Kinder Morgan Announces It Will Not Pursue Coal Export Facility at Port Westward
The Port of St. Helens issued the following press release Wednesday, May 8, regarding the proposed Kinder Morgan coal export project at the Port Westward industrial park near Clatskanie:
“After 16 months of due diligence, while under an option granted by the Port of St Helens on 25 Jan 2012, Kinder Morgan announced today that they will not be pursuing a second option period or the project.
“This Option period was an opportunity for both the Port and Kinder Morgan to evaluate if the location would be suitable for their development, and a future long-term lease to transload dry bulk commodities.
“Kinder Morgan is a proven world class operation, and their interest in investing in Columbia County is appreciated. The proposed project would have been a $450 million dollar investment, projected tax revenue in the millions, and an opportunity to create up to 250 jobs. We recognize the importance of these option periods to conduct due diligence, so a full evaluation of a project can be completed.
“Port Commission President Robert Keyser commented that, ‘I am disappointed any time the opportunity to get jobs for Columbia County is lost. We understand and respect Kinder Morgan’s decision to move on; however we remain committed in moving forward in creating family wage jobs throughout the County. The Port appreciates all of the input provided by our stakeholders, partners, and the residents of our Special District during this period. Valuable issues and concerns were identified, and we will partner with appropriate agencies to address those under our purview.”
DISPLAYING SOME OF THE ORIGINAL ARTWORK that will be offered to the highest bidders at the first-ever Clatskanie Elementary School Spring Auction are from left, Isaiah Parmley, Lake McMaster, Marla Gonzalez, Brendan Shroll, Jaimie Kenney and Lillia Lever.
The work includes a chevron painting by Megan Kilgore’s first grade class, a basket of Oregon State University Beaver gifts and some painted sand dollars from Heather Stafford’s kindergarten class, a painted toy box by Hallie Parker’s first grade, and framed origami fish by Lucius Jones third grade class.
The auction, set for Saturday, May 18, beginning at 6 p.m. in the CES Cardiff gym, will also feature gift baskets, classroom projects, individual projects, sports tickets, tickets to area attractions, gift certificates to local businesses, and much more.
Tickets are $10 and include dessert and beverage. Tickets may be purchased in advance at Johnson Family Feed Store, the CES office, or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
All proceeds will benefit increased learning opportunities. Chief Photo by Adam J. Wehrley
by Adam J. Wehrley
Nearly 100 coal export opponents packed a Columbia County planning commission hearing Monday, May 6, regarding proposed zoning changes to 786 acres of land owned by the Port of St. Helens and 171 acres of adjoining private land next to the Port Westward Industrial Park near Clatskanie.
Representatives of the Port and other proponents of the rezoning stressed the need for jobs in the economically depressed north county. They stressed that the changes will be necessary to site any industrial development on the land acquired by the port in 2010, prior to either of the proposals to ship coal through Port Westward.
If the proposal is approved the total 957 acres would be rezoned from PA-80 agricultural use to Rural Industrial-Planned Developement (RIPD) zoning.
Two unrelated coal transportation proposals were presented to the port last year.
A proposal by Ambre Energy to ship coal to Port Westward via covered barge and transload it onto ships via enclosed conveyors would not utilize any of the land proposed for rezoning. Under the Ambre Energy Morrow Pacific proposal, coal would not make landfall in Columbia County, but remain on vessels or floating transloading equipment.
A proposal by Kinder Morgan would transport coal from the Powder River Basin in Montana and Wyoming via train to be loaded onto ships at Port Westward. If it continued and passed other regulatory tests and permitting processes, the Kinder Morgan proposal would be located on a portion of the land proposed for rezoning.
Kinder Morgan currently holds an 18-month option to lease 100-150 acres of land. The option stipulates that Kinder Morgan will pay the port $10,000 per month over the 18-month term starting in January 2012 through July 25, 2013.
At the start of the hearing on the rezoning, planning commission chairman Guy Letourneau announced that the hearing would run until shortly after 10 p.m. and then continue on May 20. Written public comment would be received in the intervening time and the commission would make its decision after the hearing ended May 20. The continuation was approved at the close of Monday’s four- hour meeting.
