First one is a letter I received from Shawn H. Zinszer, Chief, Regulatory Branch, Army Corps of Engineers, for the Commander, Jose L. Aguilar, Colonel, District Commander. It was dated September 8, 2014 and was sent via snail mail from the Army Corps’ Portland district office. It was in response to an email I sent to Karla Ellis of the Corps dated Monday, June 18, 2012. That’s right – 2012! The email I sent to Ms. Ellis way back then enumerated my comments on a permit application (NWP-2007-1024) for wetland destruction to build what has since been disclosed is a Walmart store adjacent to Highway 101 near the (now not so) new Costco in Warrenton. If I remember correctly (and I have trouble remembering what I did a few minutes ago, so take this with a grain of salt), my comments were submitted on the last day of the comment period.
I guess the wheels of government turn slowly (which in general is a good thing).
My comments were broken down into the following areas, as per the instructions: conservation, economics, aesthetics, general environmental concerns, land use, recreation, property ownership, and general needs and welfare of the people. In all these areas, I argued that yet another big-box store along Highway 101 in Warrenton would be detrimental – to people, wildlife, local business and the environment. The Corps’ response? “The Corps has evaluated all information in the file and the review indicates that the proposed project meets the permitting criteria contained in Section 404 of the Clean Water Act and is not contrary to the public interest. The proposed project is expected to provide economic benefits to the county and city through infrastructure, roadway improvements and taxes. The project may adversely affect smaller businesses that can’t compete with a large format retailer, but such effects would likely result from any other development in the vicinity, whether or not a Department of the Army permit is required.”
They turned down my request for a public hearing, but that request was made over 2 years ago in order to stretch the deadline for permit approval, a trick that many activists use. They didn’t address my concerns about cumulative effects of all the development in the area.
Many months ago, it was reported that the Walmart in Warrenton was going to happen. Looks like that might be the case.
Second piece of bad news was the Daily Astorian editorial on the auspicious day of September 11, about a week ago. The title was “Label us unconvinced” and it was a rejection of Measure 92, the GMO (genetically modified organisms) labeling proposal headed for the ballot in Oregon in a month or so. This was bad news in the sense of bad writing which just perpetuated the industry propaganda on GMO products, and ignored the significant efforts in several counties in Oregon to ban some GMO products and require labeling. In the May primaries, Josephine County voted to prohibit the intentional planting of GMO crops, and Jackson County voted to protect their farmers against neighboring GMO crops. None of this was mentioned in the editorial. Instead, it says, “Right now, consumers aren’t clamoring for that kind of information…” What?! This consumer is, and a whole bunch of other Astoria Co-op members are also.
The editorial, after putting forth the worn-out talking points of the industry, ends with, “But until facts are presented that show our state government has a stake in the matter, we’d prefer this be left to the private sector.” I repeat, “What?!” Well, at least it’s an editorial and not a “news” article, but still, bad news.
Final piece of bad news is kind of on-going. It regards the saga of the 19th St. Bridge Project, which is a small project to replace a bridge on Irving Avenue in Astoria – yes, at 19th St. This small project, however, is having big-time effects on the landscape, and not only at the construction site, but all along the picturesque Irving Avenue east of the main project site. First, the immediate project area was logged to allow access to the construction crews. Next, some trees were cut to provide additional electricity to the project, not near the main site, but 10 blocks away! Now, it looks like our outgoing mayor, Willis Van Dusen, has managed to get the city to cut down dozens of large trees along Irving that might (might, mind you) fall during the winter (the project is slated to go until next fall) if we have our typical winter storms. The fact that these trees are still standing after innumerable storms doesn’t seem to matter. The mayor is afraid someone might get hurt or be hemmed in due to no access to the west of the project, and no other escape route (by car). Oh, and I forgot to mention that not only will the road be closed for over a year to vehicles, but also to pedestrians, with no reasonable alternative route provided.
Like several other development situations in the area recently, my solution to this one is to avoid it altogether. So my daily pedestrian commute to the college along Irving will go, no more dog walks there, and certainly no car trips. I miss this stretch of road that was forested most of the way already. I’m sad that the forest will be diminished because of this project, especially because I know that it didn’t have to be this way. A different project plan could have kept the road open during construction, and avoided much of the sylvian destruction and human headache.
There’s a lot of good going on in the area these days, and certainly a lot of good (and bad) going on in the world. The items detailed here are examples of things that broke bad, when that didn’t have to be the case. Hopefully, talking about them will help. As always, I wonder what your opinion is???
What’s your good or bad news for our community?