What appeared to start out as a town hall discussion centering on why the Port of Newport should not export raw logs to the Orient, it slowly changed course over the evening to where the debate seemed to veer back toward the middle of the road, with a minority on both sides sticking to their firm positions of either for or against the raw log operation.
At the outset, a presumptive panel of experts argued largely against the operation citing various labor, economic, trade law and community welfare issues. Forestry expert Roy Keene contended that figures show the more raw logs that are shipped overseas, the fewer steady forestry and lumber processing jobs are left behind. Also, private timber property tax revenues to the county will trend downward due to accelerated timber harvesting.
Greg Palleson, a labor union advocate and a one-time paper mill worker in the northwest cited what he called corporate manipulation of federal and state tax and foreign trade laws along with incentive packages that have caused many U.S. paper mills to relocate overseas which removes family wage jobs from their communities. Palleson said there is pressure on U.S. forestry logging practices to be environmentally weakened due to pressure from other timber countries in South America that aren’t constrained by such laws.
Elizabeth Swager, an international trade reform advocate said the U.S. trade deficit has skyrocketed since the enactment of the North American Free Trade Agreement which has caused a drain of decent paying U.S. jobs to other member countries. She cited 2.5 million American jobs lost since its enactment. Swager cited over 25,000 Oregon forestry related jobs lost since NAFTA’s enactment in 1994 through 2012. Swager emphasized that U.S. corporate manipulation of international trade agreements is again rearing its head in the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership treaty which has been under negotiations behind closed doors for quite a while. She contends public review of the treaty will come long after much of anything remains open for debate about it.. Swager says the vote by the the U.S. and a slew of Asian-Pacific countries is expected to be a mere formality. Swager said the TPP would dramatically increase American corporate control over U.S.’s trade arrangements, environmental laws, labor guidelines and international banking and would place American workers at an even worse competitive disadvantage.
Community Rights Advocate Paul Cienfuegos, a nationally recognized leader in coaching communities to organize themselves to oppose corporate threats to the quality of their lives, pointed out that big business and international corporations, especially oil and gas companies that frack for a living, were recently defeated near Pittsburg, PA. Cienfuegos told the crowd that over 150 U.S. communities have passed local ordinances that place community rights over corporate property rights when it comes to credible threats to their clean air, water and the general welfare of their community. Cienfuegos will lead a community discussion about how communities can legally stand up to large national and international corporations that have been emboldened by recent U.S. Supreme Court rulings which have generally expanded corporate rights over local community rights even if it damages a community. The information session begins Wednesday evening at 6:30pm at the Visual Arts Center in Nye Beach.
After hearing comments from others that log exports would do more harm than good to the Newport economy, Port of Newport President JoAnn Barton and Port Vice President David Jincks offered the port’s perspective on the issue. Barton reminded the audience that the port has been living on a shoestring budget for years without being able to perform proper maintenance or rehabilitation to port facilities. Without income from the International Terminal, Barton said, it could gradually no longer adequately serve the needs of the commercial and recreational fishing industries which would harm the local economy. Jincks chimed in saying that fish processors and other related industries could well be affected, and not in a good way. He said that Newport, despite its small size and meager shipping traffic, has been able to maintain adequate dredging for the fishing fleets and NOAA and that with a growing and vibrant International Terminal Newport could continue to receive those services. Jincks said it’s critical to keep the Yaquina Bay Bar dredged down to around 40 feet and thirty-five feet around the new I-Terminal, a depth that was in effect in the shipping hey-days of the 70s, 80s and early 90s. Jincks added that the port expects such dredging to continue after the port develops ways to create riverbed enhancements to fishery and other wildlife habitat in other areas of the bay to make up for the deeper dredging next to the terminal.
During further discussions it was again pointed out that Moore Road would again become heavily used by logging trucks through what is now a far more residential-type neighborhood than it was back in the early 90s. It was mentioned that an alternate route might be feasible but that a very necessary partner in creating that alternate route, ODOT, must see the need first – that they don’t invest big dollars just on the idea that a problem is about to arise.
Longshoreman Yale Fogarty, a lifelong Newport resident, denied claims that only a few family wage jobs would be created by Teevin Brothers log exporters. Forgarty said he fully expects to see up to sixty new good paying jobs when Teevin and another log exporter, Alcan Industries, joins in the export operations. Fogarty said Teevin Brothers could have decided to bring their own labor force down to Newport from Rainier, but they’re not. Fogarty says Teevin has made it clear at several public meetings that they want to add substantially to the local Newport economy and to be a good neighbor.
It appeared that the crowd remained somewhat split despite the lengthy debate, but most appeared appreciative of having a chance to hear many sides to the story. And there are many.
As for the legal end of things, the port is awaiting a ruling from the State Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA) on a petition from anti-export interests that the city of Newport failed to properly consider traffic impacts on Moore Drive caused by up to 50 logging trucks a day using the street enroute to the terminal east of the Bayfront. Should either side not like the ruling, it could be appealed to the State Court of Appeals, and then from there to the Oregon State Supreme Court.
Meanwhile it’s reported that a lease agreement is due anytime between Teevin Brothers and the Port of Newport for staging the log export operations at the terminal.