Thursday, December 29, 2011

Environmentalists Fight Portland Dredging Plan

A Port of Portland plan to dump roughly 30,000 cubic yards of Columbia River sediment from Terminal 6 at a nearby island is up in the air due to a legal challenge this week by environmentalists and other stakeholders.

It’s the chapter latest in years-long battle over the future of underdeveloped West Hayden Island.

The port says the dredging is needed to maintain safe navigation by waterborne vessels on the Columbia River. The plan is to place the dredged sediment at an existing fill at West Hayden Island, and periodically draw upon the fill for future development.

Earlier this year, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality issued a ruling stating that the contaminants found in the sediment – including lead, zinc and pesticides – are below the levels of concern for both people and animals, and the DEQ authorized the fill in November.

But on Dec. 27, the Portland Audubon Society, as well as a homeowners association on West Hayden Island, filed a motion asking Multnomah County Court to intervene.

They contend that contaminants in the dredged material, even in low levels, can cause harm to wildlife, particularly birds.

The Audubon Society and others support turning the island into a nature preserve, while the port has expressed an interest in building marine terminals on 300 acres of the 826-acre island.

The court has not yet indicated whether it would issue a stay regarding the dredging.