CENTURY-OLD AUTOMOBILES met modern power generation technology last Thursday, Aug.22, when the Portland regional group of the Horseless Carriage Club of America’s “Lewis and Clark Tour” visited the Portland General Electric generating plant at the Port Westward industrial park near Clatskanie. Headquartered at the Clatskanie River Inn, the horseless carriage group toured around the area on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, Aug. 22-24. Chief Photo by Deborah Steele Hazen
by Deborah Steele Hazen and Adam J. Wehrley
With a hearing on the proposed rezoning of 957 acres of land adjacent to the Port Westward industrial park scheduled for Sept 18, and with speculation about further coal proposals circulating, Port of St. Helens board of commissioners president Robert Keyser told The Chief this week that the commission would not consider coal- related proposals on the Port-owned land up for rezoning.
The rezoning hearing before the Columbia County board of commissioners is set for 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 18, at Clatskanie Middle/High School.
With the exception of Ambre Energy’s Morrow-Pacific project to barge coal to the Port Westward dock for transloading onto ocean-going ships, Keyser told The Chief this week that “the Port of St. Helens commission will not consider a coal terminal for the Port Westward property, including the property now proposed for rezoning.”
“We looked at Kinder Morgan (the now-withdrawn proposal to ship coal by train to Port Westward) and logistically it didn’t work for them. We are not interested in going down that road again with either Kinder Morgan or another coal project,” Keyser emphasized.
The county commissioners’ hearing will consider the rezoning of 957 acres zoned primary agriculture (PA)-80 to Rural Industrial-Planned Development (RIPD).
The port purchased 786 acres of that land from Greenwood Resources in 2010 after Greenwood had offered it to investors proposing a liquid natural gas (LNG) plant at the site. That project didn’t happen.
The remaining 171 acres proposed for rezoning is privately-owned marsh and waterfront beach and has never been under agricultural use. The parcel, where once local fishermen used horses to pull-in seine nets, is being proposed for rezoning to allow access for possible rail or dock improvements crossing it, should the need arise in the future.
The Port commission president explained that the reason the property is being rezoned at this time is to designate it as a “Regionally Significant Industrial Zone” under Senate Bill (SB) 766, passed in 2011 by the Oregon legislature. Under SB 766 areas designated as regionally significant industrial zones would have a streamlined permitting process for industrial projects of “statewide significance.”
“This fits with our vision for the future to have this property available for important, job-creating industries,” Keyser said. “We would like to show the same kind of vision that the Port commission did in the 1960s when they purchased Port Westward” – then the decommissioned Beaver Army ammunition depot.
“It may be years or decades before the recently-purchased property is used,” Keyser said. “Even then we have always planned for large agricultural buffers around the industries, and wetland conservation easements are a part of Port Westward.
“We never expect to see this as an urban industrial area,” Keyser continued. “Nor do we believe that this will negatively impact agriculture outside of our property. In fact, Seely Mint Farm cultivates property within Port Westward (the area which is already zoned industrial) and we would expect that to continue as long as he’s willing to farm it.”
The Port of St. Helens also has an agreement with Greenwood Resources to allow it to continue growing hybrid poplar trees on the property in question “well into the future,” Keyser pointed out. “If an industrial project does locate there, we would only take out of farming that land necessary for the project, in cooperation with Greenwood.”
Although Columbia County planner Glen Higgins and staff had recommended approval of the rezoning, which Port personnel have emphasized was planned prior to the now-withdrawn Kinder-Morgan proposal which would have transported coal via rail, the county planning commission rejected the proposal in a split decision June 17.
County commissioners will have the final say on the rezoning. Interested parties are invited to attend the Sept. 18th meeting and testify before the county commissioners, starting at 6:30 p.m.
Letters of support or opposition to the rezoning proposal may also be sent to the Columbia County Board of Commissioners, 230 Strand Street, St. Helens, OR 97051.
Northwest Oregon students will be heading back to class next week with staggered starts at Clatskanie and Rainier schools.
