Fo­rum to talk fu­ture of Columbia River shore­line

Tri-City Herald (Sunday) - - Tri-city Forum Opinion - BY ALLAN KONOPKA Allan Konopka is a re­tired mi­cro­bial ecol­o­gist and Vice Pres­i­dent for Pro­gram­ming of the Columbia Basin Bad­ger Club.

One of my great­est plea­sures liv­ing in the Tri-Cities is cy­cling through park­land along the Columbia River from north Rich­land to Sa­ca­jawea State Park at the east end of Pasco.

Sig­nif­i­cant parts of these shore­line ar­eas are ac­tu­ally owned by the Army Corps of Engi­neers. In 1996 Con­gress au­tho­rized trans­fer of about 1,400 acres to lo­cal gov­ern­ments. But these lands re­main leased, not trans­ferred, be­cause lo­cal gov­ern­ments would have been ob­li­gated to pay both ad­min­is­tra­tive costs and main­te­nance and re­place­ment costs for lev­ees on those lands, and of­fi­cials were un­will­ing to take on those bur­dens.

There has been re­newed en­ergy by lo­cal of­fi­cials to have these lands re­con­veyed back to lo­cal own­er­ship. Al­most all lo­cal gov­ern­ment en­ti­ties as well as lo­cal busi­ness groups have en­thu­si­as­ti­cally sup­ported re­turn­ing these lands to full lo­cal con­trol.

Gary Pe­tersen, the re­tired vice pres­i­dent of fed­eral pro­grams for the Tri-City De­vel­op­ment Coun­cil, has said “This is the most un­der­uti­lized shore­line in the U.S.”

Our three cities spend about $2 mil­lion an­nu­ally to main­tain the shore­line parks, but can­not make changes without Corps ap­proval. The lev­ees along the river were built well be­fore a num­ber of the up­stream dams, and are much taller than cur­rently needed, block­ing views and ac­cess.

There have been sev­eral re­cent pub­lic fo­rums re­gard­ing re­con­veyance of this land back to lo­cal gov­ern­ments. De­spite the en­thu­si­asm of gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials and busi­ness groups, there are lo­cal res­i­dents who are con­cerned about the con­se­quences of this ac­tion.

Open space and park land along the river cor­ri­dor are highly val­ued and con­trib­ute to the qual­ity of life in the Tri-Cities. The Corps man­ages the en­tire shore­line area with con­cern for en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact and habi­tat preser­va­tion. Af­ter re­con­veyance, en­vi­ron­men­tal re­view would be done piece­meal without con­sid­er­ing the en­tire sys­tem.

Some ci­ti­zens are also con­cerned about fi­nan­cial li­a­bil­i­ties (and hence taxes) that would be as­so­ci­ated with own­er­ship of the land and lev­ees. These in­clude re­place­ment of a pump sta­tion ($18 mil­lion) as well as nor­mal main­te­nance ($1.3 mil­lion per year). Fur­ther­more, they are wary of the mo­tives of lo­cal busi­ness in­ter­ests — will the shore­line change from park land to rows of con­do­mini­ums?

Although there has been ex­ten­sive dis­cus­sion within the Tri-City com­mu­nity, there has not been con­sul­ta­tions by fed­eral, state or lo­cal gov­ern­ments re­gard­ing re­con­veyance with the Umatilla Tribe, who re­tain sov­er­eign treaty rights and cul­tural in­ter­ests along the Columbia River.

Our up­com­ing Bad­ger Club fo­rum will ex­plore these dif­fer­ent per­spec­tives, and pro­vide an up­date on what the next an­tic­i­pated steps are in re­solv­ing these con­tentious is­sues.

Our speak­ers will be: Gary Pe­tersen, a com­mu­nity ad­vo­cate and one of the ini­tia­tors of the Columbia River land con­veyance re­quest; Don Samp­son, the for­mer Tribal Chair­man of the Umatilla Tribe; and Jim Wise, a mem­ber of Al­liance for a Liv­able and Sus­tain­able Com­mu­nity.

This is a great op­por­tu­nity to learn about an is­sue that can greatly im­pact what the Tri-Cities looks like in the fu­ture, and (if you are a club mem­ber) add to the di­a­logue by ques­tion­ing our panel mem­bers.

The Columbia Basin Bad­ger Club is a non­par­ti­san Tri-City or­ga­ni­za­tion that is ded­i­cated to civil dis­course on top­ics im­por­tant to our re­gion.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.