Planning commissioner Terry Luttrell recused himself because he is also on the Port commission.
Columbia County planning manager Glen Higgins reviewed the details of the rezoning application including several changes and corrections made recently.
The Port had originally listed much of the farmland as low quality soil, but had been informed that the soil is of high quality. That correction had been made in the application. Attorney Gary Shepherd of Oregon Land Law, represented the Port at the hearing. He explained that soil classification had been provided by the county.
Port deputy executive director Paula Miranda explained that the Port was in the business of attracting business and had not purchased the property to continue agricultural activities.
Currently, portions of the land is being leased for agricultural use which will likely continue until industrial users are found.
Higgins commented on the large number of public comments the commission had received on the proposed zone change, indicating he had received comments from 40 individuals on Monday.
Higgins and others noted that portions of the Port land currently zoned for industrial use had been designated wetlands and other portions served as energy setbacks surrounding the Portland General Electric (PGE) facilities.
Higgins explained that the zoning change was not tied to a specific industry, but the planning commission needs to consider whether road, water and other facilities at the site could support industrial development in general.
He mentioned the high capacity electrical grids at the site, the natural gas pipeline, railroad, dock and road access as facility advantages of the site.
A traffic impact report for roads leading to the site had been completed at the request of the planning commission. Higgins reported that he had not yet been able to review that report. He recommended the approval of the rezoning pending its review.
Bill Johnston of the Astoria office of the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) affirmed that he had received the report earlier that day and said that it appeared “very comprehensive.”
Shepherd stated that the purpose of requesting the rezoning was to address the problem of regional unemployment, under-employment and government shortfalls by attracting heavy industrial users which will provide high paying jobs and increased tax revenue.
Like many of the other proponents of the zone change, Shepherd stressed that the application was a zoning change rather than an application for a specific industry.
Shepherd reiterated the unique features of the site for heavy industry most notably the deep-water port with rail access, along with the availability of natural gas and electric grid access. He explained the increasing demand for multimodal sites with rail, barge and deep sea access.
Shepherd stated that this combination of attributes could not be duplicated anywhere else in Oregon. He called Port Westward the county’s “most valuable resource.”
Shepherd listed $6 million in recent rail improvement, $8 million in road improvements and another $8 million in water system improvements as beneficial attributes that have been completed at Port Westward in recent years.
In response to questions regarding the need to rezone the entire 957 acres requested, Shepherd stated that potential users could each use 200 plus acres and a rezone would allow for several industries.
He stated that the addition of these large users was, “Important to the county’s growth.” He then noted the high unemployment rates in Columbia County especially in the northern part.
Shepherd said that while the rezoning did not guarantee that industries would come, “a lack of sites guarantees failure,” in the search for employers.
He cited “worker flight” statistics and said that 72 percent of Columbia County workers commute outside the county for work. The Port’s duty is to attract jobs which will increase the tax base available to local government agencies and meet long-term stability goals.
Shepherd concluded by reporting that PGE had submitted a letter endorsing the rezoning. The Clatskanie Chamber of Commerce and the Columbia County Economic Team have also supported the rezoning.
Miranda reiterated many of Shepherd’s points, outlining the factors which restrict development of the current industrial land.
She listed several types of industries which have approached the Port including energy companies, shipping, solar and biodiesel.
She said that the privately-owned Thompson island property included in the rezone could be needed for future dock expansion.
Clatskanie city manager Greg Hinkelman spoke in support of the rezone in his role as chair of the Clatskanie Economic Development Task Force. He reiterated previous statements that the hearing was not about coal. “I can’t see coal happening,” said Hinkelman, “When the governor says he opposes coal it’s not going to happen.”
Clatskanie Mayor Diane Pohl called the Kinder Morgan project a “non-starter,” although that point was called into question by opponents of the rezone.
Pohl has given public support to the Ambre Energy proposal which uses neither the railroad nor the land proposed for rezoning. She said she has not supported the Kinder Morgan project because of the concerns about coal trains through Rainier and other Columbia County cities.
After clarifying that she was not talking about coal, Pohl stated the Port Westward site had the potential to provide hundreds of jobs and cited the county’s 9.9 percent unemployment rate.
