Sunday, November 22, 2009

As We Found Them... As We Leave Them

A provocative image found in an email from the local Audubon Society email offers the visual of 'As We Found Them... As We Leave Them', a Jay “Ding” Darling cartoon from 1923, as a statement about the state of our rivers in the face of urbanization.

The reason for the email was an upcoming hearing on the Willamette River in Portland. The text:

"On Wednesday, December 16th at 630 pm Portland City Council will hold its first hearing on the North Reach River Plan. This is a unique opportunity to reverse more than a century of degradation in the Willamette River as it passes through Portland. The North Reach stretches 11 miles from the Fremont Bridge to the Confluence with the Columbia River. It is one of the most degraded stretches of river in the United States.

The North Reach Plan is the City's first major update to the zoning code and design guidelines for this stretch of River since 1987. The Plan took more than two years to develop and proposes more than $500 million in new infrastructure to support river industries and new trail alignments that will provide the public with greater access to the river. The Plan also proposes critical new strategies to protect and restore habitat in the North Reach. Specifically the plan proposes the following:

• Environmental Zoning to provide baseline protections for the most important riparian and upland resources;
• A system of 21 permanently protected restoration sites designed to allow listed salmon and steelhead to safely pass through the North Reach;
• A funding structure that requires industry to fully mitigate to replace existing habitat that is eliminated in the course of development and a small additional fee which will go towards supporting habitat improvement in the North Reach.

We expect strong industry opposition to this plan. Industry has been arguing to eliminate environmental regulations on industrial properties and to gut the proposed funding mechanisms. If they have their way, the regulations established under the new River Plan would be even weaker than the regulations that we have today---the regulations that have already allowed the North Reach to become the most degraded stretch of river in Oregon.

Get out and protect the rivers in Portland people. Questions can be directed to Audubon via Conservation Director Bob Sallinger.

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