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PGE, Port of St. Helens seek new marketing terms for Port Westward

The Port of St. Helens and Portland General Electric are negotiating new terms for a marketing agreement that will spell out how future industrial development would occur at Port Westward.

In December, Gerry Meyer, the Port's executive director, outlined the Port's objectives for Port Westward property in a four-page letter to Mike Livingston, PGE's property services manager.

PGE controls the 852-acre Port Westward property through a 99-year lease agreed to in 1973. It is the same property the Port of St. Helens is targeting as its primary job growth sector in Columbia County.

In exchange, the Port today receives $463,608 annually as a lease rate, up from the original figure of $77,500.

Meyer's letter points out that the Port has a statutory obligation to entice development and job growth into its district. Construction of the Cascade Grain ethanol plant and the completion of PGE's Port Westward natural-gas fired plant are the first such projects at Port Westward in decades.

'The Port strongly desires, as does the county and the public generally, that the trend toward development of the property be maintained and even accelerated,' Meyer said in the letter.

'Our mission is to put together some development, and we're trying to put together some good things for this community,' Meyer said.

Accounting for all existing development, there is still roughly more than 600 acres at Port Westward suitable for development.

PGE, through its lease, has what amounts to veto power on whether to allow new industries recruited by the Port to build on the unused portions of the property.

A 1999 marketing agreement between the Port and PGE defined how that recruitment process occurred.

In September, Livingston submitted a one-year notice to the Port that PGE intended to terminate the marketing agreement.

A changing landscape at Port Westward, coupled with outdated and seldom-followed procedures, including meetings that were supposed to occur between the Port and PGE to construct a marketing budget, is driving the new arrangement.

'The landscape out there has changed so much, it didn't really make sense,' Livingston said of the 1999 marketing agreement.

Meyer agreed, and characterized the marketing agreement as 'outdated.'

'It didn't contemplate this current situation,' he said.

How future developments would integrate into the emerging infrastructure - rail, road and dock facilities - at Port Westward is another discussion point between the agencies.

The Port and PGE have historically shared information on development prospects, and have jointly decided whether those potential industries were compatible with the Port Westward vision.

Livingston and Meyer both said they anticipate any future agreement would be framed by a similar collaborative spirit.

'All of those things we have a joint interest in,' Livingston said. 'We kind of go into it together.'

In June, PGE brought its 400 megawatt natural-gas-fired plant at Port Westward online. With a price tag around $280 million, it is the first completed PGE power-generation project since 1995.

In 2006 the Port and PGE agreed to the Cascade Grain development, a $200 million ethanol plant. The Port agreed to extend PGE's lease out to 2096 on PGE's Beaver and Port Westward power generation sites as part of the agreement to bring in Cascade Grain.

Cascade Grain is scheduled to receive its first shipment of Midwest-grown corn for conversion to ethanol sometime between Feb. 20 and March 1.