To the editor: There’s a crisis in the gorge, but it has nothing to do with the impacts of environmental contamination or even the outfall of a legislative Plan Amendment proposal.
April 6, 2008
The Dalles Chronicle
The Friends of the Gorge opposition to Broughton Lumber Company’s proposal to return its long-derelict former lumber mill to productive use as an environmentally sustainable recreation-oriented resort serving the much ignored second purpose of the National Scenic Area Act “support of economic development” reached a head at February’s Gorge Commission hearing when a phalanx of the Friends’ Portland-based attorneys besieged the Commissioners with a barrage of opposing testimony and legal rhetoric.
Apparently un-swayed, the majority of Commissioners agreed during the March Commission hearing that research had proven a shift from timber to resource-based tourism and other significant changes had occurred in the gorge since adoption of the 1991 Management Plan, warranting a Plan Amendment as required by Commission Rule 350-50.
When the Management Plan was created, the Broughton site was specifically zoned for future economic development activities associated with commercial recreation activities.
In an alarmist attempt to undermine the Gorge Commission’s congressionally legislated authority, Friends’ Conservation Director Michael Lang, and the Friends’ team of lawyers seized on potential environmental contamination at the Broughton site as a political ploy to undercut the Plan Amendment process.
On Thursday, Lang repeated the same allegations of “apparent violations of state and federal laws” in a letter to The Columbian (See: “Local view: Gorge commission failing in its duties” Columbian, Thursday, March 27, 2008).
Of course neither of these letters could list even a single violation. That’s because, as was reported in Friday’s Columbian, (See: Broughton may aid Ecology in probe of site, Columbian, Friday, March 28, 2008) the State Department of Ecology believes no laws were violated.
But this issue is not about compliance —it is simply another political maneuver by a desperate organization trying to corrupt a congressionally mandated process. Upon approval of a Plan Amendment, analysis and subsequent clean up of any contamination will be required by the State of Washington and the cost is the understood responsibility of the property owner.
I believe the authors of the Management Plan intended the Plan Amendment process to work through honesty and integrity.