The City of Portland’s North Reach River Plan is a comprehensive update of Portland's Willamette Greenway Plan, code and design guidelines. Within the North Reach, largely from the Broadway Bridge to the mouth of the Willamette, the vision and strategy strives to balance economic development with environmental conservation,restoration and public recreation. The balancing act between industrial economic activity and natural resource preservation and enhancement is proving to be the most challenging in the planning process. Businesses in the Portland Harbor want a balanced River Plan that will create an improved ecosystem, streamline the permit process, and help to retain and create new jobs. Harbor businesses are ready to fund Portland's waterfront restoration efforts, but do not believe the River Plan, as currently written, provides the best options.

Working Waterfront Coalition appeals River Plan

Despite the Working Waterfront Coalition's efforts to negotiate a better policy for the continued development of the working harbor, Portland City Council passed the River Plan on April 15.

The Working Waterfront Coalition, Gunderson and Schnitzer Steel appealed the city's recently adopted River Plan to the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals.

William A. Furman, president and chief executive officer of Greenbrier (Gunderson's parent company), said, "A clean river and healthy economy are not mutually exclusive goals…there are 40,000 family wage jobs at stake in the 11 miles of the already highly regulated North Reach of the Willamette River." Furman explained that the River Plan ordinance is inconsistent with Oregon state law, that it puts jobs at risk and has other serious flaws.

The WWC and its member companies support efforts to improve the environment in the Portland Harbor's North Reach. The WWC opposed the River Plan because the code in the plan will impede investment within the Portland Harbor, which could consequently restrict further economic development and job growth in the Portland region. Under the River Plan, funds necessary for ecosystem improvement and for real enhancement projects near the river will come only from permit fees. If businesses don't invest due to the stringent requirements, there won't be any permit fees and therefore no meaningful improvements to the harbor.

The WWC offered an alternative approach to the River Plan during discussions with the city that they believe would have resulted in more expedient environmental improvement. The WWC continues to remain open to negotiation with the city but, because the city chose to adopt a plan before their concerns were addressed, Gunderson, Schnitzer Steel and the WWC were left no option but to file appeals to avoid missing the state imposed window of opportunity for taking concerns to the Land Use Board of Appeals.

On January 21, 2011 the State of Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA) remanded the River Plan. LUBA agreed with the WWC that the River Plan "could reduce the amount of industrial land available for development", thereby reducing the ability to create new jobs and support Portland economic viability and livability.

Land Use Board of Appeals decision >>

After the remand, the WWC offered to work with the City to help develop a balanced River Plan. The City did not accept the invitation and, instead, announced a plan to fix "technical" problems with the River Plan. The WWC believes State law requires more.

The WWC decided to appeal the LUBA ruling to obtain additional guidance on the City's obligations under State law. The hope is that, with the additional guidance from the Oregon State of Appeals, the City will refocus its efforts and begin the work of developing a River Plan that will fairly serve the needs of all.

How You Can Help

Let your Portland city council representatives know that a balanced River Plan is the best solution for both the economy and the environment. The River Plan can benefit both the natural environment and the businesses along the river, but it needs to include the ability for businesses to have a streamlined permit process, to retain and create new jobs and to improve the ecosystem.




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