Local politics, the county, and the world, as viewed by Tammy Maygra
Tammy’s views are her own, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Bill Eagle, his pastor, Tammy’s neighbors, Wayne Mayo, Betsy Johnson, Joe Corsiglia, President Trump, Henry Heimuller, VP Pence, Pat Robertson, Debi Corsiglia’s dog, or Claudia Eagle’s Cats. This Tammy’s Take (with the exception of this disclaimer) is not paid for or written by, or even reviewed by anyone but Tammy and she refuses to be bullied by anyone.
See Standard Disclaimer.
It would be a shame for a dirty industry to destroy
the beautiful thriving Seely family mint farm
Columbia County has spent approximately $52+ million in development at Port Westward. And continues to spend millions in road development/repairs on Herbo Rd. and let’s not forget the $1 million dollars to drill a well for the failed ethanol plant.
The state of Oregon gave Columbia Pacific Bio Refinery at Port Westward $36 million in Green Energy credits but the company failed after two weeks of operation.( date 2009).
The State of Oregon which is funded by us the taxpayers spent at least $24.84 million building roads and water systems and improving rail lines to make the Port Westward site feasible for industrial development for the ethanol plant. Some of the investments came as grants, others as loans to the Port of St. Helens and Columbia County, both of which borrowed heavily on the assumption that the ethanol plant and other developments would generate jobs and rail tariffs and boost property values to pay off the loans through tax increment financing. Once the Port Westward investments had set the stage, the Oregon Department of Energy (ODOE) loaned Cascade Grain $20 million as part of its Small Scale Energy Loan Program, described in loan documents as an incentive unique to the Northwest and attractive to the loan syndicate because it allowed cash to be used to pre-pay senior debt to private lenders. It was the largest loan of its type ever made in Oregon. Add in two Business Energy Tax Credits worth a combined $16 million and you get a $70 million public investment in a company that had never produced a drop of fuel. What was billed as a $200 million factory was freshly assessed at between $40 million and $56 million.
Columbia County entertained the prospect of Port Westward as being an importer of LNG
while this did not happen because of the lack of viable investors. Columbia County was lucky they did not invest in another speculative proposal which would have cost the taxpayers millions once again.. Over the years there has been several companies wanting to site at Port Westward, but Port Westward seems to attract struggling companies or those that are not financially feasible and failing before even getting off the ground. Why does the county and the Port entertain such notions when the established farms are turning profits, employing people, producing food, not causing negative impacts to the community and to the environment.
Then you have Global Partners who proclaimed jobs, jobs, jobs, which they failed to provide. When oil prices fell not too long after they started production they immediately laid off 27 of their 48 workers.
The only reliable company at Port Westward is PGE who has been a pretty good business BUT they have also received tax abatements in the $30+ million, abatements which they certainly do not need. Port Westward is nothing but a money pit for the taxpayers of Columbia County and of Oregon. The amount of money spent at this site is devastating with very little to show for it.
The State of Oregon wants a place to site dirty energy projects. You ask why Port Westward? The answer is simple---- the area is rural, out of sight of the populace, population is scarce. Port Westward is the perfect spot to house dirty fossil fuel projects which people do not want or won’t allow elsewhere. The State is smart in this regard --- dirty industry which is out of sight is out of mind and people won’t think about it and the impacts it is having on the local communities and the environment.
But there comes a time when even the most pro- corporate/development minded individuals must see the truth that Port Westward is a place where the majority of corporations fail even before they start or barley start production. And it is a hub for the less desirable kinds of projects. The county and the state knows that any industrial development at Port Westward will be industry which does not depend on interstate traffic to move their products daily as highway access is limited and must depend on the rail and barge for heavy industry movement. In fact the State of Oregon see’s and accepts as the norm that Port Westward is to be a hub of the less desirable industries, keeping them out of the more desirable areas where the population growth is. Why would the city folk want to be exposed to the ugliness of dirty industry, it does not go with the décor of The Rose City.
What is noteworthy is the fact that the farmers in the area have continued to thrive and without $millions of dollars being thrown at them from grants or state and local tax abatements. They have made it on their own. We have a farmer which has over the years grown his mint farm into an international business. The Seely’s are a third generation of Clatskanie mint grower’s. Seely mint in known for its supreme quality, the quality cannot be found elsewhere or even worldwide. The farm depends on the fertile soils of the area to produce the supreme quality mint, after three generations of mint farming I believe the Seely farm should be held in high regard in our county and protected from any industry which could hinder their operation harm.The Seely operation is a family farm/business succeeding only by hard work and dedication by the entire family. A great legacy for the Seely’s and Columbia County, something we all should admire, support and make certain we do what is necessary to continue to make this possible.
Oregon is recognized for its production of mint, Oregon is a major producer of mint. In fact, Oregon leads the U.S. in production of peppermint, growing nearly 35% of the nation's total. Why would The Port of St. Helens and the County ignore this and make decisions which would destroy the thriving business, which is environmentally friendly, no impacts to the community. The Lower Columbia use to be the largest mint prodoucers in Oregon and can be again.
There are blueberry farmers which are also thriving, producing a huge amount of marketable blueberries which depends on the organic nature of the area. The blueberry market is huge and blueberries are in demand everywhere. These farms are an excellent fit in this area and depend on clean water, air, to produce quality products. Both operations hope to continue their expansion in the immediate area. The mint operation actually employs more full time workers than any of the other facilities at Port Westward and furthermore pays above minimum wages for those employees. Allowing people to work and live in the community.
Both of these farms and other small farmers depend on this area because of the excellent soils the area offers and is a must for their lively hood. Why would the county and the Port deprive these neighbors in OUR community their lively hood? Why would the Port and the County destroy farms which are contributing to the economy locally, state and internationally? It is great that Columbia County can be known for its mint and blue berry farms instead of being known as the Arm Pit of Oregon because of all the dirty industry.
If the re-zoning is allowed both of these thriving operations will close their doors and move elsewhere people will lose their jobs, a way of life will be destroyed and the community will suffer because of it. The county and economic development pushes the shop, buy, local; invest in small business out one side of their mouth while the other side of their mouth is promoting dirty industry.
The Port of St. Helens wants the re-zone in the chance that there might be a company which would want to come into the expanded site. Maybe is a big if. Port Westward has been there for decades without decent, acceptable development inquiries when industrial manufacturing was booming. What makes them believe that is going to change? The Ports claims of maybe possible development in the future are not justified at this time. If there comes a time when a company with modern technology, which is clean and compatible with the other businesses and farms comes along then we can discuss a zone change. Until that time I suggest a denial on this application because it does not fit in with the comprehensive plan to protect farm lands, the environment, a way of life, the future.