Clatskanie Elementary School (CES) students will start classes by thirds starting Tuesday, Sept. 3. Parents of enrolled students should have received a letter with their student’s assigned start date. All CES students will attend classes on Friday, Sept. 6.
Clatskanie Middle/High School (CMHS) students will be staggered by grade, with seventh and ninth graders and new students starting on Tuesday, Sept. 3. Other CMHS students will begin class on Wednesday, Sept. 4.
Rainier’s Hudson Park Elementary (HPE) is not utilizing a staggered start and all students will attend on Wednesday, Sept. 4. Parents of students not enrolled at HPE last year are asked to visit the school office to enroll their students before classes start. Registrations are to be done between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. weekdays.
At Rainier Junior/Senior High School (RJSHS) seventh, ninth and new students will start class on Tuesday, Sept. 3. All other students will start Wednesday, Sept. 4.
Vernonia School District (VSD) students, including Mist Grade School, in second through sixth and ninth grade will start on Friday, Sept. 6.
Kindergarten assessments are also on Sept. 6.
All other VSD students will start on Monday, Sept. 9.
In Knappa first though fifth grades have orientation on Tuesday, Sept. 3, with classes starting on Wednesday, Sept. 4.
The first day of class for Knappa sixth through 12th graders is Tuesday, Sept. 3.
by Deborah Steele Hazen
After a series of special meetings over the past month, including interviews with finalists for the position, the Clatskanie People’s Utility District (PUD) board of directors voted unanimously to appoint Marc Farmer, currently manager of the West Oregon Electric Cooperative, as the PUD’s new general manager.
Farmer’s hiring is subject to background checks and a contract agreement.
“We think we’ve come up with a good one,” said board chair Don Hooper.
Director Bob Wiggins noted that the board had gone through a rigorous process to hire a new general manager to replace Greg Booth, who announced in April that he would retire by next February.
As soon as Farmer’s contract is finalized, “we will begin an orderly transition,” board members said.
The directors complimented the work of human resources director Melissa Korsmo and finance manager Debbie Throop who assisted them in the general manager search process.
Farmer has been general manager of the Vernonia-based West Oregon Electric Cooperative since mid-2005. Prior to that he was regional business manager for the National Rural Telecommunications Cooperative for six years.
Board Benefits Discussed
In the only other action item of the evening, Booth explained to the board that recent rule changes affecting the district’s health care insurance have had the effect of making the current policy regarding board HRA-VEBA (Health Reimbursement Account-Voluntary Employee Beneficiary Association) and health insurance arrangements unworkable.
As he has in several meetings during recent months, citizen Mike George criticized the board for increasing its benefits last year, as well as board travel expenses.
Director Merle Gillespie, who had opposed last year’s increase in the board’s monthly stipend from $250 to $350, and the “per diem” payments when board members travel out of town on district business from $125 to $165, as well as the extension of medical insurance benefits to the board, moved to rescind those board benefit increases. The motion died for lack of a second.
Director Janet Willey then moved to revise the current policy, eliminating the board’s eligibility for the district’s health care insurance and HRA-VEBA programs, but providing for a health care allowance for the directors equal to the district’s health care insurance costs for a single person, currently $577.45 per month. The motion passed 4-1 with Gillespie in opposition.
4.5 Percent Rate Increase, Average $3.50 Per Month
In the other major topic of the meeting…
Booth reported that the Bonneville Power Administration has announced an increase in power and transmission rates effective Oct. 1, by an overall average of over nine percent.
“Our preliminary review indicates that we can expect to pay an additional $1.1 million annually for federal power and an additional $250,000 per year for transmission. Recently, we elected to not renew 10 megawatts of transmission purchases that we had with BPA… Savings from the reduced transmission purchases added up to about $208,000 annually,” Booth wrote in a memorandum to the board.
“These increases, along with about $400,000 for other requirements, primarily amortization of debt, would add up to about $1.75 million per year, or an increase of about 4.5 percent. This amount is equal to about 2 mills per kWh (kilowatt hour), which would be equal to about $3.50 per month for an average residential customer.”
