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Steer River Plan to complex goals

Our Opinion

Portland Mayor Sam Adams was wise to delay a hearing on an ambitious, but controversial plan to enhance the Willamette River harbor's environment while at the same time protecting jobs.

Instead, the council will hold a public forum next Wednesday on the River Plan/North Reach - which would govern the river from the Broadway Bridge north to its confluence with the Columbia River.

The River Plan is a mighty effort to restore natural areas along the working waterfront that for more than a century have suffered environmentally. The plan proposes habitat land set-asides and, in some cases, fees on property development to improve natural areas and mitigate future impacts of business.

There should be no debate about the value of protecting and enhancing the Willamette.

Since Portland's founding as a pioneer community, the river has shaped the city's and the state's economy. It can continue to do just that - but only if we carefully, pragmatically and purposefully take incremental steps to invest in the river's future.

The debate should focus on how this effort is best achieved. It also should concentrate on the following:

• Who should administer any new regulations and lead the mitigation efforts.

• How much employment land should be taken from industrial and export/import activity.

• How many jobs might be lost.

• And how should the River Plan be monitored and improved.

The City Council is not just making choices for Portland. The riverfront is an economic artery for the state and the nation.

We urge city commissioners to question who is best suited to administer reclamation and mitigation policies, programs and fees - and employment efforts. City staff wants that job. But many say the city doesn't have the technical expertise required.

With so much as stake, we think that the goals of the River Plan are best served by the city being a convener of a partnership of engaged government agencies, private businesses and nonprofit organizations.

Sound complex? It is. But so is the future of the Willamette River. With so much at stake, the City Council should commit to employ unique partnerships and require that they mutually invest in measured steps to improve and enhance the remarkable asset of the Willamette River.