Featured Stories

Port jobs, nature must coexist

Two Views • City's West Hayden Island plan should avoid pitfalls to serve Portland region's economic needs
by: Christopher Onstott West Hayden Island is an ideal spot for the Port of Portland to build another Columbia River marine trade terminal, but also prime habitat for threatened salmon, birds and other species. Two My View writers weigh in on the controversial topic.

As a Portland Tribune article pointed out two weeks ago, West Hayden Island has endless potential and could become a signature achievement for our city (Messy process clouds Hayden plans, March 3).

But it also could be a wasted opportunity.

The article criticizes the way the city of Portland and the Port of Portland, two public bodies that will both be intimately involved in the future of West Hayden Island, worked together on a public process to help plan that future. The criticism was misplaced, though.

The Port of Portland owns the property on West Hayden Island. Portland is considering annexing that property. Both parties should be involved in any planning work groups. The work group that was convened represented a diverse group of interests - so diverse that they ultimately could not reach a conclusion. And the process included public input every step of the way.

Neither the collaboration between the city and the port, nor the public process, are the reason there is still no agreement on how the land on West Hayden Island would best serve our community moving forward.

West Hayden Island has been set aside as both a 'regionally significant industrial area' and a habitat area in the past 10 years. More than 400 acres of the island were counted as industrial land in the Metro region's Urban Growth Report, which provides the basis for the decision on the urban growth boundary. But the original city task force was charged with determining if nature and industries could coexist on the island.

Had the task force determined that they could not, which would the city have chosen?

There are a few simple facts that can't be forgotten in this discussion:

• Portland is a port city. It is the gateway to the world for products from every corner of Oregon. Our state's economy depends on a vibrant port.

• Expanding industries need to export goods at the same time our imports are growing. Meanwhile, Portland is less competitive because we just don't have enough space and many interested businesses don't have the predictability they need to see us as a viable option.

• Near the port's Terminal 6, nature preserves at Smith and Bybee lakes provide a diverse habitat area alongside some of Portland's busiest port facilities. We know these two uses are compatible and there is no reason to question whether we can make it work again.

Whether or not nature and industry can coexist on West Hayden Island should not have been the question. Those uses already coexist just a mile away.

The question is: Who would be better than the port and the city, who have a strong record of collocating habitat and industrial uses, to take a similar approach on West Hayden Island?

The working harbor provides hundreds of jobs on the waterfront every day. These are good, family-wage jobs - the kind we need more of. Our ports also support local businesses - to the tune of hundreds of thousands of jobs involved in the manufacturing, processing, shipping and selling of traded goods. With a growing port, burgeoning industries and a persistently high unemployment rate, we can't afford to take away the last large piece of land owned by the Port of Portland.

Our region can't afford to lose the port potential on West Hayden Island. We can't afford to lose the job potential that was included in our region's industrial reserves.

Tom Chamberlain is president of the Oregon AFL-CIO, Oregon's union movement. He lives in Southwest Portland.