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History and Natural Resources Summary

Jump to: Summary of Natural Resources on West Hayden Island | Island Map | Information on the failed 1999-2000 annexation

Summary of Natural Resources on West Hayden Island

By Bob Sallinger, Conservation Director, Audubon Society of Portland

Background: Hayden Island lies between Columbia River miles 103 and 106 in the Columbia River between Portland, Oregon and Vancouver, Washington.  West Hayden Island (referred to here as WHI) is the undeveloped portion of an otherwise highly urbanized island.  The parcel contains 826 acres of undeveloped habitat.

Hayden Island probably originated as a mid-channel bar in a wide, shoaled reach of the Columbia River.  Early survey maps (1860-1880) show a complex of shoals, islands, and channels in the area of the present day Hayden Island.  Over the years, diking, dredging and dredge disposal, urban development, and groin construction have served to alter the shape and size of the island to the present configuration (Port of Portland 1999).

West Hayden Island was purchased from PGE by the Port of Portland in 1994. In 1999 the Port  developed a proposal to construct three marine terminals (grain/ bulk and container facilities), an intermodal rail yard and a 1-mile long loop track on West Hayden Island. This proposal was abandoned in 2000 after the Port recognized the legitimacy of community concerns regarding the adequacy of the alternative site analysis, mitigation plans, and transportation impacts. The Port also cited changing economic forecasts that undermined the viability of the project.  Currently the Port holds West Hayden Island in “industrial reserve.” While there are no development plans currently under consideration, this could change at anytime. In early 2005, the Port argued unsuccessfully before the Metro Council that WHI should be exempted from new Metro regulations designed to protect the most important and vulnerable fish and wildlife habitat in the region.

In 2005, a coalition of conservation organizations approached the Port offering to enter into negotiations to purchase West Hayden Island for the purpose of protecting its natural resource and recreational value. The Port declined this offer.

Natural Resource Values on West Hayden Island: Because of its size, habitat types and quality, restoration potential and proximity to other natural areas, West Hayden Island is arguably one of the most valuable pieces of unprotected habitat left in the Metropolitan Region.  Its 826 acres of undeveloped habitat are part of a much larger network of natural areas that includes Smith and Bybee Lakes, Sauvie Island, Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge, Kelley Point Park and Vancouver Lake Lowlands. It sits at the intersection of two major wildlife corridors and is utilized by wildlife moving north-south between Smith and Bybee Lakes and Ridgefield and east-west between Sauvie Island and the Sandy River. At least 39 acres of protected wetlands currently exist on the island. The island also includes one of the largest intact stands of cottonwood-ash bottomland forest left on the Lower Columbia. Cottonwood-ash forest was once the dominant habitat type along the Lower Columbia, but today West Hayden Island represents approximately 4% of all that remains between Astoria and the Bonneville Dam. . Numerous studies conducted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have documented the critical nature of this habitat for Neotropical migrant birds and other wildlife.

At least eighty-one bird species, nine mammal species, four amphibian species and nine members of the butterfly family have been observed on the island. Among these are several species of concern including bald eagles, pileated woodpeckers, bank swallows, willow flycatchers and western painted turtles.  Federally listed Chinook, chum and sockeye salmon and steelhead trout all utilize the aquatic environment surrounding the island.  Salmonids are also known to use at least one of the island’s wetlands. West Hayden Island would be considered a valuable natural resource no matter where it was located. That it functions as part of a network of natural areas allowing the movement of wildlife on a landscape that is otherwise highly urbanized makes it all the more valuable. Allowing for development or further degradation of West Hayden Island would eliminate a resource of regional significance and undermine the integrity of the entire natural area complex of which it is part.

A Metro inventory of natural resources located within the Portland Metropolitan Area, conducted as part of its Goal 5 Fish and Wildlife Program, highlighted West Hayden Island as providing “regionally significant” riparian corridors, wetlands and wildlife habitat. The ecological value of West Hayden Island is further demonstrated by Columbia River Corridor habitat assessments conducted by the Portland Bureau of Planning in the 1980s, which gave WHI scores of 95 and 99 out of a potential 100 points. In a letter to the Port dated March 3, 2005, the US Fish and Wildlife Service states “As you know, the Island’s size, the amount and quality of its constituent habitats, the potential to restore and enhance these habitats, and its location in relation to other natural areas make the Island a unique and valuable resource…. In light of these conditions, the island would be considered an important conservation asset regardless of its location. Its presence in an otherwise highly urbanized metropolitan region accentuates this importance.”

Island Map

West Hayden Island Map

Map Key 1. West Hayden Island (Port of Portland), 2. Sauvie Island Wildlife Area (Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife), 3. Shilapoo Wildlife Area, 4. Metro Greenspace, 5. Metro Greenspace, 6. Burlington Bottom (Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife) 7. Virginia Lake (State of Oregon), 8. Kelly Point Park (City of Portland) 9. Vancouver Lake, 10. Smith and Bybee Lakes (Metro), 11. Port of Portland Mitigation Area, 12. Lemond Island, 13. Tri-Club Island, 14. Government Island (Port of Portland), 15. McGuire Island, 16. Sand Island, 17. Blue Lake Regional Park (Metro), 18. Sandy River Delta (U.S. Forest Service), 19. Fairview Lake, 20. Columbia Slough Natural Area (Portland Water Bureau) 21. Columbia Slough Natural Area (BES) 22. Columbia Slough Natural Area (Portland Parks), 23. Whitaker Ponds (Metro and Portland Parks).

Audubon Society of Portland © 2007

Information on the failed 1999-2000 annexation


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