A packed room full of folks mostly opposed to logging trucks going up and down Moore Road made it quite clear recently that they don’t want what they called the danger, the noise and the drop in their property values caused by the commotion the trucks create. Many said they bought their homes long after the heyday of Newport log export operations stopped by the 1990’s. Nobody told them that someday the trucks would return. “It’s just not fair,” one neighbor exclaimed, loudly.
A number of neighbors said they’re all for good paying jobs but not at the expense of their neighborhood and the commercial businesses at the bottom of Moore Road whose operating environment will be unavoidably changed by logging trucks at six minute intervals or less coming down the road, dropping off their loads, and then noisily climbing back up to Highway 20. Others mentioned the dangers of invasive species coming ashore from the logging ships that will tie up at the Port of Newport’s new International Terminal. Others feared more pollution in Yaquina Bay. Others decried the shipment of raw logs to China rather than processing them into finished wood products here in the U.S.
Neighbor Mike Peterson said property values will drop “a good 10%” if the trucks roll as some expect they will in late Spring, when the terminal is finished and all of Teevin Brothers permits are issued and the terminal is officially open for business. Teevin Brothers is a log export company based out of Rainier, OR, on the Columbia River and are said to be close to signing an operations contract with the Port of Newport. Peterson said those concerned about the re-emergence of logging trucks on Moore Road should plan to attend a Newport City Council meeting January 22nd, at city hall – that is if the city has received the Traffic Impact Analysis on the logging truck issue on Moore Road. The study is not yet officially scheduled on the agenda pending receipt of the study. There could be a postponement of the public comment opportunity until there has been enough time for people to find out about it and then make plans to attend a city council meeting possibly in early February. We may know more about the exact date within a week or so.
International Longshore and Warehouse Union member, and life long resident of Newport, Tracy Bruchett told the gathering that he understands the concerns of the neighbors and area businesses but also pointed out that in all the years of logging trucks driving up and down Moore Road there were no serious crashes or loss of life associated with them. Burchett said logging truck drivers are among the most experienced on the roads today and that “navigating the roads in the woods are far more of a challenge than a designated truck route in a city, which Moore Road is,” he said. Burchett also pointed out that the 40+ jobs that are to be created with the logging operation are family wage jobs which means workers are going to be contributing to the local economy, not taking from it. “Besides,” he added, “the voters in and around Newport passed the bond that helped built the terminal as an economic booster for the community.”
Other audience comments ranged from concerns about dusty debarking operations at the terminal, possible contaminated storm water run off into Yaquina Bay and other pollution threats. The city is currently reviewing a storm water management program from Teevin Brothers.
Oly Olson, local community activist who is a member of the City-Port Joint Task Force on the Moore Road project, which will widen the intersection and enhance visibilities, said he understands the concerns of the neighborhood and the businesses at the bottom of the hill. He said safety modifications to the intersection of Moore and Bay Boulevard will help make the intersection more efficiently accommodate the increased traffic. But he also acknowledged the importance of the Port and the City to support an alternate route that would let logging trucks access the port terminal farther to the east, thereby leaving Moore Road alone. Olson said there are ongoing discussions with a trust that owns a considerable amount of timber just east of the terminal that stretches east and west and reaches up to Highway 20. Olson said the trust may be interested in harvesting their timber while accommodating an alternate road for the logging trucks to access the terminal. Olson says talks are very preliminary but that the idea is worth pursuing. Several neighbors indicated they could temporarily put up with the logging trucks knowing that an alternate route is in the near future. Olson said the key element is funding for the road. Olson says there are sources for such funds but competition is fierce.
With that the meeting began to wind up. Everyone acknowledged the need for a strong public relations campaign throughout Newport to drive home the point that the benefits of an economic proposal should not cost more than it provides, in this case jobs versus lower property values, traffic issues, possible drop in tourism counts by those who don’t want to get caught up in a busy logging town, etc. There was talk of hiring an experienced environmental advocacy attorney to help in their cause.