Few minds were changed during town hall meeting on log shipment operations coming later this year at International Terminal
It was a rather divided room of well over 100 people at Oregon Coast Community College Tuesday night who came to give their support or voice their opposition to a log export operation at the soon to be completed International Terminal, owned by the Port of Newport.
The crowd spilled over into two rooms full of folks some of whom view the new terminal as a job-creating Godsend, while opponents claimed it’ll pollute the bay, the air, and pose a big safety threat to motorists, pedestrians and school children who use SE Moore and Bay Roads.
Newport Port Commissioners, Newport City Councilors and the Logging Truck Task Force gave a comprehensive description of the log export operation which is expected to begin in late Fall. It involves 50 logging truck trips a day using SE Moore and the Bay Road, trips clumped mainly in the morning and early afternoon.
To better accommodate the trucks, the intersection at Moore and Bay will be re-aligned to improve traffic visibility, protected turning movements and a raised elevation for downhill traffic making a left on the Bay Road. A new storm drain system will also be installed under the intersection. Further down the Bay Road, the turn-in at the terminal wil be cleared out of unnecessary vegetation in an effort to increase visibility.
Eric Teevin said hours of operation will be from 7am to 4pm for truck traffic and until 8pm for other terminal operations which include log debarking. The debarker will be electric so it will be quieter than earlier versions. The city will be in charge of ensuring that the municipal noise ordinance is not violated by the logging operations at the terminal.
Log transport ships are expected to follow the rules about when to dump their ballast and when to take in new ballast so as to minimize the threat of invasive species coming ashore and jarring the local marine ecology. An Oregon Department of Environmental Quality staffer said they inspect ballast management records of most ships coming into Oregon waters and are boarding upwards to 16% of all ships that call on Oregon ports. Teevin Brothers has said in the past that they will be working with a small number of ships for their Asian runs, all crews which they know very well and are confident are following the rules.
The logs are going to be coming from nearby forests owned by Hancock Forest Management (HFM) with over 200,000 acres of timber ready to be harvested. HFM spokesman Jeff Vermillion said they run sustainable forests which are cut on scheduled intervals. He said log shipments out of the Port of Newport are good for their firm as well as for Newport’s economy which is anxious to grow new family wage jobs. Teevin’s new port operation is expected to create at least 20 such full time positions. They’d like to begin shipping logs later this year.
Port officials also reminded the crowd that Newport voters in 2006 approved a $15 million dollar bond which will be combined with other grants and loans to rehabilitate the International Terminal. It was falling apart and threatening to pollute Yaquina Bay at a time that commercial fishermen were clamoring for more industrial space to store their gear and to work on their vessels. The voters were told at the time that cargo shipping would play a big role in generating enough income to retire the bond, pay off the loans and create new jobs.
However, opponents claimed that big log trucks don’t mix well with residential neighborhoods. Critics like Mike Peterson and others of the anti-log truck group Save Our Newport, said log truck operations in their quiet neighborhoods would be disruptive, harm their quality of life and pose a severe danger along Moore Road’s long downhill grade and on the Bay Road. Others said tourist accommodations at the bottom of Moore Road such as the Embarcadero and The Landing will suffer reduced income as tourists seek lodging elsewhere, away from the noisy grind of logging trucks going by outside their windows. Community Activist Rio Davidson called the log shipment operations a harbinger of toxic contamination in Yaquina Bay and furthering the spread of invasive species into the environment. He called the 2006 bond a subsidy for a multi-billion dollar corporation that should process their logs in America creating jobs here rather than shipping them to China and creating jobs there. Another long term resident said it is critical that if the log truck and shipment operations become a mainstay of the eastern Bayfront area, every effort should be made to build an alternate access road from Highway 20 down to the Bay Road so the Moore Road area could resume its quiet and scenic lifestyle. Several members in the audience challenged Hancock Forest Management’s Jeff Vermillion whether the company felt any obligation to help fund such an alternate road. Vermillion replied that they hadn’t thought about it but that there may be an opportunity to review the idea.
City Councilor David Allen urged the crowd to continue their involvement with the process so that their voices can be heard and their positions made clear when an expected appeal of the project’s Traffic Impact Assessment is presented to the city council for its review. City staff has determined the assessment is accurate but many in the audience contended Tuesday night that it isn’t.