The past year saw a lot of changes for the Port of Columbia County, the county’s primary economic development driver.
Doug Hayes, executive director of the Port, discussed with The Chronicle some of those opportunities and challenges of the past year and the opportunities ahead.
According to Hayes, there were three main tasks the Port was able to accomplish in the past year. Those tasks involved making progress on the Port’s rezone at Port Westward, breaking ground on the Devinaire airline hangar, and installing more infrastructure, Hayes said.
This past year, Hayes said, the Port made progress on resolving eight of the nine questions that environmental groups Columbia Riverkeeper and 1000 Friends of Oregon brought before the Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA) and ultimately the Oregon Supreme Court regarding the 837-acre rezone at Port Westward in Clatskanie from agricultural to industrial land. Hayes said the rezone, if finalized, will bring more economic development to Columbia County. Over the past years, the Port and environmental groups have fought an ongoing battle on whether the rezone will take place.
The Port was also able to break ground on the Devinaire hangar at the Scappoose Industrial Airpark (SIA), which was also delayed due to various factors. Some of those issues, Hayes said, were the new requirements by the state fire marshal and new building code requirements from the state.
“We got that resolved, and because of that resolution we were able to start the breaking ground project. That should be complete by mid-summer, 2020,” Hayes said.
Infrastructure was another accomplishment of the Port over the past year, Hayes said. Infrastructure installations included a new taxi way at SIA as well as installing additional water and sewer lines at the airpark and working with the City of Scappoose to complete the project.
“They were great partners in that,” Hayes said.
Hayes said there are four major tasks for the Port in the next year.
One of the tasks is continuing the rezone, which will involve bringing arguments for the last remaining question to the Columbia County commissioners.
“Our plan is to get that back in front of the county commissioners in late February, early March,” Hayes said.
Hayes also said completing the Devinaire hangar project is another key task, which he estimated would bring in about 20 jobs once completed.
There are two new tasks for the Port as well, and one of them will be to continue talks with Perry Technical Institute, based in Yakima, Washington, about establishing a satellite campus in Columbia County.
“Those talks are never short, it takes a while to talk to folks. We’re going to continue that,” Hayes said.
The fourth major task involves establishing an intergovernmental agreement with the City of St. Helens.
“The Port will supervise and market their industrial lands within city limits,” Hayes said.
Doing so would help both institutions bring in jobs to the county, Hayes said.
Overall, Hayes said he felt positively about the coming year.
“As I’m sitting here now, I don’t see anything that will be too much of an issue. We look forward to the new year, and we wish everyone a happy New Year,” Hayes said.