PROVIDING FUN AND INTERESTING WAYS TO LEARN, the Clatskanie Health and Safety Fair was announced by a banner hanging from a Clatskanie Rural Fire Protection District (CRFPD) truck (top photo) at the Clatskanie People’s Utility District (PUD) headquarters Saturday. The well-attended fair included a riding course for young bicyclists and scooter riders, after they were fitted with safety helmets by local Kiwanians. Members of Clatskanie Boy Scout Troop #241 demonstrated rescue techniques with a stretcher, and Sparky the fire dog greeted young fair-goers and encouraged them to learn fire safety in the “smoke trailer.” Those were just a few of the demonstrations, services and information on display at the fair. Planning partners, along with the PUD, the CRFPD and the Clatskanie Kiwanis Club, included United Way of Columbia County, Wauna Credit Union, Clatskanie School District and Child and Family Development Programs. Numerous other organizations, agencies and businesses also participated or donated items for the fair. Chief Photos by Fred Schondebare and Deborah Steele Hazen
by Adam J. Wehrley
Announcing the launching of the process to address railroad safety concerns through Rainier, Mark Ellsworth of the Governor’s Regional Solutions Team addressed the Rainier City Council at its business meeting Monday, Oct. 7.
Ellsworth stated that the team would be hiring design engineers this week for the safety improvement work, projected to cost several million dollars. The Governor’s team in conjunction with Senator Betsy Johnson has made the improvements its top priority for the North Coast region which includes Tillamook, Clatsop and Columbia counties.
Councilor James Bradfield asked if the scope of the work had been determined and Ellsworth explained that project details would be set through steering committees involving input from local citizens, governments and businesses. The design phase is slated to start immediately after engineers are selected.
Ellsworth emphasized that funding for the work was, “no longer theoretical.” Funding sources will include state and federal rail safety dollars.
He acknowledged that rail safety concerns had been an issue for a long time and that, with the authority given to railroads by the federal government, local leaders could feel helpless.
Ellsworth said, “The trains are going to increase. In time there will be train traffic out to Tongue Point.”
“Our goal is to be a help for the city,” he continued, adding that safety and livelihood issues were at stake.
While regional job creation is the goal of attracting industries to the area, safety concerns have caused city councilors in Rainier to oppose specific projects and the rezoning of property adjacent to Port Westward, an issue now before the Columbia County commissioners.
“We’re serious about giving you the safety and peace of mind you need.” said Ellsworth at the end of his announcement.
Council members and Mayor Jerry Cole thanked Ellsworth for coming to the meeting. They generally supported the effort to improve safety. Mayor Cole and others emphasized that with Port Westward rezoning on the table, now is the time for the city to take advantage of that as leverage to get local safety and noise concerns addressed.
Although he later stated he was playing “devil’s advocate,” Councilor Steve Massey accused Representative Brad Witt, a staunch supporter of industrial job creation, and Governor John Kitzhaber of being, “willing to kick Rainier under the bus.” He added that an increase in rail traffic, “will ruin Rainier.”
Ellsworth rejected the idea that Witt and Kitzhaber were sacrificing Rainier.
Massey, a retired teacher who moved to the area eight years ago, also said, “The more train traffic we have the more quality of life will go down.” He continued, “If we don’t give any assistance at all, wouldn’t that slow down (industrial development).”
Mayor Cole expressed confidence in Global Partners LLC, which purchased the ethanol plant at Port Westward last year and has been using existing permits to transport light crude oil. “The crude oil guys want this to be safe, they want to increase their business. What I want to see in the scope is some safety and a quiet zone.” Cole stated, “So long as that property is down there and people are begging for jobs they’re going to try to develop the property.”
Later, Mayor Cole added, “One of the biggest users beyond Rainier is Global and they’re a good company. They have good jobs. They’re not a fly-by-night company.”
