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Sauvie Island slated for area plan update

Update expected to address islands increased tourism and traffic


The Multnomah County Board of Commissioners approved an update to the Sauvie Island/Multnomah Channel Rural Area Plan Thursday, June 13. Sauvie Island residents testified in support of moving forward with an update of the plan, which hasn’t been changed since 1997.

Kevin Cook, planner with the Multnomah County Department of Community Services Land Use and Transportation Program presented a report to the commissioners that outlined key issues for the island.

The report highlighted the effects of increased tourism, crowding, traffic and the integrity of the island’s levees as areas of high concern among residents.

“At this point, we’re working with stakeholders to build consensus around particular issues,” Cook said. “I like to start with what people like about the area. The island and channel have a really unique sense of place. People want to preserve that.”

Cook said that, because the island is a popular destination with narrow, rural farm roads, a lot of traffic conflicts occur between cars and bicycles.

“Some people would like to see limits to island access,” he said. “Our role as a county is not to limit access, per se,”

Cook identified another issue in regard to farm stands. Traditional farm stands allowed people to roll up to the stand and buy or even pick produce. Now, some have evolved to have farm-to-plate dinners and concerts, which go beyond the narrow definition of a farm stand, Cook said.

Many of the concerns expressed by Sauvie Island residents consisted of increased traffic flow and the changing nature of the community due to heightened tourism.

At one point, the idea of a toll was brought up for the Sauvie Island Bridge. “We’ll take a legitimate look at the [bridge] question, although it’s not likely, we will not dismiss any ideas,” Cook said.

Cook added that new rules coming from Federal Emergency Management Agency are requiring the island’s levees to be inspected and re-certified by 2017. If the levees are not re-certified, the land behind them will be treated as a floodplain.

Tim Couch, district manager of the Sauvie Island Drainage Improvement Company, said there is no current plan for the estimated $250,000 re-certification of the 18-mile-long levee on the southern end of the island.

“There are about 227 members within the drainage district,” Couch said. “The majority of that land is used for farming; about 11,000 acres.”

Couch said the district community voted to pay $500 per member for two years in order to cover the costs of the levee certification, but election results have been tabled while the company seeks grants and assistance from the government.