portland independent media center  
images audio video
newswire article reporting oregon & cascadia

corporate dominance | forest defense

Mining to Scar More Earth in Columbia County

Columbia County Commissioners and other officials are ready to sell out yet again to Glacier NW. In an avaricious bid to squeeze more capital from the land, plans are in the works to allow mining on 52 acres near St Helens and to level 432 acres near the Scappoose airport for industrial development. This development hinges on some cozy deals between county officials and corporate interests.
Have you been out to Columbia County? It's beautiful. Rolling meadows, forests, and wetlands stretch along the Columbia river, beavers, otters, elk and other wildlife share the riverbanks, and small towns at least a century old provide a habitat for the humans who live there. But, like the rest of Oregon's once-thriving rural ecosystems, it's on the verge of "progress." Forests are being carved off the face of the earth, trees are being hacked off hillsides, and mountains are being chewed down by mining corporations. All this activity is feeding the growth of the inevitable plastic boom-town that follows such "progress." Slowly but surely, billboards, fast food restaurants and RV parks are encroaching into the otherwise scenic vistas. Someone must stand up for this area before it's far too late, as it is in many empty wastelands left behind after the timber barons and the mining corporations have moved on to greener pastures.

The time to act to save the remaining greenspaces in Columbia County is now. Glacier NW just won tentative approval to begin turning a 52-acre site near St Helens into rubble for profit. Residents of the area will be left with contaiminated wells, piles of debris, and a 115-foot deep hole, while Glacier NW will reap financial profits from the deal. I guess they feel it's worth it. Apparently, Columbia County officials agree with them, since they have given Glacier NW an approving nod. According to officials, the deal is a "positive thing," because it means that a 432-acre parcel of land near Scappoose is now closer than ever to being developed into an industrial area.

Glacier NW owns that parcel, and officials and businessmen with some very dubious connections have been trying to swing a deal to have this land, dubbed the Meier site, offered up for development for some time. Glacier had expressed interest in selling on at least one other occasion, which started business interests salivating. Plans were in motion to begin development, but, in a move reminiscent of old fashioned extortion, Glacier pulled out of the deal at the last minute because officials would not grant approval for a mining deal. The maneuver seems to have worked, as the 52 acre Fort James site has now been granted to Glacier. In the negotiation process, Glacier cut a deal with the county to make it more likely that they will sell the land, thereby allowing "significant industrial development." Glacier is hedging its bets, though; the mining corporation will not sell unless it can get approval for a second mining site.

So, while the people and the Earth wait in the wings, corporate interests haggle over the details of just how they will divide the spoils. In spite of the fact that the Scappoose urban growth boundary would prevent industrial development on the Meier site, officials are confident that they can render the urban planning effort useless by simply extending the boundary. I'm sure they can, as money talks out in the hinterlands as surely as it does in downtown Portland.
pic for feature 07.Sep.2003 11:04

pdx indy graphics drone #6082

nw glacial can go to hell

yes but 07.Sep.2003 11:18


What can we do about this. Where do we protest, write, call? I am up for action on this. Anyone else?

To Walnut 07.Sep.2003 16:14

Some places to start

The columbia County commissioners are:
Rita Bernhard, email  BernhaR@co.columbia.or.us < BernhaR@co.columbia.or.us>
Anthony Hyde, email  HydeT@co.columbia.or.us < HydeT@co.columbia.or.us>
Joe Corsiglia, email  CorsigJ@co.columbia.or.us < CorsigJ@co.columbia.or.us>

The telephone number for the commissioners is 503-397-4322

The chief planner for Columbia County is Glen Higgins, phone: 503-397-1501

Glacier NW's website can be found here:  http://www.glaciernw.com/

City councilors from Scappoose can be found here:  http://www.ci.scappoose.or.us/city_council.htm

And the very interesting planning and development guidelines for the city of Scappoose can be found here:  http://www.ci.scappoose.or.us/PDF_files/building/OR%20Scappoose%20T17.pdf

Yes, I think I'm going to look into this more as well. Mining is really shitty. Like logging, it's a way to steal public resources for private gain, leaving nothing but waste behind. Anyone else have any ideas about what we can do?

