Oregon’s Metro regional government, the last local agency needed to sign off on a key Columbia River Crossing document, delayed the task Thursday, saying their concerns about impacts to Hayden Island have not yet been alleviated.
The council did approve by 6 to 1 a land use decision giving the go-ahead to plans for light rail and highway improvements on the Oregon side of the border, but gave pause on allowing Council President Tom Hughes to sign the CRC’s Final Environmental Impact Statement.
In a six-hour meeting, the council heard testimony from more than 20 people who were mostly opposed to the project. While the testimony did not seem to incline them to vote down the project, teary and impassioned testimony from Hayden Island residents made them ask the CRC to put more mitigation plans for the island down in writing.
“Our neighborhood would be sheer hell,” resident Pam Ferguson said. “We want the promise of assistance.”
Councilor Barbara Roberts called for the pause on signing off on the final environmental impact statement. She noted that all big projects she’s seen have had adverse impacts on neighborhoods, but Hayden Island could use more protection.
“Some additional time will afford us the opportunity to further scrutinize the draft final environmental impact statement and address some of the shortfalls in the document, most notably the absence of a community enhancement fund,” Roberts said.
It’s not clear when the council will revisit signing the FEIS, although Hughes said it would be soon. The document must be sent to the federal government for final approval; that approval allows project directors to start seeking construction funding.
CRC planners have said they want to send the environmental impact statement to the federal government in the fall and get its nod by the end of the year.
The FEIS has already been approved by the boards at C-Tran, the Southwest Washington Regional Transportation Council and TriMet. The Oregon and Washington departments of transportation must also sign it.
The public comment was supposed to be limited to topics addressed in the Land Use Final Order, but many touched upon the CRC’s uncertain finances and other general unease about the more than $3 billion project.
Councilor Carl Hosticka, the lone vote against the Land Use Final Order criticized the limited number of neighborhoods listed as having adverse impacts due to the CRC’s construction.
“We’ve heard (ODOT director) Matt Garrett say this will be (positively) affecting every neighborhood from Vancouver to Ensenada (Mexico),” Hosticka said. “How did we decide on three (adversely) affected neighborhoods?”
The appeal process for the Land Use Final Order is a rather short one: Opponents of the Columbia River Crossing will have 14 days to appeal its passage to the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals. Once the board rules, further appeals go straight to the Oregon Supreme Court, meaning it could all be over in months.
Washington has no similar land use law.
Andrea Damewood: 360-735-4542 or firstname.lastname@example.org or www.facebook.com/reporterdamewood or www.twitter.com/col_cityhall.