Newport has been handed what may be a minor setback in meeting all the requirements in assessing traffic impacts created by log truck traffic to and from the new International Terminal on the Bay Road, just east of town on Yaquina Bay.
Environmental watchdog group Oregon Coast Alliance and their clients The Landing at Newport Condominium Association and Newport resident Nancy Smock, all appellants in the case, contend that the traffic impact analysis conducted by the city of Newport was flawed in three areas and therefore the log export operation should not move forward.
Two of the three “errors” brought by the appellants were denied by the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA), but one was upheld. LUBA found that the error was in fact committed by the city by not properly including Running Springs Street in the traffic impact study. According to LUBA such studies must address impacts to all intersections that are adjacent to the project area – in this case, the International Terminal. Running Springs intersects Bay Road just west of the eastern-most access road to the International Terminal. LUBA indicated in its ruling that Running Springs was not given proper attention as to the impacts that log trucks might have on its intersection with Bay Road. One complicating aspect might be that Running Springs is a private road that leads uphill into a very sparsely populated area. LUBA didn’t comment on that part of it but did rule that Newport must re-open the study and address impacts to the Running Springs Street intersection with Bay Road . Because there are just a few homes involved it may not take much work or time to adequately gauge those impacts and for the city to re-submit the information to LUBA in order to get a formal ruling on the appeal.
If LUBA is satisfied with the city’s traffic analysis of the Running Springs intersection, it would mean that all three allegations of error would be denied, and so the appeal would be denied in total. The project would thereby be allowed to move ahead – that is – unless Oregon Coast Alliance and its clients decide to appeal LUBA’s rulings to the Oregon Court of Appeals and possibly to the Oregon Supreme Court. All legal proceedings under state land use law are expedited so that rulings come far quicker than what is otherwise seen in regular court actions.
Oregon Coast Alliance Land Use Director Cameron La Follette said LUBA’s agreement with them on the error strongly suggests that the city’s review of the Traffic Impact Analysis was rushed. She said it appears to her that the entire process has been rushed as plans have been moving ahead to get the log export operations going as soon as possible. Cameron said she’s aware that the Port of Newport went into considerable debt to resurrect the International Terminal, a project that her organization solidly supported. But LaFollette added that concern about the port’s debt load is no reason to hastily pursue a log export operation with all of its neighborhood and environmental impacts. She also pointed out that the port has yet to specifically outline how it will environmentally compensate for the bay bottom damage resulting from proposed deeper dredging in front of the terminal to allow log ships to safely move in and out of the facility.
Port of Newport Vice President David Jincks told News Lincoln County that the fix in the International Terminal’s Traffic Impact Analysis should not be hard to address and that he expects that any interruption in the process will be minimal. Meanwhile Port President JoAnn Barton recently said that the port’s investigation and determination of a suitable location for environmental enhancements to offset the damage from deeper dredging in front of the terminal are proceeding appropriately. Jincks said that barring any other issues, the terminal could undergo paving and other improvements and see logs being loaded aboard ships by next spring.
Meanwhile, Mayor Sandra Roumagoux and City Councilor Ralph Busby both indicated that they believe the city will be able to easily amend the traffic impact analysis report by including the Running Springs/Bay Road intersection and the data associated with it to meet LUBA’s request for resolving the issue.