St. Helens eyes Central Waterfront improvements
As the city of St. Helens proceeds with its ambitious Riverwalk Project, focus is also on the Central Waterfront property.
This property, according to the city, offers the opportunity to connect the city's downtown Riverfront District to the north and the St. Helens Industrial Business Park property to the south.
The Central Waterfront property takes in about 50 acres and is where the city's 39-acre wastewater treatment plant facility is located.
According to the city, the facility's secondary lagoon was built in 1972 as a partnership with Boise Cascade.
"Today, the facility is oversized, expensive to maintain, and is not the best use of a large stretch of Columbia River waterfront property," a city news release notes. "The 50-year-old lagoon also creates environmental permitting challenges due to its age and outdated technology."
The city is looking at options to repurpose part or all of the wastewater treatment plant facility.
The city also hopes to unite two miles of waterfront property for additional public amenities, and promote the economic health of St. Helens by opening prime waterfront land for possible marine and industrial development.
Another goal is an easier connection to Riverfront District businesses.
Rachael Barry, government affairs specialist for the city of St. Helens, addressed the treatment plant by stressing the importance of health and safety.
"No. 1 is really improving our environment, health and safety by meeting future wastewater discharge standards and really getting the treatment plant up to modern technology and getting it appropriately sized to meet our needs," Barry said.
St. Helens has received word it will receive almost $1.4 million dollars in state and federal funding to assist with the Central Waterfront Project. The Oregon legislature approved House Bill 5202 that allocated $984,000 to the city for central waterfront redevelopment efforts.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency, known as FEMA, has approved $387,000 through its Hazard Mitigation Grant Program to help St. Helens study wastewater treatment resiliency.
"With these funds, we are focusing on the resiliency, the ability of the wastewater treatment plan to survive a disaster and to continue to come up to future environmental standards and meet the needs for our growing population," Barry said.
"In this first bit of work, we are really investigating the berm along the lagoon," she said. "We're going to test for seismic resiliency there. We're going to do additional sampling of ground water and also really do an impact analysis and facility study of our wastewater treatment plant."
The city said community input, including the creation of a Central Waterfront Advisory Committee, will be an early step in the process.
With community feedback, the city will work with professional consultants, the Oregon Business Development Department and the Oregon Office of Emergency Management to develop scopes of work for how these state and federal funds will be spent.
Barry said study work must be completed by September, 2024.
"Through all of our visioning, we have heard a lot from people that want access to the river, additional open space, green space and unified trails and access," Barry said. "It would be really great to be able to go from the courthouse dock, on a trail, on wheels or on foot, all the way around to McCormick Park or up into other parts of our beautiful city."
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.