VOLUNTEERS OF ALL AGES gathered at Rainier’s Dibblee Beach on Saturday, Sept. 22, to clean litter and illegally dumped trash from the brush, trails, road and beach. A total of 36 volunteers – 23 adults and 13 youth – volunteered for the clean-up which was held in conjunction with the statewide SOLVE annual riverside and beach clean-up.
In the top picture Layne Mack and Jessey Dilley search for cigarette butts in the sand, while another group of young volunteers combed the beach.
The Dibblee Beach volunteers filled a 20-yard container with trash – 1.86 tons of solid waste. They found 21 used tires and recovered one vehicle without tires and wheels.
A barbecue lunch was provided by Friends of Dibblee Point. Winner of a fundraising raffle was Dan Jacobson of Rainier, who received a carved blue heron donated by artist Harold Lawler, also of Rainier.
Also contributing services or materials were Columbia County Land Development Services, Hudson Garbage Service, Oregon Department of State Lands, and Starbucks Coffee – Oregon Way location. Photos Courtesy of Judith Taylor
by Deborah Steele Hazen
Despite calls for a “programmatic environmental review” for all proposed coal export facilities in Oregon and Washington by Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber and U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has decided to continue with its current environmental review and assessment process for permits for the proposed Ambre Energy Morrow Pacific Project.
While the Corps’ process is expected to be far shorter than a “programmatic environmental review” of the entire coal export issue, it is “still very rigorous,” a spokeperson for Ambre Energy told The Chief this week.
While it is difficult to predict a specific start date because of the federal, state and local permitting processes, the spokesperson said the company is now looking at a mid-2014 start-up date for the project, rather than in 2013, as originally projected.
Ambre Energy proposes to bring Powder River basin coal from southeastern Montana and northeastern Wyoming by rail to the Port of Morrow on the Columbia River near Boardman. The coal would then be transferred to fully enclosed barges and shipped down the Columbia River to Port Westward near Clatskanie, where it would be loaded onto ocean-going vessels for export to Pacific Rim countries. The transloading operation at Port Westward also would be fully enclosed. It would use the existing dock facilities and would not require new permits on the Clatskanie end of the operation.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is the lead agency in the permitting of the project, but Ambre Energy must also receive a removal fill permit from the Oregon Department of State Lands (DSL). A second comment period on the DSL permit began this week and will close Oct. 31.
In July, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality reversed itself, and announced that it would require an air contaminant discharge permit, which Ambre Energy has also applied for.
The permit application being reviewed by the Corps is to build a new dock facility at the Port of Morrow which would include nine dolphins, walkways, a fixed dock and a conveyor system for loading coal, along with enclosed warehouses in the uplands for storing coal prior to loading onto the barges.
Approximately 140 permanent piles ranging from 14 to 24 inches in diameter and 110 temporary 16-inch diameter piles would be installed to complete the project. Over 15,000 square feet of new overwater structure would be constructed.
After conducting an extended comment period, during which Kitzhaber and Merkley made their requests for a “programmatic environmental review,” the Corps determined that its regulatory authority over the project is Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899.
The Corps’ summation on its website at http://www.nwp.usace.army.mil/About/Currentprojects/CoyoteIslandTerminal.aspx, states that “Section 10 requires a permit for the construction of any structure in, over or under a navigable waterway, including excavation, dredging or deposition of material, or any other work affecting the course, location, condition or capacity of such waters.
“We also have regulatory authority over some projects under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act, which requires a permit for the discharge of dredged or fill material into waterways or wetlands.” The proposal does not involve those kind of activities.
“The Corps must of course comply with other applicable laws and regulations when reviewing project proposals, including the National Environmental Policy Act,” the Corps’ statement explained, “to consider and evaluate the impacts of this proposed activity on endangered species, historic properties, water quality, general environmental effects and other public interest factors. The comment period was extended an additional 30 days at the request of commenters. We received nearly 20,000 comments.”
After completing “an initial evaluation” of the proposed “project and review of laws, regulations and policies governing the Corps’ regulatory program,” it was determined that “the Corps’ scope of analysis (i.e., our control and responsibility) over this project includes construction of the in-water and upland facilities at the Port of Morrow.”
