Friday, July 23, 2010

Portland Port Looks to Expand to River Island

The mayor of Portland, Oregon, has asked city staff to come up with a plan on how to use about 40 percent of the 800-acre West Hayden Island for a Port of Portland expansion plan.

The undeveloped island, which sits just east of the confluence of the Columbia and Willamette rivers, is one of last open parcels owned by the port available for expansion. Plans to develop the island have been brought up in one form or another for more than 25 years, in each case raising the ire of naturalists, conservationists, no-growth proponents and environmental groups.

Portland Mayor Sam Adams wants to turn about 300 acres of the island into marine terminals, most likely for bulk products like potash and coal, or for automobile import facilities. The 300 acres, plus another roughly 50 acres for rail and road right of ways, is the smallest amount of acreage the port says it can use to justify the estimated $100 million in infrastructure development needed. Adams' plan calls for the remainder of the island to be left undisturbed. The port suggested it could as compensation improve the natural habitat on the remaining untouched areas of the island as well as on nearby Government Island.

Conservation and environmental groups condemned the plan outright.

"We will be coming to fight this with everything we have," Audubon Society of Portland conservation director Bob Sallinger told the Oregonian.

Bill Wyatt, the port's executive director told the paper that expansion is critical to the port's future.

"Unless we can find a way to grow," said Wyatt, "we're pretty much stuck with what we've got."

The nearly 120-year-old Port of Portland is mainly a bulk port with four terminals covering more than 1,000 acres along the Columbia River. It is one of the leading wheat export ports in the United States.