With her background as a land use consultant Pohl explained that 90 percent of the county is set aside for forestry and agricultural use, leaving only 10 percent for residential, commercial and industrial development. Approximately 10,000 acres of farmland remain in Clatskanie’s diked areas.
Pohl explained the fuel efficiency advantages of shipping by rail compared to truck and how this would reduce the carbon footprint of shipping projects.
As Pohl approached the end of her statements an audience member stood and interrupted her, asking if the five-minute comment limit was going to be enforced.
Letourneau agreed that it should be enforced, but said he had found Pohl’s statements engaging.
Opposition comments were opened by former Port commission member Pat Zimmerman, who called the promise of jobs a siren’s call and stated that the Portland metro area did not have a lack of suitable industrial sites.
Tammy Maygra expressed her concern over the impact coal shipments would have on the Seely Mint farm, much of which is surrounded by portions of Port-owned land. The mint farm is one of the agricultural businesses renting land from the port.
George Poysky, whose family had farmed part of the original Port Westward property prior to the U.S. Army’s acquisition of the land during the early days of World War II, said that he “bitterly opposed the transferring of any ag land to industrial use.” He also compared shipping coal overseas to outsourcing jobs.
Many opponents to the rezoning had environmental concerns, often specifically related to coal shipment. Rail traffic concerns were also prominent.
Hogan Bays of the Great Vow Zen Monastery in rural Clatskanie spoke more calmly than most and explained the search he and his wife Jan Chozen Bays had made for a site to establish the monastery. They both said a change in zoning of the nearby port land would disrupt their facility.
Several nearby farmers opposed the rezoning based on coal pollution concerns. They described the potential for increased berry and mint production in the area.
Representatives of the Columbia Riverkeepers spoke about the legal issues involved and the endangered species in the area, specifically salmonids.
by Deborah Steele Hazen
At its meeting May 1, Clatskanie’s city council voted unanimously to extend an enterprise zone property tax exemption to Teevin Bros. Land and Timber Co. for its $2.5 million dock expansion along the Rainier waterfront.
But in so doing, the council also instructed Mayor Diane Pohl and city manager Greg Hinkelman to send a letter to the City of Rainier, encouraging Rainier leaders to work with the railroad and the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) rail division to address their issues with the railroad.
The cities of Clatskanie and Rainier, along with the Port of St. Helens and Columbia County, are the sponsors of the Lower Columbia Maritime Enterprise Zone, and all of the sponsors must agree to the conditions before a qualifying company may receive the tax exemption.
Under the terms of the agreement, Teevin’s new dock will receive a five-year property tax exemption if the company pays an average wage of not less than 150 percent of the county average annual wage; hires at least eight new employees by the end of the first year’s exemptions; contributes $5,000 per year for each year of tax exemption to the Columbia County Economic Team for its economic development activities; pays prevailing wages to workers employed during the construction phase, and “to the extent possible” hires local residents as new employees.
Prior to the council approving the enterprize zone agreement, Hinkelman read a statement from local citizen and Port of St. Helens commission president Robert Keyser. The statement read in part:
“As a Clatskanie citizen, I strongly support Teevin’s application. Teevin’s Rainier Terminal is exactly the kind of innovation needed in Columbia County to provide family wage job opportunities into the future.
“I am, however, concerned about supporting a project that is likely to have an immediate impact on the rail traffic through Rainier, given the City of Rainier’s recent letter in opposition to the rezoning proposal for Port Westward based on concerns over possible future rail traffic.
“I would ask the council to consider including language in their support to encourage the City of Rainier to work with the P&W railroad and ODOT rail to immediately address the rail issues they face, so that the rail access and the economic development it brings with it are available to all of the communities along the lower Columbia River, like the Teevin project Rainier is fortunate enough to have.”
The Clatskanie city councilors expressed agreement with the sentiments in Keyser’s letter. After passing the motion to approve the enterprise zone exemptions for Teevin, the council unanimously passed a motion to send a letter to the City of Rainier urging them to address their rail issues.