“Based on our scope of analysis, we have determined that we will continue our analysis and documentation of the potential effects of permitting this project with an environmental assessment (EA), pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act. The purpose of an EA is to determine the significance of the proposal’s environmental effects and to evaluate alternatives that could accomplish the proposed action’s purpose and need. Details about the EA process are available in the Council on Environmental Quality’s ‘A Citizen’s Guide to the NEPA’ at http://ceq.hss.doe.gov/nepa/Citizens_Guide_Dec07.pdf.
“As we consider direct, indirect, and cumulative effects, we may determine that some of those effects are likely to have a significant impact on the environment, which would trigger the need to prepare an environmental impact statement.
“The applicant has prepared an environmental review document which will be considered as part of our analysis, along with our own environmental studies (including those based on the technical expertise of other agencies), information provided by the public, and relevant law and policy.”
The Corps’ statement on its decision not to require the “programmatic review,” noted that: “Proposed projects in Washington state being reviewed by Seattle District also involve loading facilities that may handle coal. Each proposal is based on the applicants’ needs in those locations and each is unique. Portland and Seattle districts are coordinating their reviews but are evaluating each project individually.
“After we have determined the scope of our analysis, we will initiate consultation with the National Marine Fisheries Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to determine the project’s potential impacts to species listed under the Endangered Species Act. Consistent with the National Historic Preservation Act, we will also consult with the State Historic Preservation Office and other interested parties regarding potential impacts to historic properties.
“We have a trust responsibility to protect certain rights and assets of federally recognized Indian tribes, and will engage in timely and meaningful consultation throughout our evaluation process with tribes that may be affected by or interested in the proposed action.”
The Corps statement concluded: “After all of these steps, we will make a decision whether or not to issue a permit for the construction of the dock facility, and what conditions and mitigating actions to impose with the permit if issued.
“The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is fully committed to protecting and maintaining the navigable capacity of our nation’s waters and to protecting our aquatic resources through fair, flexible and balanced permit decisions.”
Ambre Energy estimates that, if permitted, the Morrow Pacific project would create more than 2,100 temporary construction-related jobs and more than 1,000 ongoing operations-related jobs, many of them in Morrow and Columbia counties.
No Corps or DSL permits would be required for the Port Westward end of the operation, which would use the existing dock, plus 20 enclosed barges with a conveyor system to transfer the coal into the ships’ holds.
Unlike the Kinder Morgan coal export proposal, the Morrow Pacific Project would see no coal trains traveling west of Boardman.
In July, the Morrow Pacific Project signed letters of intent with two Portland companies, Gunderson and Vigor Industrial, for the construction of 20 barges at a combined price of over $75 million.
That deal is on hold until the company learns whether or not it will receive the needed permits.
by Adam J. Wehrley
Internal friction continues to infect the fact-finding committee reviewing utility rates for multiple unit housing complexes, it was reported at the Oct 1st meeting of the Rainier City Council.
The committee was formed in July to review the equity of water and sewer rates based on equivalent dwelling units (EDU) for hotels, apartments and other types of housing after Rainier resident Skip Lahti raised concerns over the program.
At that July 9th meeting Mayor Jerry Cole appointed Lahti and councilors David Sills and James Bradfield to the committee to review the EDU program and similar programs in other municipalities. City Administrator Debra Dudley was directed to assist the committee.
During his opening comments on Monday, Mayor Cole reviewed the history of the EDU program, which accompanied sewer and water rate increases to residential customers passed on Sept 20, 2010.
That measure was approved by the council including now-recalled councilors Russ Moon and David Langford. Councilors Sloan Nelson and Mike Avent abstained from voting at the time, citing conflicts of interest because they each own properties which fall under the program.
On May 3, 2010 Moon moved to form a sewer fund focus committee, on which he served with Councilor Phil Butcher, former city administrator Lars Gare and former public works director Darrel Lockhard.
During Cole’s comments at Monday’s meeting, Moon interrupted the mayor in the midst of his address and denied serving on the committee stating, “I was not on that committee.” He later told The Chief that he did not serve on an EDU committee and that the EDU program was created by Lockhard.
Cole said, “The (current) committee is not there to make decisions, its there to bring information back to the council. So the council can make an informed decision from there.”
He also mentioned an email chain which he had read showing “friction” among committee members.
As he has at several recent meetings, Lahti commented on the inner workings of the EDU committee. “I don’t think the committee is functioning correctly. Apparently my input doesn’t matter.”
