Environmental groups are preparing to fight plans by the Army Corps of Engineers and the Port of Portland to dump dredge material on an island in the Columbia River.
The conflict over the west side of Hayden Island could soon come to a head.
The next week could mean the start to a controversial dredging project – or a legal challenge to stop it.
The Port of Portland and Army Corps of Engineers only have until the end of October to do the work, because after that, seasonal fish regulations kick in.
Josh Thomas with the Port of Portland says the dredging is necessary.
Josh Thomas: “Talk to the marine shippers who depend on our marine highways to import or export cargo. This situation would be comparable to a massive sinkhole or pothole on I-5, or I-84. And action has to be taken or there will be consequences.”
Environmental groups are worried about the dredge material, and where it’s going. It contains very small amounts of nasty stuff, like DDT. And it’s headed to West Hayden Island.
The Port got state permission for that in part because it claims the spot will be an industrial site. But Bob Sallinger with the Audubon Society of Portland says for now, it’s a natural area, and the city hasn’t decided the island’s future.
Bob Sallinger: “The port knows full well that there’s an ongoing public process that’s going to determine whether there’s going to be industrial development on this island. And for them to be using industrial development as a pretense for allowing themselves to be able to dump contaminated waste on the island is absolutely an end-run around that process.”
Port officials argue that what Sallinger calls “contaminated waste” has only “background levels” of harmful chemicals.
It’s not clear when the Army Corps will start the work, but Port officials would like it to happen soon. That’s putting pressure on environmental groups to decide soon whether to take quick legal action.