In his report to the council, public works director Ray DiPasquale reported on attending the meetings of the Columbia County Traffic Safety Commission.
“There is significant on-going discussion about rail lines and rail safety,” he said, emphasizing that statistics and data regarding rail versus highway transport “ought to be brought forward.”
“Clearly work needs to be done on rail lines and rail crossings. ODOT and the rail industry in general need to focus on rail safety issues, but their record is very, very strong,” DiPasquale said.
“Every load that runs on those rails takes truck traffic off the road. Railway traffic has a much lower event horizon in regard to accident histories and volume,” he continued. “We recognize the value of railroad service in taking pressure off our highways.”
DiPasquale also compared the high level of training received by railroad operators as compared to truck drivers.
“A train that clears a crossing in two or three minutes versus 100 trucks on the road,” said Mayor Pohl, underscoring DiPasquale’s comments. “The railroad has been and will be a very important part of our transportation system and our economy. The best thing you can do is work with them.”
Public Works Retirements
In other action items at the meeting, the city council approved an independent contractor agreement with Water SOS, as “a stop-gap measure to get us through until we have our new water operator fully trained,” according to Hinkelman.
Longtime city water plant operator Scott Shulda, who is also the owner/operator of Water SOS, retired effective April 30, but will continue to help the city on an as-needed, “pay-as-you-go” basis, Hinkelman and DiPasquale explained.
As of last week, the city was in the process of interviewing candidates for the job, but it was explained that it will take even a very qualified water operator some time to learn the complexities of treating Clatskanie’s water, especially in times of heavy run-off.
Longtime public works crew member Randy Lund also retired recently, and another veteran member of the crew, Bob Shulda, retired a few months ago. The city recently advertised for candidates to fill the utility worker positions.
Scout Lake Trimming, Business Licenses
In other action items at last week’s meeting:
• The council approved a resolution authorizing a supplemental budget for the Scout Lake timber thinning. The project has been larger in scope than originally estimated.
• After several months of reviewing the conditions, methodology and procedures for issuing business licenses for vendors and proprietors conducting business within the city, the council held a first reading on an updated city code defining business categories and exemptions. At the June 2013 meeting, a resolution increasing business license fees and establishing fees for new business license categories will be on the agenda.
A meeting of the City of Clatskanie budget committee is set for Thursday, May 9, at 7 p.m. at Clatskanie City Hall, 95 S. Nehalem Street.
A preliminary budget for the 2013-14 fiscal year will be presented. The public is invited to attend.
The Columbia Land Trust announced April 30 that it has completed the purchase of the 109-acre Kerry Island in Westport Slough, west of Clatskanie.
The purchase was made with $320,000 in Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) funds – paid for by electric ratepayers – which was provided as partial mitigation for the impacts of federal dams on the ecosystems of the Columbia and Snake rivers, according to a press release from the Columbia Land Trust.
Westport Slough is an approximately 11-mile side channel of the Columbia River. The parcel is located about four miles by road from Westport and about eight miles from Clatskanie. Once restored, Kerry Island will provide permanent refuge to numerous wildlife species, according to the Land Trust, including all 13 species of salmon and steelhead listed under the Endangered Species Act as well as the federally endangered Columbia River population of Columbian white-tailed deer.
“The Columbia River estuary is a particularly vital nursery for young salmon,” says Columbia Land Trust executive director Glenn Lamb. “In the last 10 years, we have worked collaboratively with many landowners to conserve nearly 10,000 acres of estuarine and tributary spawning and rearing habitat.”
Kerry Island had been owned by the Jenks family since 1946. Chester Jenks and his wife, Cleo, raised their six children on the land, and ran a cattle and hay farm there until they retired in the early 2000s. In 2010 the family contacted Columbia Land Trust with an interest in selling the land for conservation.
“In retirement, Dad and Mom loved to fish for salmon,” says Steve Jenks, the youngest of the Jenks children. “Converting the island back to perpetual salmon and wildlife habitat seems a fitting way to honor both our parents.”
In addition to habitat conservation, Columbia Land Trust prioritizes the conservation of prime agricultural lands in places such as Trout Lake Valley in Washington and the Hood River Valley in Oregon, according to the press release. The Land Trust also conserves working forests, such as those around Mount St. Helens and the Willapa Hills.
