Stop Bespoiling West Hayden Island
by Timme Helzer
The Oregonian, August 10, 2010
For 75 years river dredge spoils were dumped onto West Hayden Island, with destructive consequences to its now-shrinking grasslands, which feed species across the island's 150-square-mile ecosystem. Now, the Port of Portland is intentionally contaminating the island with another 75,000 cubic yards of the Willamette's toxic river dredge spoils taken from the federal Superfund cleanup site in Portland Harbor.
According to Oregon's Department of Environmental Quality, these spoils contain excessive levels of lead and zinc, as well as hydrocarbons and the pesticide DDT, and are long-term threats to birds and other species across the region. Yet the Port is deceiving the DEQ by claiming the toxic waste goes on "already-designated industrial land," even though it's zoned "Farm/Forest" and has not been (and may never be) approved for Port industrialization by the Portland City Council.
The council last week decided to set aside 500 acres of West Hayden Island for protected wildlife habitat, but will continue for another 18 months its efforts to investigate the real value of 300 acres on the island, testing all of the Port's claimed need for, and benefits and negative impact from this marine industrial site. Cautiously following the Port's logic that more industrialized land means more higher-paying jobs, commissioners moved the process forward, despite well-documented and compelling expert testimony against it, and reports that "mixed use" is not likely. The Port continues to reduce the environmental and economic value of West Hayden Island as a wildlife habitat, premier nature park and river recreation area because it fooled commissioners once and thinks it can do it again.
The Port's objectives to continue toxic dumping on West Hayden are two-fold. First, it's to inexpensively raise to a sufficient grade level its remaining 300-acre stake in the island, located within the Columbia River flood plain, so it can avoid federal restrictions against the Port's building within that flood plain. Second, it's to continue to reduce the overall value of the 500 acres of preserved wildlife habitat that now stands as a major impediment to the Port's grabbing more land for "sustainable marine development," and selling its unsubstantiated promise that the Port's import car terminal, while permanently destroying West Hayden wildlife habitat, will create many more new family-wage jobs than a degraded habitat is worth.
DEQ and the City Council must stop the Port of Portland's intentional degradation of West Hayden Island now, if not for the health and well-being of current generations, then for our children's children and the future generations of island wildlife.
Once again, "Nature has a way of 'remembering' insults, deforming or even dooming fish and wildlife that may be hit at reproductive and habitat levels not yet fathomed."
It's About Time by Editorial Board, The Daily Astorian, 4/9/9
Enviros Question Dredge Spoil Dumping on West Hayden Island by Scott Learn, The Oregonian, 8/4/10
Toxic Contaminants and Their Effects on Salmonids by Morace, Johnson & Nilsen, Science Policy Exchange, 9/11/9
learn more on topics covered in the film
see the video
read the script
learn the songs