Acknowledging that as a business owner on A Street he personally has much to lose from increased train traffic, Councilor Sloan Nelson said of the current players in industrial development, “The people there are going to work diligently to protect us.” He called the current effort to improve safety his “best bet.”
Councilor Scott Cooper expressed safety, noise and emergency response concerns for residents living near the railroad. He emphasized that he would like to see an overpass incorporated into the plan to access the senior center, Riverside Park and residences on the river side of the tracks. He also called for crossing gates and a quiet zone to prevent train whistles waking residents and interfering with business activities.
“I applaud you guys for trying to help us out.” Cooper concluded.
Near the end of the discussion Massey said, “I agree with you and I’m not going to be a stick in the mud,” indicating that now is the time to address the noise and safety concerns.
Councilor Judith Taylor said, “I’m thankful the governor and Betsy (Johnson) are putting together this steering committee, and the money is there this time.”
To this Mayor Cole added, “The other thing that is there is a customer. The state does not want to build a ‘bridge to nowhere’.”
Returning to his question about the scope of the project, Bradfield said, “An overpass needs to be in there and I don’t mind being an advocate for that. So where do I go and who do I need to see?”
Moorage Fees Increased, Sewage Solids Discussed
After discussions in both the work session and business meeting, the council approved an increase in monthly moorage fees at the city marina from $78 to $80. They also eliminated the 28 percent discount for paying fees a year in advance and instituted a waiting list preference for Rainier city residents. This did not affect those currently renting slips.
City Manager Debra Dudley noted that very few of the current renters take advantage of the yearly discount.
Council members pointed out that city residents support the marina with tax dollars and deserve preference.
As part of the revenue generating discussion during the work session, system development charges (SDC) for new construction and the possibility of selling sewer sludge were also mentioned.
Year-to-date, the city has generated $200,000 by accepting sewage from septic companies and others. This figure does not account for the cost of increased use or the need for a sewage solids storage building during wetter parts of the year.
The council’s consensus was to move ahead on the building of the storage facility.
Although the government shutdown prevented him from having the traditional moment of silence recognizing fallen service members, because the list was not available, Mayor Cole read two prepared declarations.
The first proclaimed October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month at the request of Support Advocacy Freedom Empowerment (SAFE) of Columbia County.
Mayor Cole’s second proclamation called for an end to the federal shutdown citing the risk it poses to the economy.
The council discussed efforts to place a traffic light at the intersection of Highway 30 and Veterans’ Way. Several members stated that past studies had approved the light, but funds had not been available at the time. The Oregon Department of Transportation is now questioning the need for the light.
Dudley stated that she expects right-of-way and property acquisition negotiations for sidewalk improvements along B Street to be resolved in the next month.
It was announced that Rainier Library patrons could now access ebooks online and that the system is working well.
The council approved an herbicide spraying contract with Payne Reforestation for work on the city’s watershed properties.
A contract to paint city hall was unanimously approved with Long Painting.
Police Chief Gregg Griffith stated that the Oregon Crime Lab is working to recover financial data from the Rainier Senior Center and results are expected in several weeks.
Taylor suggested mandated board training.
Massey stressed his desire to speak with the “attitude of the council” when attending senior center meetings and asked for clarification.
Dudley reported that she continues to work with diking districts in an effort to get West Rainier dikes certified.
by Deborah Steele Hazen
What is expected to be the last of three nights of a continuing public hearing before the Columbia County board of commissioners regarding the rezoning of 957 acres of land next to the Port Westward industrial park north of Clatskanie was set for Wednesday, Oct. 9, at 6:30 p.m. in the Clatskanie Middle/High School (CMHS) auditorium.
This week’s session was expected to be devoted to rebuttals from representatives of the applicant – the Port of St. Helens – and possibly other supporters. However, the rebuttals can be based only on disputed facts.
The first session of the hearing began Sept. 18 with a staff report from the Columbia County Land Development Services planning division which recommended granting the request by the Port of St. Helens, which owns 786 acres of the land, and the Thompson family, which owns the former seining grounds between the Port property and the Columbia River.
