ANOTHER VOICE: Public best served by facts of Naito proposal

A rendering of the space the proposed cable park would take up in the Nichols boat basin.

Port of Hood River Image
A rendering of the space the proposed cable park would take up in the Nichols boat basin.

As the developer of the hotel and commercial project at the Nichols Boat Basin, I would like to respond to Leighton Hazlehurst’s letter- of Nov. 7 Mr. Leyton Hazlehurst listed five specific questions and stated that the answer to each question was a simple “no”. In each instance, he is incorrect. Here are his questions in bold with our responses.

(Editor’s note: a shorter version of Bob Naito’s response was published in the Nov. 14 print edition of Hood River News.)

Is the commercial building located out of the flood plain (a federal requirement)?

There is no federal requirement that the commercial building be located out of the flood plain.

“In accordance with the requirements of national policies on floodplain management, any nonresidential structure, such as the commercial building described in this EA, must be elevated above the 100-year floodplain or flood pool, or flood-proofed watertight to or above the 100-year flood level. This floodplain management criterion would be met by the commercial building project.”

Nichols Landing Environmental Assessment, SWCA Environmental Consultants, page 22

Has there been a thorough salmon habitat study (a federal requirement of the Endangered Species Act)?

SWCA, a national environmental consulting firm, has prepared two Biological Assessments and an Environmental Assessment of the Nichols Landing Project and cable park. These reports address potential impacts to salmon and other species protected by the ESA and have been submitted to state and federal agencies for review. Quoting from the section of the Biological Assessment report that deals with the ESA:

“These impacts (on salmonids) are likely to be discountable or insignificant; consequently, the effects determination for the project is ―not likely to adversely affect (NLAA) listed salmonid species and/or designated CH for the following ESUs or DPSs:

Chum salmon (Columbia River)

Coho salmon (Lower Columbia River)

Steelhead trout (Lower Columbia River)

Steelhead trout (Middle Columbia River)

Steelhead trout (Upper Columbia River)

Steelhead trout (Snake River)

Sockeye salmon (Snake River)

Chinook salmon (Lower Columbia River)

Chinook salmon (Upper Columbia River spring-run)

Chinook salmon (Snake River spring/summer-run)

Chinook salmon (Snake River fall-run)

Bull trout (Columbia River)

Any take associated with project construction activities is not likely to approach a level where direct, indirect, or cumulative effects would jeopardize the continued existence or recovery of ESA-listed salmonids.”

Nichols Landing Commercial Building Project Biological Assessment, SWCA Environmental Consultants, pages 24-25

Is there an acceptable storm water runoff plan (a federal requirement)?

Tenneson Engineering Corp. has prepared a storm water management plan for the project which is attached to the Biological Assessment currently under review by the Army Corps and NOAA Fisheries.

“... both treated concentrations (4.0 μg/L) and diluted concentrations (2.0 μg/L) [of dissolved copper] appear to be in line with the values recommended by NMFS [NOAA Fisheries] . . . ”

“It is important to emphasize that because of the site’s history as a ship-repair yard and

remediation site, creation of impervious areas [streets, sidewalks, parking lots and buildings] would have a potential beneficial effect on basin water quality. Preventing surface runoff from infiltrating into the ground would reduce the potential for chemical contaminants remaining in site soils to leach into the basin. The buildings and parking lot would act as a cap over the remaining sediments, preventing further release of contaminants to the basin and surrounding environment. Runoff from the upland portion of the site currently sheet flows into the basin without water quality controls.”

— Nichols Landing Commercial Building Project Biological Assessment, SWCA Environmental Consultants, page22

Is the building above the ordinary high water mark of the Columbia River waters in the basin (a state requirement)?

A field-delineated Ordinary High Water determination conducted in June and July 2012 identified the Ordinary High Water mark as 79.39 feet at the boat basin. This report has been submitted to state and federal agencies for concurrence. The commercial building is located above 79.4 feet. In any case, the City will not issue a building permit without approval from the Army Corps and the Department of State Lands as required in the City Council’s decision:

“The applicant shall apply for and obtain any permits required by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Oregon Division of State Lands for this development, including, but not limited to dredge, fill and removal of jurisdictional wetlands, any development proposed below the line of ordinary high water, within the waters of the state and/or waters of the United States.” (emphasis added)

Does the plan include an adequate public walking/biking path (part of the city plan)?

Both the Planning Commission and City Council have approved the location and design of the Public Access Way (PAW). At the Planning Commission hearing, we accepted Heather Staten’s proposal for the addition of a second “waterside path” as well as the City Council’s additional conditions to the PAW and waterside path. State and federal permitting for the waterside path is already underway.

The first four questions (and many others as well) will be answered to the satisfaction of the Army Corps of Engineers, NOAA Fisheries, DSL and other federal and state agencies before the City will issue a building permit and we can begin construction. The question about the walking/biking path has already been decided by the Planning Commission and City Council. The Friends of the Hood River Waterfront are unwilling to accept that they lost by substantial margins (4-1 and 7-0).

Mr. Hazlehurst and the Friends of the Hood River Waterfront have had seven months to review the environmental reports cited above. Yet, they have produced no scientific analysis that refutes the reports’ conclusions.

In the public discussion of the hotel and commercial development (as well as the cable park), I think the public is best served by sticking to the facts.

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