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Council to discuss homeless, affordable house and Superfund

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TRIBUNE PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Many of the properties to be cleaned up can be seen along the Willamette River in this view looking south from the St. Johns Bridge.Although public testimony is not allowed, the City Council will hold two important work sessions this week.

The first is an update on the state of the housing emergency the council declared last October. It is scheduled from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 8, in the Council Chambers of City Hall.

The session is expected to include presentations by Mayor Charlie Hales on his evolving policies to allow more homeless camping. Hales is also expected to discuss the work to increase affordable housing by A Home for Everyone, a partnership that includes Portland, Gresham, Multnomah County and Home Forward, formally known as the Housing Authority of Portland.

The session will take place as questions are continuing to be raised about the growing number of homeless camps in the city and the council is preparing to vote on moving the Right 2 Dream Too homeless camp in Old Town to a city-owned lot at Southeast Third Avenue and Harrison Street.

The second work session is an update on the Portland Harbor Superfund cleanup process. It is scheduled from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 9, in the Council Chambers.

The session is expected to include a presentation by a representative of the U.S. Environmental Protections Agency, which has ordered pollution in the harbor to be cleaned up. The plan is still being developed, including what methods to use and who will pay for it. Cost estimates have ranged from $445 million to $2.2 billion. Both the schedule and potential costs of the clean up are expected to be discussed.

The city Bureau of Environmental Service has so far spent more than $50 million in sewer ratepayer funds to help finance the process. That spending is being challenged in an ongoing lawsuit in Multnomah County Circuit Court by ratepayers who say BES is not the only city agency that contributed to the pollution. Although the spending has been described as including potential loans to other bureaus, the suit questions whether ratepayer funds can be loaned in such a manner.

As part of the process, city and nine other entities in the harbor have signed an agreement with the EPA to conducted an Remedial Investigation and develop a Feasibility Study for a clean up plan. Calling themselves the Lower Willamette Group, those in addition to the city include: Arkema Inc.; Bayer CropScience Inc.; BNSF Railway Co.; Chevron USA Inc.; City of Portland; ConocoPhillips Co.; Gunderson LLC; Kinder Morgan Liquids Terminals; NW Natural; Evraz Inc. NA, dba Evraz Oregon Steel; Port of Portland; Siltronic Corp.; TOC Holdings Co., and the Union Pacific Railroad Co.

The sessions can be watched live and in recorded form on the city's website at www.portlandoregon.gov/28258.