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Portland Audubon’s Statement on West Hayden Island
Today the Port of Portland announced that it is withdrawing its application to the City of Portland to annex West Hayden Island for Marine Industrial Development. Audubon Society of Portland commends the Port of Portland for this decision. Audubon has opposed industrial development on West Hayden Island for nearly three decades. We have served on multiple advisory committees that explored possible development scenarios on West Hayden Island including the 1998-2000 advisory committees and the 2008-2013 advisory committees. The work of those committees has repeatedly reaffirmed the ecological importance of this natural area and raised legitimate, unanswered questions about the need for development.
We believe that West Hayden Island – because of its size, complex mosaic of habitat types and location at the confluence of the Willamette and Columbia Rivers – represents an irreplaceable resource whose loss cannot be fully mitigated. Our urban waterways are severely degraded and preservation of the few remaining large intact sites like West Hayden Island is critical to restoring ecological function and health to our river. The proposed development on West Hayden Island would have destroyed hundreds of acres of meadows, bottomland forests, floodplains, wetland, and shallow-water salmon habitat. It also would have tripled air toxics and reduced the livability of the surrounding community, including Oregon’s largest affordable-housing, manufactured-home community.
The Port has criticized the City for proposing a mitigation package that it considered to be too high. In fact the mitigation package only partially addressed the actual impacts of this project. We applaud the City for standing strong in the face of pressure to externalize the negative impacts of this development on the environment and the local community.
We believe that the highest and best use of West Hayden Island is to be permanently protected in its entirety as a natural area to benefit fish and wildlife, mitigate for the impacts of climate change and provide outstanding opportunities for enjoying nature for the local community. Audubon stands ready to work with the Port and City to find solutions that will ensure that all of West Hayden Island will be protected but which will also allow the Port to recoup its investment in this site. We urge the Port to explore fee simple sale of the parcel to a land management agency that can protect and restore the natural area in perpetuity. Alternatively we believe that West Hayden Island would make an outstanding mitigation bank to allow the Port and other businesses in the working harbor to help meet their Superfund as well other mitigation obligations.
At a larger scale, we also urge the City and Port to shift focus on addressing potential industrial land deficiencies away from developing natural areas and instead focusing on cleaning up contaminated brownfields, intensifying uses on existing industrial sites and building greater collaboration and efficiency among all the Ports on the Columbia River Corridor.
“We are pleased that the Port has withdrawn its efforts to annex West Hayden Island for development,” said Portland Audubon Conservation Director Bob Sallinger. “This is a huge win for our communities and our environment. Conservation groups, tribes and neighborhoods have opposed this development for decades. Now it is time to take the next step and permanently protect this amazing natural area.”
A New Vision for West Hayden Island
We envision a fully restored 800+ Acre Wildlife Area and Nature Park at the confluence of the Willamette and Columbia Rivers: A place that provides habitat for more than 200 species including bald eagles, painted turtles, federally listed salmon and steelhead and extraordinary opportunities for people to hike, paddle and enjoy nature in an urban environment.
Visitors will explore a mosaic of wetlands, grasslands, beaches and one of the largest intact bottomland hardwood forests left on the Lower Columbia River. A new nature center will provide programs for children and adults about the unique role that confluence areas play in the migratory cycles of our imperiled fish and wildlife populations. Our local green economy will be supported by nature based recreation, restoration projects, and establishment of a regional mitigation bank to allow for marine development in more appropriate locations.
West Hayden Island will symbolize our commitment to restoring balance to our urban landscapes and leaving the land better than we found it for future generations.