The request is to rezone the property from the current primary agricultural designation to Rural Industrial-Planned Development to allow for additional industrial development at Port Westward. The Port purchased the 786 acres adjacent to the current Port Westward property in 2010 from Greenwood Resources, which has continued to grow hybrid poplar trees on it.
Despite the county planning staff’s recommendation to approve the rezone, the planning commission voted 5-1, with one member recusing himself, against the proposal in May, citing the large crowds of opponents who had dominated the public hearings before the planning commission.
After the planning commission’s recommendation for denial, the issue came before the county commission. At the Sept. 18th meeting, 66 persons signed up to speak in support of the rezone, while 72 signed up to speak in opposition.
According to the process announced in the published notices about the hearing in three county newspapers, and verbally stated at the beginning of the Sept. 18th meeting, the hearing would be conducted in the following order, as prescribed by the quasi-judicial land use process: staff report, applicant’s presentation, supporters’ testimony, opponents’ testimony, rebuttal by the applicant of testimony presented as “fact” by opponents.
The Sept. 18th session ended after three hours with the supporters’ testimony.
At the Oct. 3rd session, also held at CMHS, opponents took up almost the entire three hours.
About 60 persons testified against the rezone including local farmers who expressed the concern that potential industries locating on the land in question could interfere with their agricultural operations.
Mike Seely expressed his belief that industrial expansion on the land in question would interfere with his mint farm operation.
Warren Nakkela, George Poysky and Bill Eagle all spoke about the quality of the agricultural land. “Many successful crops have been grown in the past. They aren’t being grown now because of limited markets, but those could very well change,” said Nakkela.
Brett VandenHeuvel, executive director of the environmentalist group Columbia Riverkeepers, objected to the summaries of “ex parte” contacts Commissioners Henry Heimuller, Earl Fisher and Tony Hyde had given at the beginning of the session, and demanded they name every contact about the zoning issue by name and the substance of that contact.
Hyde named Darryl Swan, editor of The South County Spotlight. Heimuller named rezoning opponent Darrel Whipple, and Fisher named two zoning opponents, Hogan Bays, of Great Vow Zen Monastery, and Seely, who sought him out to talk to them – “not in detail” – but about the process. Hyde said he had also been stopped by “people in the grocery store – I tell them I can’t discuss it.”
Several residents of the Great Vow Zen Monastery expressed their objections to potential industrial growth, saying they had moved to the area for “serenity,” and also believed in the “ethical stewardship of the land and water.”
Bays urged the commissioners “to look deeply into the intentions of each of the sides.”
Rainier City Councilor Steve Massey read a letter from the Rainier city council and Mayor Jerry Cole saying that increased train traffic “significantly and negatively impacts Rainier.”
Several south Columbia County residents also objected to increased train traffic for current and/or potential industries at Port Westward.
Jim Lichatowich of Columbia City stated that “if you approve the rezone without knowing the consequences, you would be buying a pig in a poke.”
Michael Clarke, of Scappoose, who ran unsuccessfully for the Port of St. Helens commission last spring stated that “Port Westward is economically uncompetitive” because of the “hundreds of millions of dollars of necessary transportation infrastructure.”
A Beaver Falls area resident said he had moved here “not for the jobs, but to get away from all that because Clatskanie hasn’t changed much for the past 40 years.” He suggested that other ideas be explored such as using cat tails for ethanol.
by Deborah Steele Hazen
The State Land Board acted on three north Columbia County issues at its meeting Tuesday in Salem.
Comprised of Governor John Kitzhaber, Secretary of State Kate Brown and State Treasurer Ted Wheeler, the board approved three requests regarding property in the Clatskanie and Rainier area that were recommended by the Oregon Department of State Lands (DSL).
Quitclaim deeds were issued for the Hump’s Restaurant property. The deeds are similar to those previously issued, after a prolonged battle with the DSL, to other business property owners and the City of Clatskanie along the Clatskanie River in the downtown area.