Councilor Scott Cooper asked, “Is it always necessary for you to rant off your complaints in front of the council?”
To which Lahti responded, “Yes I’d like to get it on record.”
Lahti went on to say that he believes that under Oregon ethics laws requiring public officials to abstain from issues which potentially involve personal gain, Michael Carter should resign from the committee, because of his position as school board superintendent.
The Rainier School District does not fall under any of the provisions of the EDU program, but rather has a separate contracted rate.
Carter reiterated that the committee plays a fact-finding role only and does not have with any decision-making power.
Carter said, “I have been personally threatened by Mr. Lahti. It is very difficult to work with someone who belittles people personally.”
The email records show Lahti repeatedly referring to Carter as a dictator, threatening to resign from the committee and accusing Carter of attempting to hide information from the public (based on Carter’s statement that the public meeting laws do not require committees to publicly post their meeting times as elected boards and councils must).
Later in his address, Mayor Cole reported that an audit of the city was being scheduled, including both finances and practices.
Judge to be Reimbursed for Conference
After a lengthy debate, the council unanimously approved a request by Judge Charles Wardle for reimbursement for membership in and conferences held by the Oregon Municipal Judges Association.
Debate centered around recent changes in the city’s judicial services program, which have altered Judge Wardle’s status from an employee to a contractor, and the opinion among several councilors that the city should not pay educational costs of contractors. The city attorney and other professionals who contract with the city were cited as examples.
Bradfield particularly objected to the the proposal, not wanting to add to the city’s budget. When Butcher pointed out that judicial training was budgeted, the debate quickly ended and the council unanimously approved the reimbursements up to $600.
2012-13 Timber Harvest Reported
City forestry contractor Byron Rickert reported on the year’s timber harvest on city watershed land. With this year’s harvest completed, he reported that 27 acres had been harvested, leaving four in reserve. This resulted in $193,628.53 in revenue for the city, with $23,576.28 in expenses.
Revenue exceeded projections by over $9600, which Rickert attributed to higher than expected log prices for alder, fir and cedar, while pulp wood prices were down.
He also reported on herbicide work and the purchase of seedlings for replanting.
Rickert stated that there was a possibility of a 1700 foot road project, which would exceed the budget by $8000 to $10,000 for the year, but would save money over doing the work in the spring.
Volunteers Address Council
Steve Lovegren addressed the council, reporting that he had started a non-profit organization called People of Rainier, to help people in need, particularly those having trouble paying water and sewer bills.
Funds are being raised by selling fire wood produced from logs donated by Teevin Bros. Land & Timber Co.
He requested that the city provide a link from its website to www.thepeopleofrainier.com
Eagle Scout candidate Nathan Soules updated the council on his field project to install a nine-hole frisbee golf course at the Rainier City Park. He reported that the tee-off forms were ready, baskets had been welded up and he was hoping to install them soon.
Mayor Cole thanked him for the update and directed him to be in contact with Dudley for further assistance.
by Adam J. Wehrley
As the campaign for Columbia County Sheriff heats up and election day approaches, retired deputy and sheriff candidate Dave Fuller is defending himself against allegations of misconduct.
Fuller is challenging incumbent Sheriff Jeff Dickerson.
After 29 years of service, Fuller retired from the Columbia County Sheriff Office (CCSO) on Sept 5, while on leave and under investigation.
“At this time I must set the record straight in the allegations presented by Sheriff Dickerson and Undersheriff Moyer.” stated Fuller.
Fuller is accused of failing to report a motor vehicle collision on April 1. At the time he was driving his private vehicle on Highway 30 near Jack Falls Road, south of Rainier. Fuller told The Chief that he swerved to miss a deer and drove into the ditch, causing him to lose air in two tires and causing other minor damage to his car.
He said that because the total damage was below $1500 he did not report the accident, which occurred when he was off-duty.
Undersheriff Andy Moyer told The Chief that the CCSO received reports in mid-May that Deputy Fuller had been intoxicated at the time of the incident and began an investigation. Fuller has admitted having a few drinks earlier in the evening, but denies being drunk at the time of the wreck.
Moyer said that Fuller was placed on administrative leave following the investigation’s initial interviews after CCSO investigators believed Fuller was being “untruthful and deceptive.”
The investigation of criminal charges was taken over by the Oregon State Police (OSP) in order to avoid a conflict of interest within the CCSO.
