Letters to the Editor for Aug. 4, 2016

27th Street overpass should be considered

In regard to the proposed roundabout construction in Washougal, if they don’t include another way to get across the railroad tracks besides at 32nd and E streets, their new roundabouts on Highway 14 will be clogged up from here to Vancouver.

Half the drivers I see on the new ones they built in Washougal don’t know how to navigate them, so they stop. Also, we are getting a lot of out-of-state people moving up here or on vacations who have never seen a roundabout. As it is now, because of the train traffic, I plan on doing some waiting time at the intersection of 32 and E streets. They really need to consider a 27th Street overpass.

James Lowers, Washougal

National treasure needs to be protected

The proposed oil port seemed a good deal. Leasing out public property for promised jobs and a revenue stream looked pretty good three years ago. It unraveled. What seemed like a shoe-in deal turned sour when “buyers became aware” of the full contents of the goods they were to be sold.

Then, our democracy kicked in. People rolled up their sleeves in Vancouver both in government and private citizens to question the deal. That is exciting. It shows we can unite for a cause. It is a good thing when people come together to question proposals that may cause great harm. Our democracy is working.

The proposed oil port in Vancouver would impact six counties in Washington State, three along the Gorge — Klickitat, Skamania and Clark — would face daily disruptions and potential derailments, fires or sabotage. The Gorge is a national treasure and under federal protection for it pristine scenic value. It also houses multiple fish hatcheries and the Bonneville Dam that supplies the region with affordable power for its homes and important manufacturing base.

Vancouver would have the biggest risk in that it would also be the central location where the crude would be put on the water carriers.

Cowlitz, Wahkiakum and Pacific counties would take on the risk of potential oil spills as the crude would be transported past those counties to the Tesoro refineries in Anacortes or Los Angeles. It’s not just an issue for environmentalists who care about clean waters and wildlife. It becomes an issue for those who count on the fish and wildlife as their income either as food harvests, recreational guides or fish hatcheries.

There would be is no job windfall. Construction jobs would be open to all — nationwide. This would produce a “gold rush fever” for jobs in the region. Camp followers would migrate here as well putting a strain on existing housing and social services.

As a sensible business woman, the oil port proposal makes no business sense to me. We can do better to grow our economy and with fewer risks. Risks go well beyond hypothetical derailments, fires and potential sabotage. Risks need to be assessed both short term and strategically to include:

  • Increased insurance costs for all communities both public and private owners of properties near rail and waterways where this monstrously large amount of crude is to travel. Insurance companies will surely not stand by to insure these increased risks at former rates. A rough estimate is a 20 percent increase as a start.
  • Property values will decrease when accidents occur — that’s a no brainer. Devalued private properties result in reduced tax revenue for cities and counties.
  • Property values will decrease in areas where noise and traffic impairments diminish the quality of life we hold so dear.
  • Cities and counties will have increased costs for additional emergency service units plus increased insurance premiums as the areas become high risk.
  • It is surprising that this has not been seen as a federal issue. The problems both real and potential go well beyond Washington State or Oregon on the other side of the Columbia River. The trains will go through multiple states and communities on their 1,300 mile plus trip just to reach Vancouver.
  • Then, the crude will travel along the edge of the Pacific to the refineries.

    The EPA, Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, the Army Corp of Engineers — specifically to guard the Bonneville Dam — should be involved as a start. What Vancouver Port decides or the Governor of Washington decides will negatively impact multiple states and multiple stakeholders if they decide a go.

  • The Columbia River Gorge is a documented national treasure. A scenic route that has revitalized former logging towns such as Stevenson, White Salmon, Bingen and Hood River on the Oregon side. The recreation, hospitality and the leisure industry are big business and stimulate job growth for the local population and multiple communities to the Pacific or inland far into Idaho and beyond.
  • We can still have it all, our quality of life, robust local economies and safe transportation networks. We do not need to facilitate big company profits for “shell companies” that have no stake or permanent interest in our way of life.
  • Lucia Worthington,¬†Washougal