where to go 07.Sep.2003 16:21


columbia county is out toward sauvie island. scappoose and st helens are out about 20 or 30 miles from portland on hwy 30. just get on hwy 30 as if you were going to astoria, and go until you come to scappoose. st helens is a little farther i think, but also on hwy 30. st helens is the county seat, so you could protest at the county courthouse in old st helens. it's down by the river. it's a ways out of town, but i really think this is worth it. yes, it's a beautiful area. i'm just sick to hear about the proposed mining.

i'm not sure where glacier nw is located, but i believe they have offices all over. that might be a good place to go as well. i'd be interested in doing something about this.

mining? 07.Sep.2003 16:59


I am unclear from your story if they intend on mining or are they planning an open gravel pit? If you are right then what are they intending on mining in Scappose? Thanks

a start 07.Sep.2003 17:03


I just sent an email to Glacier NW and asked them about any environmental studies that preceeded this project. Will let you know if I get an answer. Meanwhile, be calling and emailing. This is just the kind of business we need to explore before it gets ahead of us!

to me 07.Sep.2003 18:39


i checked with the spotlight and several websites, and the word they keep using is mining. not sure what for.

gravel 07.Sep.2003 19:42


If we do not want our houses built of wood what should me build them out of? Concrete, concrete is composed of cement, sand, and gravel. Where do we get sand and gravel from? We dig for it. If we do not dig for sand and gravel how we meet the need for additional housing? Perhaps we could use steel components, but darn you have to dig for steel also. Personally I would prefer that they dig for gravel rather than cutting down more trees. Otherwise how we supply building materails for the creation of housing and the infrastructure needs. Just a thought, this is a complex issue.

It's not so complex, me 07.Sep.2003 22:05


This is irrelevant to the issue at hand. Your question leads down another path. To answer, this is not either/or. We do not have to choose between chopping down forests or plundering the ground. That's the fool's choice. (Especially since corporate interests continue to do both. Mining for minerals is NOT replacing logging. It's interesting that you attempt to imply that it is.)

Actually, many other options are available -- including cobbing, adobe, and other methods long known by our ancestors and our wiser contemporaries. The underlying problem is, as always, one of overconsumption and greed. Sure, digging a few rocks from the ground for your own use isn't damaging to the environment. But doing it on an industrial scale, and continuing to build more and bigger houses, offices, roads, fast food restaurants -- that's damaging. The earth can support us all, but only if we stop lavishly taking so much more than we need.

Mining scars 10.Sep.2003 20:30


Mining scars on the landscape are forever. Look over at the NW hills from any higher vantage point in NE Portland, or from the Columbia River west of the Airport, and you will see, at a distance of over 10 miles, the huge scar left by the Angell Bros mine on St. Helens Rd (US Hwy 30) out by the Sauvie Island Bridge.

The City of Portland is debating how to mitigate the huge scar in the center of Ross Island from a gravel mine there.

Over on the Washington side of the Columbia, the scar from the huge rock mine at 192cd and SR 14 is visible from most of East Portland's vantage points.

There is good news, though. An "improvement" (read: expansion) to a gravel mining operation in the Corbett area was stopped by the action of local residents who invoked protections built into county land use rules.

CatWoman said it all in the opening of her comment: don't get wound up about the global impacts here. That's just what Glacier NW wants you to do. Get local here. The Columbia County Commission is known for back room deals, and is also known for some of them getting stopped when the ham-handed corruption of the deal-makers was exposed.

Glacier can be stopped, but probably not by street actions. One person with the diligence to use the public information process to get at all the correspondence, telephone logs and transcripts of hearings will have the most effect. When that person starts to enquire, they will likely be threatened. That is how the good ole boy system works out there in Columbia County, a quiet place with the greatest percentage of millionaires to population of any county in OR.

Those millionaires, and companies like Glacier don't like the public exposure an in-depth look at their sweetheart deal will provide, so they may be amenable to negotiated changes.

Let the game begin!

WatchMan, who's been watching Columbia County for a loooooooong time.

Sad day in Scappoose Ore. 18.Sep.2003 10:04

Cindy Ede of Scappoose coede@crpud.net

This great farm land has the most important archaeological site located within gravel development. It is known as the Meier site and is the best excavated longhouse in North America. The gravel pit developers know that an American company tried to get rights to mine this in the 80's and were refused by the state. This Japanese company has changed names and wasted alot of county time and money pursuing the distruction of this valuable area. The archeaologists don't do anything to save this site which is frustrating to those who care.