Booth said the staff would be going through the revenue requirements/cost study and rate design efforts with a goal of having a rate proposal for board consideration at its next meeting which has been scheduled for Sept. 25.
Finance manager Debbie Throop reported that because of a lengthy shutdown for repairs to the cogeneration plant at the Wauna Mill, proceeds from its operation are down.
Currently, non-contract industrial customers of the PUD get two .002 cogeneration benefits on their bills. Because of the lower balance in the cogeneration accounts, she is recommending not renewing the cogeneration benefit which is expiring this month. The other .002 cogeneration benefit will remain in place until March 2014.
Clatskanie firefighters deployed last week to the conflagration in The Dalles returned home on Friday, Aug. 23.
Clatskanie firefighters Dan Hires, Andrew Mustola and Ed Franklin left for The Dalles on Aug. 19 to help contain the wildfire which started from lightning strikes Aug. 16. Joining them after two days was Erick Holsey who replaced a task force leader from Scappoose.
The Clatskanie crew was part of a countywide task force which included “brush rigs” and personnel from Vernonia, St. Helens and Scappoose fire departments and the Mist-Birkenfeld department, which sent a water tender.
“Our mission was to protect structures in the fire area along with the water treatment plant that was also threatened by the fire,” said Franklin.
Local firefighters worked with task forces from Clatsop, Marion and Clackamas counties and Tualatin Valley Fire and Rescue who were also dispatched as firefighting reinforcements.
Signs posted by residents near The Dalles welcoming and thanking firefighters, along with many appreciative waves and “thumbs up,” were particularly meaningful, said a Clatskanie firefighter. “It was an honor to be there,” he said.
by Special Correspondent Ernest A. Carman
North Coast Big Band (NCBB) will give a free performance in the Clatskanie City Park on Labor Day, Monday, Sept. 2, from 2-4 p.m.
If it is raining the concert and barbecue will be held at the Clatskanie American Legion Hall, 930 NE 5th Street, which is located one block behind the park. Follow the signs.
Sponsored by the Clatskanie Park & Recreation District in an effort to bring community-style entertainment to the park, the upcoming concert follows the pathway of past year’s events with members of the Clatskanie Arts Commission (CAC) on hand acting as hosts kicking off their 25th performing arts season by serving free cake during intermission.
From 1-4 p.m., the CAC will also be offering “family-friendly” picnic items as a fundraiser featuring hamburgers, hot dogs, corn-on-the-cob, and a variety of beverages.
Two sets of CAC season tickets will be raffled off (a $55 value each) during the show and all funds raised will be used to enrich CAC programs and offerings throughout the Lower Columbia River region it serves during upcoming season.
“This CAC partnership with Park & Rec. enables us to reach out into the community and do what we do best – provide quality entertainment,” said CAC chair Donavon “Dee” Wooley, who is also a member of the band. He invited all to come, relax and wrap-up summer in what promises to be a pleasant musical afternoon.
Weather permitting, local car clubs and owners of vintage cars have been invited to park their vehicles on the grass in the park during the event while they enjoy the music.
Attendees are asked to bring their own chairs to this year’s gathering as the park’s aluminum bleachers and nearby picnic tables provide only limited seating.
Back by popular acclaim, the NCBB will encore past summer’s similar offerings that traditionally see a large audience enjoying the traditional sounds of the big band era.
The NCBB was formed in 1987 by members of the North Coast Concert Band who expressed their desire to play the music of America’s big bands of the 1930’s through the 1950’s. The first rehearsal was held after a regular Tuesday night concert band rehearsal, reading through music borrowed from an area high school.
The band includes saxophones, trumpets, trombones, bass, piano, and drums. Two of the musicians also regularly sing with the band. Their repertoire has grown from five borrowed pieces to over 200 charts purchased by the NCBB. The collection includes traditional big band music popularized by the bands such as those led by Glenn Miller, Artie Shaw, Count Basie, and Duke Ellington. The NCBB is also widely known in the Pacific Northwest for its jazz arrangements.
For more information on this and other CAC sponsored events call: (503) 728-3403 or visit them on the web at www.clatskaniearts.org.