Vancouver City Council members ecstatic about EFSEC decision

Leavitt says he's glad state evaluation council made decision on oil terminal

By Katy Sword, Columbian staff writer

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Vancouver city officials greeted the Washington State Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council’s recommendation to deny the Vancouver Energy oil terminal with enthusiasm. The city issued its formal opposition to the project in 2014.

Mayor Tim Leavitt said he’s glad the decision has been made, regardless of the outcome.

“It’s not entirely surprising to me that the EFSEC has rendered a recommendation to deny the proposed project given the litany of concerns that have been brought forward not only by the city but by other interested parties,” Leavitt said, adding that the city leadership is pleased EFSEC’s decision aligned with their position.

As the final decision heads to the governor’s office, Leavitt said he doesn’t expect that the issue is wrapped up yet.

“It’ll be interesting to see how the proponent chooses to move forward,” he said.

He said he hopes the city can move forward, as well.

“Regardless of which way the governor decides, our community will be able to get on a quick path of recovery moving forward and mending some of those strained relationships, and even some of those relationships that were destroyed along the way,” Leavitt said. “There was a lot of unnecessary pain and heartache that came through our drawn-out process.”

Vancouver City Council members were ecstatic about the decision.

“This is something that needed to happen. We are not an oil town,” Councilor Bart Hansen said. “If Don Orange was the nail, then EFSEC was the hammer. This is really probably the second to last nail in the coffin. The governor is going to be the final one.”

Hansen, however, expects litigation from the losing side once the governor does make a decision.

“This is all in the process of doing business,” he added. “Unfortunately, we live in a litigious society; that’s just how it works.”

If an appeal is filed, Vancouver will be watching.

“I’m going to watch with great interest where this goes because they’re running out of options for this project,” Councilor Jack Burkman said.

Hansen and Councilor Alishia Topper said the recommendation is the result of hard work by the community.

“It’s nice to see that all of our hard work and advocacy against the project has paid off,” Topper said. “It’s been a long process, and I think people on both sides were ready for a decision. I’ll be celebrating the victory.”

Barry Cain, whose company Gramor Development is pouring millions into downtown Vancouver to build offices, restaurants, apartments and even a grocery store, said he was “glad to see the recommendation.” Cain previously said he wouldn’t move forward with the project if the oil terminal was approved.

“It was a divisive issue, and maybe we’re finally getting to a point where we can put it behind us,” he said. “And we can work toward all the amazing things that are in downtown Vancouver’s future.”

Cain’s marquee project is The Waterfront Vancouver, a proposed $1.5 billion overhaul of 32 acres along the Columbia River. His project is directly west of the Port of Vancouver’s own mixed-use redevelopment, Terminal 1.

“We should all agree that the most important thing for business is the environment,” he said. “That’s why people are moving here, living here and want to be in business here. So we’ve got to protect it. There’s just too many things that couldn’t have been mitigated with that (terminal).”

Troy Brynelson contributed to this report.