OPINION: County commissioners should listen to the people regarding Port Westward rezone
I regret I was unable to make it to the public meeting held in Clatskanie for a vote on major rezoning at Port Westward.
I understand 36 people stood up to avow their disapproval of rezoning more than 800 acres at Port Westward into industrial use area — thereby destroying many small farms in the process and, most likely, any hope of ecological recovery for the Columbia River.
Discounting those with business interests in favor of the zone change, two people expressed their approval. That should send some message to the Columbia County commissioners if they care to listen to the majority of Columbia County citizens.
The bulk of the material stored or shipped to Port Westward will be shipped by rail through nearly all of Columbia County.
Look at it this way: Train tracks carrying Bakken crude oil and methanol first enter the populated area of our county in Scappoose. The destruction zone of either of these highly explosive materials encompasses three schools in Scappoose, the entire main business district and an untold number of homes.
It appears St. Helens is developing most of their businesses along Highway 30 with the railroad tracks running right beside the highway.
The St. Helens High School can easily be seen about a block from the tracks. The middle school is maybe three blocks from the tracks, with only a few homes between it and the possibility of disastrous explosions.
Even McBride Elementary School is within the limits of total destruction if and when a fossil fuel train explodes. I understand the Columbia City School will be back in service again this autumn, two blocks from the tracks.
Have you ever sat in the great little restaurant in Rainier called the Cornerstone Café when the rollicking fossil fuel trains come through?
The only thing between you and millions of liquid explosives is the length of your car.
I suggest you look online at the spill-tracker website. These people keep track of fossil fuel spills, pipeline leaks and explosions throughout the United States and Canada. In 2015 they followed 34 catastrophic "accidents." With more trains, this is expected to increase.
Imagine with even 30 trains per month going through the county (and we know they are planning for more) that equals 360 per year — 360 chances to be one of the 34 accidents recorded by spill-tracker. Please take these figures seriously. It most certainly can happen anywhere.
Clatskanie — at the end of the fossil fuel trail — is the only city which most likely will not be blown off the map by a fuel train explosion. It is also the city where all the meetings are held on Port Westward.
It is the city which, along with the Port of St. Helens and the Columbia County commissioners, continuously spouts there is a "pressing need for more industrial land and family-wage jobs."
It is just a mantra, along with "jobs, jobs, jobs," which is repeated by politician after politician when they want to make an unpopular change.
Clatskanie's unemployment rate (4.2 percent ) was lower than that of Columbia County (4.5 percent) and the United States (4.3 percent), according to May 2017 figures.
Clatskanie is a nice, small city on beautiful Oregon waterways with incredibly productive farms.
Bill Eagle, a noted soil and conservation specialist, stated that "only 3.6 percent of the land in Columbia County is considered prime agricultural land." Mr. Eagle also states, "Our county's best agricultural land now has been replaced by rock pits and gravel mines."
In considering this request from the Port to rezone these 837 acres, I urge Commissioners Alex Tardif, Henry Heimuller and Margaret Magruder to please listen to Eagle's words and follow John McCain's lead. Vote "NO" simply because it is the right thing to do.