Columbia Co. Board of Commissioners Approved the Port of St. Helens Rezone



November 29, 2017 (Clatskanie, Oregon)—In a 2:1 vote, the Columbia County Board of Commissioners approved the Port of St. Helens’ request to rezone 837 acres of agricultural land for heavy industrial development today. The controversial decision marks the latest development in a long-running effort to expand the high-impact industrial development in the Columbia River estuary in rural Columbia County. Hundreds of citizens and local farmers turned out to public hearings, urging the county to protect high-value cropland from fossil fuel and other heavy industrial development.

“Local elected officials ignored input from hundreds of people who care about farms and quality of life in Columbia County,” stated Jasmine Zimmer-Stucky, Senior Organizer with Columbia Riverkeeper. “The county’s decision ignores local land use laws designed to protect farms, clean water, and public health.”

The county commissioner’s vote marks the Port of St. Helens’ second attempt to remove agricultural protection from farmland at Port Westward. The Port of St. Helens revived efforts to expand the industrial boundary at Port Westward after farmer and business owner Mike Seely and Columbia Riverkeeper’s legal challenge to the rezone prevailed at the Oregon’s Land Use Board of Appeals in 2014.

“1000 Friends is disappointed in the Board’s decision. The agricultural lands in Columbia County contain highly productive soils and access to clean water. These resources are limited and for that reason are protected by Oregon’s land use laws from conversion to nonagricultural uses,” said Meriel Darzen, attorney for 1000 Friends of Oregon, which commented on the proposal. “The Board’s decision ignores the grave implications of converting these lands for fossil fuel development.”

Port Westward is a hub for energy export ventures. Port Westward is home to Global Partners, an oil-by-rail trans-shipment facility that operated from 2013 to 2015 before switching to ethanol. The company maintains regulatory approval to resume oil shipments. The site is also the former home to two coal export proposals and the company Northwest Innovation Works holds a lease option to construct a methanol refinery.

Crag Law Center represented Columbia Riverkeeper locally in 2017 and 2014, and at the Land Use Board of Appeals in 2014.

More information about Protecting Columbia County Farms

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