Letters to the editor
Relief following 'Russians' letter
Jeff Campbell's letter to the Spotlight (see "'The Russians are coming! The Russians arecoming!", Oct. 13, A4) was beyond welcome to read, for both me and the other person in our household. As far as we are concerned, you absolutely nailed it.
I have been incredibly sick of the raucous and rising noise emanating from the churning of the "system" in the U.S. and its resident subjects for (at least) an entire year at this point. I spent a month in Perth, Australia, last spring and cannot adequately describe the relief I felt to have it all stop — and I did not seek it out during my time there via the net. At that point it was making me nauseous to even turn on my laptop. My primary interests are financial-economic, global and current-historical. But while reading, I could not avoid the intrusive blare from the political sewer, so much wallowing in manipulation, ignorance, prejudice and — deliberate? —misinformation. And where did "for the common good" go?
I want to acknowledge, via your published letter, your honest intent, clear and succinct vision, detachment from skewed agenda, rational exposition, and humorous distance from the truths you so rationally and purposefully describe.
"When the Russians got there, the cupboard was bare." It is good to have a laugh, although it is really not funny.
I think it is like putting your mind to the fire. Few are
Thank you for your writing, and thanks to Darryl Swan, the Spotlight editor, for the publication, more than I can say.
'The Staff's' comments on Port Westward proposal warrant review
The proposed rezoning of Port Westward land from agricultural to industrial use is on the agenda for the Columbia County Commissioners meeting on Oct. 25. One of the commissioners requested a staff member — here referred to as "The Staff" — to respond to concerns raised in written comments from a local citizen. The staff responded in a letter dated Aug. 22, 2017. Some of the responses were good, but others deserve a closer look.
Approval will likely result in an increase in rail traffic to and from Port Westward. Long delays have been experienced in the past in Scappoose, St. Helens, Rainier and at railroad crossings near Port Westward, as unit trains of 100 rail cars or more travel past. Many of us can be trapped on one side of the tracks. We can tolerate the delays, but if there is an increased risk of collisions, derailments, delays in medical and fire responses, that might be another story.
The Staff's response included comments from a state rail planner at the Oregon Department of Transportation who said that increasing the speed of the trains will reduce delays at the crossings. While that is true, no mention was made of the corresponding increased risk of a collision (less time for vehicles to get out of the way), and the consequences should a collision occur
(including possible derailments).
This is a huge safety concern if the train is carrying a hazardous cargo.
The ODOT rail specialist also noted that for every rail car added to the line, three to four freight trucks can be removed from Highway 30, so increasing the number of unit trains can have a positive effect by reducing truck freight traffic.
This argument does not hold water for unit trains transporting cargo over long distances. I haven't seen any convoys of 300 to 400 trucks hauling volatile crude oil from North Dakota to Port Westward and back in the past, and I doubt that I will see any in the future. The increase in rail traffic will come without a corresponding decrease in Highway 30 traffic.
The Staff noted that there are some proposed upgrades to rail crossings in the 2017 Columbia County Transportation System's Plan based on existing rail traffic. However, these upgrades are identified in the plan as "Aspirational and Financially Constrained Projects." That sounds pretty "iffy" to me.
The Staff did recommend requiring that future Port Westward project developers conduct a rail impact study and propose mitigation of any negative impacts. There needs to be a requirement that ensures these mitigation measures (and other needed safety improvement projects, such as special firefighting equipment and training in case a derailment does occur) are funded and completed, not just studied.
The commissioners need to ensure the health and safety of our citizens will be protected.