Columbia County District Attorney Steve Atchison confirmed that Fuller has been cited with failure to report a motor vehicle collision, but said that he knows of no other pending or related charges in the case.
Atchison said that the case has been referred to the Department of Justice (DOJ). A spokesperson for the DOJ told The Chief that he were unable to confirm that the DOJ’s criminal justice department was handling the case.
“I admit that I have made mistakes, as most people have, in 29 years as a deputy and have learned from those mistakes.” said Fuller in his response to reports in the press that he has a history of misconduct.
In 2011 Fuller was disciplined for arguing with a supervisor, which he confirms, emphasizing that he and the supervisor were both yelling and swearing and that they apologized to each other the next day. Fuller said that this does not excuse the situation, but hopes it does clear up any misconceptions about that incident.
Fuller denies the allegation from the CCSO that he took unathorized time off in June 2010, saying that he had called into the office to report that he would not be in on the day in question.
The most serious charge from Fuller’s past is that he fled the scene of a drunk driving accident in 1985, in which he was a passenger. Fuller reports that he left only after making sure others involved were alright and had his contact information. He added, “In retrospect I should have stayed.”
“Bringing this up after 27 years with the other two incidents shows I do not have a history of misconduct over 29 years of service, only that I have made mistakes.” said Fuller summarizing his defense of his record.
Sheriff Dickerson’s statements, as quoted in The South County Spotlight that he is “immoral,” “is slanderous,” Fuller said, and an attack on his character. He further stated that he will not attack either Dickerson or Moyer personally, but will attack their policies.
Moyer emphasized that neither he nor Dickerson have been politically motivated in conducting the investigation and that all information released by the CCSO has been in response to media requests.
Household hazardous waste items may be disposed of by Columbia County residents free of charge in Clatskanie this Saturday, Oct. 6, from 8 a.m. to 12 noon, in the Clatskanie city park.
Many products used around yards and homes contain chemicals which can harm people, fish and wildlife if used or disposed of improperly, said a Columbia County household hazardous waste program spokesperson.
The Columbia County household hazardous waste program, which operates in conjunction with Columbia County and Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, was established to properly dispose of or recycle household hazardous waste.
Nearly all household items containing one or more of the following “key words” on the label are accepted: warning, caution, poison, dangerous, toxic, flammable, combustible, ignitable, corrosive and oxidizer.
Household hazardous waste products accepted include paint (acrylic and latex), lawn/garden chemicals, light ballasts, light tube/compact fluorescent bulbs, solvents/thinners, aerosol cans, antifreeze, propane tanks,cleaners/detergents, medical sharps, batteries, used motor oil, gasoline/diesel/fuels, fireworks/flares, mercury thermometers and small arms ammunition.
Items not accepted include household garbage and unused or unwanted medicines/pharmaceuticals. Empty containers are considered garbage and will not be accepted.
Liquids must be brought in original containers, except for oil and fuels, which must be labeled. Place containers in cardboard or plastic boxes and secure them in the rear of the vehicle. Sharps must be in a sealed puncture-proof container. Do not transport items in a black plastic bag.
Latex and acrylic paint can be disposed of year-round at the Columbia County transfer station, 1601 Railroad Avenue in St. Helens, Monday through Saturday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
For more information on the household hazardous waste collection event call Columbia County land development services at 503 397-1501 or contact Todd Dugdale, Columbia County solid waste program coordinator, at 503 397-7207 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Private timberlands in northwest Oregon including Evenson, Campbell, and Longview Timberlands property are continuing to be closed to all public recreational entry, including walk-in hunting, because of the high forest-fire danger.
Spokesmen for the timberland agencies said they have decided to keep their Oregon forests closed to public access until substantial rains reduce the wildfire threat.
Conditions are very dry and long-range forecasts indicate the overall dry weather will continue for some time.
“The public’s cooperation in staying out of the tree farms during this hazardous forest-fire period will be much appreciated,” said Ed Hendrix, general manager of Longview Timberlands in Oregon.
Gates have been closed and notices posted at timberlands entry points. Company woods security patrols will be increased for the duration of the fire season.
For up-to-date information on land closures visit the Longview Timberlands website at www.longviewtimber.com.
Eric Evenson said Monday that Evenson Timberlands, as well as the Campbell holdings, generally coordinate their closures with Longview Timberlands in northwest Oregon.