Photo Courtesy Columbia Riverkeeper

Today, Crag celebrates with our longtime client Columbia Riverkeeper another victory for protection of the Columbia River.  In a unanimous decision, the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA) rejected the Port of St. Helens’ proposal to rezone 837 acres of farmland for industrial development.  In 2013, the Port of St. Helens proposed nearly doubling the size of its Port Westward industrial property—home to Oregon’s only oil-by-rail terminal—for projects including coal export and oil-by-rail.  Crag represented  Columbia Riverkeeper in appealing the decision.  LUBA rejected the Port’s argument that the area needs more industrial-zoned land to thrive.

“The Columbia River Estuary is at the center of an unprecedented effort to site dirty energy export projects in the most critical salmon nurseries in the Pacific Northwest,” stated Brett VandenHeuvel, Executive Director for Columbia Riverkeeper.  “Dirty fossil fuel projects are a direct affront to our region’s fishing heritage and effort to recover endangered salmon.”

To date, the Port’s efforts to site coal export have fallen flat.  In May 2013, Kinder Morgan withdrew plans to site a 30 million ton per year coal export terminal at Port Westward.  Portland General Electric, which also leases property at Port Westward, effectively vetoed the Kinder Morgan’s project, citing concerns that coal dust would harm its natural gas plants.  Ambre Energy’s Morrow Pacific Project was denied a removal/fill permit required for dock construction at the Port of Morrow on August 18 by the Oregon Department of State Lands (DSL).

As a result of today’s ruling, the County must re-evaluate the application and issue a new decision on the proposal.  As part of its review, the County must analyze and explain why the vacant land at the existing Port Westward site and other sites around the County cannot accommodate new industrial uses. The County must also identify a close, direct relationship between the reasons given for expanding the industrial park, and the proposed uses of that land.  In addition, LUBA held that the County may not defer analysis of adverse impacts of the proposal to a later time, but instead must evaluate those impacts before approving the goal exception and zone change.  Finally, the County must evaluate whether the proposed industrial uses will be urban or rural in nature, and limit uses to rural uses or explain how urban uses will be consistent with Oregon’s land use laws.

Read the full press release here.