Project would eliminate gorge eyesore

Project would eliminate gorge eyesore

Tom Koenniger’s recent column (Development seeks to chip away at gorge, Wednesday, March 26, 2008) used the metaphor of diamond cutting to illustrate his opposition to proposals by Broughton and SDS Lumber Companies. If the Columbia Gorge is the “$1 billion” diamond analogized by Koenninger, then surely the Broughton Mill–a decaying former industrial site in the center of the National Scenic Area, would be analogous to an impurity in diamonds that gemologists call “inclusions”. Just as skilled diamond cutters enhance the value of diamonds by eliminating inclusions, the Gorge Commission is exercising responsible stewardship by amending the Management Plan to create a means of eliminating what it terms a “discordant feature in the landscape”.

Monday, March 31, 2008
By Jason Spadaro

Not only does the Gorge Commission’s proposed plan amendment require “elimination of industrial uses and removal of all portions of the industrial complex that are not planned for use as part of the resort”, it also requires that scenic, natural, cultural, and recreational resources be enhanced for public benefit.   Enhancements proposed by Broughton include new public recreation opportunities and protecting critical open space, scenic vistas and habitats.  While the current Management Plan only requires protection, the proposed amendment elevates the standard for this project to enhancement of Scenic Area resources.  Thus, after removing the ugly inclusion, the skilled diamond cutter is able to enhance all facets of the diamond as identified in the National Scenic Area Act, thereby improving its quality.

In addition to safeguarding the scenic, natural, cultural, and recreational resources of the Scenic Area, the Gorge Commission is charged with an equally important second purpose: “to protect and support the economy of the Columbia River Gorge area.” Redeveloping a derelict former industrial site to a resort that cleans up an old mill, improves public recreation and boosts the economies of the nearby urban areas offers the Gorge Commission an unparalleled opportunity to fulfill the second purpose of the Act.  Koenninger may have forgotten, but the legislation that created the National Scenic Area did not create a National Park but rather sought a balance of resource protection and economic development.  The Gorge Commission is dutifully administering this balance—a balance reflected in the proposed recreation resorts plan amendment.  As an environmentally sustainable redevelopment, the Broughton Landing proposal would provide recreation facilities and preservation of natural lands open to public enjoyment along with jobs, enhancing both the environment and the economy.

Reading Koenninger’s column, I could not help being struck by the irony of his position that PGE’s coal-fired generation plant and our proposed wind turbines outside of the National Scenic Area both “chip away at the diamond”.   How with a straight face can one attack a coal-fired generation plant that “poisons the air” and causes acid rain destroying delicate plants and Native American petroglyphs in one paragraph, and then decry wind turbines located outside of the Scenic Area in the very next?  Unless we give up our growing demand for electricity, we have to get our power from somewhere.  While the Columbia River Gorge is a spectacular diamond to the eye, it’s also a spectacular Venturi to the air, creating an opportunity for areas located outside of the Scenic Area to produce wind-generated electricity that can help save our National Scenic Area from coal-fired air-pollution. 

For individuals observing these issues from a distance, without benefit of touring the sites first-hand, the cries to protect the Gorge from threat of development may sound logical.  But the owners of Broughton Lumber, SDS Lumber, and the many other families who have lived and worked in the Columbia River Gorge for generations cherish its magnificence as well.  This respect for beauty, nature, history and our economy, is captured in environmentally sustainable development proposals like Broughton Landing, which is recycling a remnant from an era of the past, and a wind farm located outside the boundaries of the Scenic Area, which is embracing a new one.

Jason Spadaro is president of SDS Lumber Company, manager of Broughton Lumber Company and a resident of the Columbia River Gorge