Under the agreements, the state gets clear title to the land under the Clatskanie River that was previously granted into private hands by 19th century donation land claims. However, property owners get clear title to their structures, including those that extend over the mean high tide mark of the Clatskanie River, and the right to rebuild on the same property, in perpetuity and regardless of future ownership without signing a lease agreement with the state.
Also approved was the authorization to create new lands by Teevin Bros. Land and Timber Co., LLC at its terminal in Rainier. The authorization is in connection with Teevin’s new dock project.
The Land Board also approved the adoption of a new administrative rule restricting all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) and overnight uses at Jones Beach on the Columbia River west of Clatskanie.
The new rule regarding the popular fishing and recreation site came about as a result of a petition from a nearby landowner. The petition sought adoption of a rule closing Jones Beach to overnight uses from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m., and limiting use of ATVs to specific times and days.
State Senator Betsy Johnson and State Representative Brad Witt invite the public to a town hall meeting this Saturday, Oct. 12, from 10 to 11:30 a.m. in the Clatskanie People’s Utility District (PUD) meeting room, 495 E. Columbia River Highway.
The town hall will focus on legislation enacted during the recent legislative session, how that legislation might affect local citizens and their families, as well as what issues might be on the drawing board for the next session in February. There will be time for questions and answers.
Also on Saturday, a town hall will be held in St. Helens from 1 to 2:30 p.m. in the Sacagawea Health Center at Lewis & Clark Elementary, 1060 Eisenschmidt Lane.
A third town hall meeting Saturday is set from 3:30 to 5 p.m. at the Skyline Grange, 11275 NW Skyline Boulevard in Portland.
by Deborah Steele Hazen
Clatskanie’s city council passed a resolution supporting the Columbia County jail operating levy at its meeting Oct. 2.
The resolution passed unanimously by the council encourages the public to support Measure 5-234, a four-year local option levy that will be on the Nov. 5th ballot.
If approved by taxpayers, the levy would cost county property taxpayers an estimated 58 cents per $1,000 of assessed value annually, and would raise approximately $9.57 million over four years.
The resolution notes that the levy would increase jail capacity for inmates arrested within the county from the current 25 beds to 100 beds.
Speaking to the council prior to the passage of the resolution, Columbia County Commissioner Earl Fisher said that because of the county’s budget shortfall, even the current 25 beds may not be available much longer without the operating levy. The jail also houses federal U.S. Marshal and immigration service inmates, and those costs are covered by the federal government.
The council also passed a supplemental budget allowing the funding of the wastewater treatment plant headworks project from the city’s enterprise zone fund. Since the city was able to purchase used equipment, the estimated cost of the project is being reduced from $725,000 to $200,000.
Public works director Ray DiPasquale said the city crew did “a great job” of moving the used headworks from the City of Wilsonville to Clatskanie. He also expressed gratitude to Mark Kynsi for the truck to move the equipment.
The city is currently advertising for a contractor to install the headworks and related equipment. A new computer will also be necessary to run the software for the upgraded plant, DiPasquale said.
Additionally, the city has put out to bid the Tichenor Street sewer line repair project.
City Manager Greg Hinkelman reported that the city had received a grant to install security cameras, and is investigating equipment quotes. The cameras will help in the deterrence of further thefts from city shop property, and in the apprehension of the perpetrators should the shops be burglarized again. The city was one of several victims in the recent local burglary spree.
DiPasquale recommended that the city give consideration to its policy regarding access to Scout Lake during hunting season.
Mayor Diane Pohl read and signed a proclamation from the Columbia County Women’s Resource Center – now called SAFE – regarding October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
The mayor also expressed her wish for more information regarding the proposal being considered by Greenwood Resources, the Lower Columbia River Watershed Council, and the Columbia Soil and Water Conservation District on property next to the city’s property, the site of the former Beaver Lumber Company mill.
It was suggested that a spokesperson for the project be invited to a council meeting.