Columbia City's Joe Turner notes that, for Columbia County, it's a time to decide if it wants to be Portland bedroom community or something else

After purchasing a home in Columbia City, the first City Council meeting I attended was the presentation of the proposed Morrow-Pacific project for the Port of St. Helens, which included the building of a coal transfer facility at the Port of Morrow in Boardman.

Having lived and/or worked downwind from Boardman for 27 years prior to moving to Columbia City, I know there are two food processing plants 800 yards downwind from the projected transfer site — Lamb Weston, which process potatoes, and Boardman Foods, which process onions; and 2.5 miles further downwind is the Umatilla National Wildlife Refuge.

At the end of the presentation I asked if they planned on installing air-quality monitoring equipment and was given a simple "no." Since then the Port of St. Helens has tried different projects, including Bakken oil, ethanol and methanol, and now wants to expand the port facilities for other possibilities; and yet again it is being met with resistance from local residents and environmental activist groups.

It is being stated that this area is prime agricultural land, yet since the establishment of Clatskanie in 1871, agriculture businesses have failed to develop the land, build a food processing site, or build a shipping facility for overseas clientele.

Annie Christensen, a member of the nonprofit Columbia Riverkeeper, has published online that the Global Partners LP agreement with the port is for 3,200 trains per year, yet the agreement available at the port office states that it is for 37 trains per month, i.e. 444 per year.

Some residents complain about the rail traffic causing local traffic congestion, yet I was told it was their own City Council that limits train speed due to pedestrian foot traffic instead of allowing trains to maintain the same 35 mph as the traffic on Highway 30. In a recent interview with Portland's new port director it was mentioned that Portland would be refocusing its port operations directly due to its limitations to process larger panamax container ships.

Time is quickly approaching for Columbia County residents to decide once and for all to either develop their county ports to become more financially independent or to remain a bedroom community of the Portland metro area and be content with whatever the metro area may throw its way.

While agriculture has shunned Port Westward because of its remoteness, that same remoteness makes the port a safe and desirable location for other industries.

Joe Turner

Columbia City

Contract Publishing

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