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Port disputes findings as residents worry about development

by: TRIBUNE PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER ONSTOTT - New health analysis shows industrial development of west Hayden Island will come with a cost to public health on the east side of the island.The Port of Portland’s proposed marine terminals on west Hayden Island are likely to increase already-toxic air pollution and reduce home property values on the populated east side of the island, according to a draft health analysis released this week.

The report by Multnomah County Health Department and two local health nonprofits was commissioned to provide more data about how marine terminals on the largely undeveloped western side of the island will affect some 2,300 residents of the eastern half.

The report also cites health benefits associated with the port proposal, including new public recreation access to the west side of Hayden Island, and hundreds of family-wage jobs likely to provide health insurance benefits.

A variety of studies have been done to examine land-use, economic and environmental considerations of replacing a forested part of the island with marine industrial terminals. This is the first look at how the project could affect the health of nearby residents.

Port of Portland officials say the health report relies on flawed data and thus overstates the potential air quality and other impacts from its future development.

Hayden Island residents and environmentalists say the report provides more fodder to reject city annexation of some 800 acres of port-owned property, which would lay the groundwork for future marine terminals there.

“I’m excited because it gives us a chance to get ourselves heard,” says Tom Dana, who lives in a mobile home park near the proposed development that includes 440 mobile homes and 160 recreational vehicles.

“The air toxics level currently is 20 times the state benchmark for cancer prevention,” Dana says. “This’ll triple that. That’s crazy.”

Dana, an alternate member of the city’s advisory committee for the west Hayden Island proposal, says he hadn’t considered before that the development would lower property values at his mobile home community and at nearby floating homes. That could make people unwilling to buy into the community, he says, causing empty homes that will mar community life.

That means the port’s project conflicts with the city’s oft-stated goals of preserving affordable housing, says Bob Sallinger, conservation director for the Portland Audubon Society.

Port of Portland staff say the health report overstated the impact on air quality because it used numbers based on an 840-acre industrial development, when the city has proposed limiting the development to 300 acres.

The report also didn’t take into account 2010 Environmental Protection Agency requirements that will slash future diesel emissions from rail locomotives and marine vessels, according to Sam Ruda, the port’s chief commercial officer.

Technical experts will review the draft report Monday, and the port hopes to get changes made that will more accurately reflect the project’s impact, says Susie Lahsene, the port’s transportation and land use policy manager.

The health analysis clearly shows there are health benefits as well as health burdens associated with the development.

“One of the tricky parts of this project,” says Eric Engstrom, principal planner for the city, “is that the people who benefit and the people who it impacts are not the same people.”

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