Over 1,000 people weighed in urging Columbia County Commissioners to deny a proposal to rezone 837 acres near Clatskanie along the Columbia River.
Communities Speak Up for Farms, Clean Water and Safe Towns
Over a thousand people urged the Columbia County Commission to reject the Port of Columbia County’s proposal to rezone prime farmland and wetlands at Port Westward, near Clatskanie, Oregon. The proposed conversion of 837 acres of deep, wet soils to industrial use along the Columbia River could establish a new fossil fuel and industrial hub larger than the Port of Vancouver.
Community members are urging the Columbia County Board of Commissioners to deny the Port’s application to rezone the area because the Port has failed to protect community values and interests like clean water, adjacent farms, salmon habitat, and the safety of communities along the rail lines that would service the new industrial area.
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Communities Urge Protection of Farms, Clean Water Eyed for Massive Industrial Rezone
January 28, 2021 (St. Helens, OR)—Over a thousand people weighed in urging Columbia County Commissioners to deny a proposal to rezone a large swath of sensitive, low-lying farmland and wetlands near Clatskanie along the Columbia River. Proposed as a potential energy hub, the site has seen a decade of attempts to industrialize a sensitive tract of low-lying, diked farmlands and wetlands into a mix of fracked gas-to-methanol refinery, oil-train terminal, and coal-terminal developments. In its current proposal, the Port of Columbia wants to convert 837 acres of high-value farmland for heavy industry development, a change that would establish a new potential source of pollution on par with the Port of Vancouver at a critical bend in the Lower Columbia River. The site could be used to establish a major fracked gas-to-methanol refinery, similar to the one just denied by Washington state.
“It is past time for the Port to throw in the towel on a mega industrialization proposal that can’t pass legal muster,” said Lauren Goldberg, legal and program director with Columbia Riverkeeper. “People value thriving farmland, strong salmon runs, and clean water. That’s why this is the wrong place to pave over top-notch farmland to create an industrial port on par with some of the largest on the West Coast.”
"The pandemic has reinforced the importance of our essential farm economy," stated Jasmine Zimmer-Stucky, Working Lands Engagement Coordinator at 1000 Friends of Oregon. "Removing zoning protections for over 800 acres of primarily high-value farmland is no way to thank farmers for their ongoing contributions to our state or to help new and beginning farmers gain access to farmland."
“My heart aches for the families and farmers whose properties would be sacrificed in an accident. The Port states during a toxic spill the plan is to stop the dike pumps, thus creating a 'bathtub' to essentially flood all the neighbors with the spilled toxins. Industrializing this precious agricultural land creates an 870 acre sacrifice zone," said Annie Christensen, Columbia County resident.
In comments to the Columbia County Board of Commissioners, local farmers, business owners, and residents urged the board to reject the Port of Columbia County’s third attempt to rezone farmland for heavy industrial development. Commenters strongly criticized the Port’s failure to consider how industrial pollution would impact nearby farms and the Columbia River.
Columbia Riverkeeper and 1000 Friends of Oregon submitted detailed comments arguing why the Port’s proposal failed to meet the minimum requirements of Oregon’s land use laws. The County Board will meet to consider the issues and vote in coming months.
Stunning new fossil fuel proposals threaten the Columbia. The good news? We are fighting and winning!