild and expand the Port Westward Beaver dock and increase train speeds and rail capacity through downtown Rainier, Oregon, in support of Ambre Energy’s Morrow Pacific coal export proposal and Global Partners’ crude-by-rail shipping terminal. If approved, these three grants would consume nearly 17 percent of the entire ConnectOregon funding allocation this year.

In a letter sent to Governor Kitzhaber on May 1, we stated: We have heard from our constituents with respect to the proposals to build coal export terminals on the Pacific Northwest coast or along the Columbia River. The operation of these terminals will affect the entire region, not just the port communities. The vast volumes of coal that could be moving through the region’s rail system and public waterways will have significant impacts on transportation networks, air and water quality, public health and safety, wildlife habitat, and quality of life.

We write to you today about the permit decision facing the state of Oregon in relation to the Morrow Pacific Project. This project poses serious risks to communities and the environment from start to finish.

We urge you to deny Ambre’s removal-fill permit because coal export is not consistent with the protection, conservation and best use of the state’s water resources. Ambre’s coal export operation would adversely impact the Columbia River and protected fish, while interfering with navigation, fishing and public recreation. This decision affects communities in Montana, Idaho, Washington, Oregon and beyond.

Consistent with that request, we ask that you deny ConnectOregon grant application 1M0294, supported by Ambre Energy for the purpose of facilitating its Morrow Pacific Project.

We have also heard from our constituents about health and safety concerns associated with the huge increase in rail transport of highly flammable crude oil through Oregon. The rail modification project proposed in grant application 1R0350 is intended to increase the speed and number of crude oil unit trains traveling through downtown Rainier, Oregon, to a shipping terminal at the Port Westward dock with a new berth (grant application 1M0352). Because of potential grave threats to public health and safety, we call for completion and review of a comprehensive Health Impact Assessment (HIA) prior to grant approval and/or allocation of any ConnectOregon funds to projects 1R0350 and 1M0352.

The ConnectOregon V grant applications submitted for Ambre Energy and Global Partners contain inaccurate information. The applications state that construction on Berth 1 will begin on August 24, 2014, and that construction on Berth 2 will begin on September 1, 2014. Because these projects are highly controversial and still require numerous state and federal permits, as well as a state land lease in the case of Ambre, it is virtually impossible for necessary permits to be granted on a timeline that supports legitimate use of ConnectOregon V funding. In fact, because the dock projects can’t be completed within the schedules and budgets described in the applications, and because the projects cannot receive all necessary permits within the project schedules, these proposals do not comply with Oregon regulations governing ConnectOregon funds. There are additional conflicts with the Commission’s criteria found in Division 35 of the Oregon Administrative Rules (OAR) that must be considered when deciding whether to commit ConnectOregon funds to these or any proposed project. These include, but are not limited to: 1) dramatically increasing oil and potentially coal train traffic will decrease, not increase, the overall efficiency of Oregon’s transportation system for the sole benefit of oil and coal companies; 2) the applications ignore the economic costs that these projects will place on Oregon, including huge new investments in emergency response training and materials to deal with new threats from fires and explosions; 3) Ambre Energy and Global Partners can, and should, pay their own way; and 4) proposed dock expansion projects are not “ready for construction” or “ready for implementation.”

We are grateful for your support of infrastructure that supports our economy, diverse industries and communities while not harming existing businesses. We encourage you to support those ConnectOregon grant applications that will, in a timely way, support and enhance public health, safety and sustainable transportation infrastructure for Oregonians. Please reject ConnectOregon V grant applications 1M0352, 1M0294, and 1R0350.

Albany Mayor Sharon Konopa, Albany Councilor Richard Olsen, Beaverton Mayor Denny Doyle, Beaverton Councilor Ian King, Eugene Mayor Kitty Piercy, Eugene Councilor George Brown, Eugene Councilor Betty Taylor, Eugene Councilor Alan Zelenka, Hood River Mayor Arthur Babitz, Hood River Council Member Kate McBride, Hood River Council Member Laurent Picard, Metro Councilor Sam Chase, Metro Councilor Bob Stacey, Milwaukie Mayor Jeremy Ferguson, Milwaukie Councilor Scott Churchill, Milwaukie Councilor Mark Gamba, Milwaukie Councilor Dave Hedges, Mosier Mayor Andrea Rogers, Mosier Council President Arlene Burns, Mosier Councilor Emily Reed, state Rep. Peter Buckley, D-Ashland, state Rep. Lew Frederick, D-Portland, state Rep. Mitch Greenlick, D-Portland, state Rep. Alissa Keny-Guyer, D-Portland, state Rep. John Lively, D-Springfield, state Rep. Carolyn Tomei, D-Milwaukie, state Rep. Ben Unger, D-Hillsboro, state Sen. Elizabeth Steiner Hayward, D-NW Portland/Beaverton, City of Portland Commissioner Amanda Fritz, The Dalles Mayor Steve Lawrence, The Dalles Councilor Dan Spatz