“Kerry Island presents an opportunity to improve and restore critical wetland habitat for at-risk plants and animals,” according to the press release. “Historically, Kerry Island consisted of tidally influenced scrub-shrub and forested wetlands and channels in the Columbia River floodplain. Scrub-shrub wetlands provide ideal nesting habitat for local and migrating neotropical birds, critical breeding and egg-laying habitat for a suite of amphibians, as well as cover and shade for rearing salmonids.”
“Current research suggests that migrating juvenile salmon throughout the Columbia Basin access estuary wetland sites immediately after restoration,” says Matt Van Ess, habitat restoration program manager for the Columbia River Estuary Study Taskforce (CREST). “The Kerry Island project will provide immediate benefits to the Columbia by increasing wetland function and food-web connections for fish and numerous other species that depend on the estuary for life.”
In last week’s edition of The Chief, the first name of Clatskanie’s new school superintendent/elementary principal was incorrect.
His name is Dr. Lloyd Hartley, not “Lyle.”
The Chief apologizes for the error and any confusion and embarrassment it may have caused.
The Department of State Lands (DSL) is proposing closing state-owned property at Jones Beach near Clatskanie between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m., and limiting use of all-terrain vehicles to specific times and days.
A public hearing on the issue is set for Wednesday, May 22, at 5 p.m. in the community meeting room of the Clatskanie People’s Utility District (PUD), 495 E. Columbia River Highway in Clatskanie.
The proposed new rule regarding public recreational use of Jones Beach, a popular fishing and recreation site on the Columbia River about five miles west of Clatskanie, was undertaken by the DSL after the agency received a petition in April of 2012 from Scott Fraser, a resident and property owner near Jones Beach.
The petition sought adoption of a rule closing Jones Beach to overnight uses (10 p.m. to 5 a.m.) and limiting use of all-terrain vehicles to specific times and days.
According to the DSL, the petition asserted that use of motorized vehicles within the wetted river channel poses a significant risk of harm and damage to the natural resource of the land and to the public.
The DSL recommended to the State Land Board that it grant the petition and authorize the department to initiate rulemaking to impose restrictions on the public recreational use of state-owned land at Jones Beach as part of the department’s rules on public recreational use of state-owned property found in Oregon Administrative Rules (OAR)141-088. The State Land Board approved the request in June of 2012.
The DSL is currently accepting public comments regarding the proposed changes. The notice of proposed rulemaking hearing, statement of need and fiscal impact, and the proposed rules are available at: http://www.oregon.gov/DSL/rules_activity.shtml.
In addition to the May 22nd public hearing, written comments on the proposed rules may be sent to: Tiana Teeters, Rules Coordinator Jones Beach Rulemaking, Oregon Department of State Lands, 775 Summer Street NE, Suite 100, Salem, Oregon 97301-1279, or e-mail: JonesBeach.Rulemaking@dsl.state.or.us.
ENCOURAGING LOCAL RESIDENTS to join the fight against ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is Mindy Kallunki, of Clatskanie, who has ALS. Noting that the Clatskanie area has had an “exorbitant amount of people with ALS,” Mindy is raising funds for ALS research through the “Walk to Defeat ALS” that will be held in Portland Sept. 29.
Mindy is pictured above with her service dog, Siisu, a miniature Siberian Husky, for which her cousin, Deni Youngblood, helped raise funds. Money donated to the account in Mindy’s name at the Clatskanie branch of Sterling Bank, which was originally used for the purchase of Siisu, will now go to the Walk to Defeat ALS.
Area residents can sign up for the walk for $25, and get a T-shirt and wristband, at Deni’s Hair Designs, at 310 W. Columbia River Highway, between the Shell Mini Mart and Clatskanie Computers, or go to the ALS website for Oregon and Southwest Washington at http://webor.alsa.org/, or find the link on Mindy’s Facebook account, Mindy Lynn-Kallunki.
So far the cause of ALS has not been identified, but Mindy says that stem cell research is showing some progress. Chief Photo by Adam J. Wehrley