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Big Boxes and Backroom Deals about to Displace Bald Eagles

In a bucolic and little traveled area just outside of Scappoose lies Santosh wildlife reserve and associated acres of verdant wetlands and rolling green pastures. Herons, egrets, kestrels, double crested cormorants, northern harriers, red tailed hawks, muskrats, spotted frogs, white tailed deer, opossums, raccoons, kingfishers, and yes, bald eagles call this place home. Backroom deals and the good old boys are about to change all that.
In a series of mysterious maneuvers that I still do not fully understand, the Scappoose city council and Morse Brothers mining made a deal last year that promises to gouge up Columbia County in all sorts of ways. In return for a relaxing of mining restrictions all over Columbia County, Morse Bros agreed to lease about 100 acres of wetland near their Scappoose quarry to the city for development. I do not know the details here, so I cannot comment on how this all came about. But this is part of a dismantling of one of the few remaining thriving ecosystems along the Columbia river so near to Portland. City officials in Scappoose have long been courting that elusively destructive, and yet strangely seductive thing called "development." It's hard to believe, in this bland world of chain stores and corporate logos, that anyone in their right mind would actually TRY to have their scenery shattered, local resources corrupted, and local economy gutted by inviting in big box stores and vomiters of industrial waste. But greed does make some people into short-sighted fools, and it sure doesn't hurt that a few people stand to benefit disproportionately by selling out their community. Yes, some people will make a killing off this development, while the rest of the city will be sold off into the slavery of cheap labor.

In any event, and for whatever reason, yesterday I found that the woodlands across from the Santosh reserve have been cut to the ground. Ancient trees lay on their great sides, heaving up cracked and violated trunks in some cases as big around as a volkswagon. Near the road, an ancient stand of prune trees, probably leftover from some homesteader in the days of the Hudsons Bay Company, was threatened by the saws. All the understory was torn up as well, scraped and compacted to dry dirt. The mosses, the lichens, the trilliums, the vine maples, the hawthorns, the ferns, the rushes and sedges...all of them are gone. Just as the woodlands and the adjacent meadows were awakening to the spring, bulldozers rolled in and slashed them to the bone.

This would be sacrilege on any wooded and meadowed plain. But here, it must also be illegal. For a month now, I've been coming to this place almost every day, to quietly watch the spectacle in the skies. Two mated pairs of bald eagles have made this area their home. Every day one can see them, whirling, spinning, kiting through the skies here, in a lusty embracing of spring. There are, and have been for years, several other pairs of eagles nesting along the dike not far away as well. This has been a good place for them; The lush wetlands and fertile woods have been bountiful. Imagine my horror, and theirs, to suddenly discover that the lush wildlands in which they live are about to become paved parking lots and giant industrial buildings.

Last week, I counted 70 double crested cormorants on the marshes at and near Santosh, hundreds of canada geese, 64 herons, 34 egrets, 2 kingfishers, 9 red tailed hawks, 2 northern harriers, hundreds of ducks, countless white fronted geese, a few muskrats, and endless frogs. Not to mention the chickadees, the jays, the robins, sparrows, juncos, and all the other little birds in the brush. I even saw three turtles sitting on a log. That was before the saws. Yesterday, I saw barely a fraction of that. No muskrats, no harriers, no kingfishers. I saw three herons, about 10 egrets, and the only geese I saw were sailing across the sky in aloof Vs on their way to somewhere else. But the eagles were still there. At least for now.

If you're sick of watching the last wilderness disappear down the gulping throat of private greed, please call the Scappoose city council and tell them about the eagles. Remind them that it's illegal to disturb threatened and endangered nesting birds. Let them know they cannot put a pricetag on the earth. And if you care about the environment, please, never ever ever buy anything from a corporate big box store.
a vigil begins 14.Mar.2005 01:02


What you've written is a very nice elegy to magnificent natural surroundings that have been paradise welcoming all living creatures for millennia. In the short span of a few decades, all of this has become subordinate to what seems to have been a passive tolerance on the part of the population towards all manner of magical appearing job producing "developments".

"Developments" are just conversion of land from its natural state to one serving a very narrow selection of human specific needs, and virtually signals the end of that lands existence in its natural state forever more. Once it's paved over, it's topsoil and subsoil upturned and violated with all manner of utility components dedicated solely to the maintenance of people, it's life as paradise for all is ended for the forseeable future.

Scappoose, having the distinction for many years, of being a small town in the outlying areas of Portland, may have seen itself somewhat wistfully over the years, thinking of the big city that probably has a higher per capita income. Maybe they've thought that making way for development will actually improve their way of life.

What does the average Scappoose resident think of in terms of what they hope will be introduced to their community to improve their way of life? Do they really want big boxes? Or, do they simply want more housing for their own sons and daughters? Are their elected officials serving them honestly and sincerely in ways that correspond to those wishes? The answers to these questions would be nice to know. Unfortunately at this moment in Scappoose, it seems a state of some emergency may exist, threatening the quality of life residents have thrived upon for years.

As a Beaverton resident, some years back, I had the distinct pleasure of cycling through and around Scappoose a number of times. It's a wonderful world apart from the big city to the east. The smell of the river to the north and the forest to the south is everpresent in the air despite the presence of highway 30 slashing through town. Unlike in Portland, at night when it's clear, I imagine people might actually be able to look up and see the stars. When the "developments" begin to come in, the wake for that experience begins, as many residents currently anxious for the era of development to begin may regretfully come to realize.
Lets all hope Scappoose and Columbia County residents can take pause and carefully assess just what the character of their lands currently in some form of natural, open state mean to their quality of life. It will take a heightened and dedicated appreciation of the correlation between the lands character and the people's quality of life to successfully take control of the direction their local government may be taking land use. It may also indeed mean that they may have to forego some of the big city perks of higher paying jobs, fancier houses, and big box bottom line price outlets.

In case they don't think it's worth it, all they need do is take a drive to Portland, or Seattle, or Beaverton...or L.A. Stay there for awhile, but not as a tourist. Pretend you're actually going to live there.

Measure 37 proponents have given us a maginficent opportunity to find out just what might happen if you're not careful what you wish for. Saturday's Oregonian 3/12/05 has an article detailing with what a number of property owners have aspirations of doing with gorge land that, are their wishes granted, could adversely effect the scenic experience of millions of people in years to come.
One particular property owner wants to subdivide Ruthton Point. A striking picture of this Columbia River geographical feature accompanies the Oregonian article. The idea that people would even consider developing a site such as this is alarming.

Some Resources 14.Mar.2005 09:39


Here are the names, email addresses and telephone numbers of some people to contact about this. Please join me in asking them to consider the environment, the wetlands, and the eagles over industrial development. Remind them that the character of their community, and yes even tourist dollars, are at stake.

Scappoose Mayor: Glenn E. Dorschler Phone: 503-543-3560 Email:  mayor@ci.scappoose.or.us

Scappoose City Councilors:
1. Scott Burge, email:  scott@scottburge.com
2. Charles Judd, email:  cmjudd3@gmail.com
3. Jeff Bernhard, phone: 503-543-2947, email:  jeff@ci.scappoose.or.us
4. Donna Gedlich, phone: 503-543-7357, email:  dgedlich@ci.scappoose.or.us
5. Lisa Smith, phone: 503-543-7146, email:  lsmith@ci.scappoose.or.us
6. Judie Ingham, phone: 503-543-7146, email:  jingham@ci.scappoose.or.us

City Manager: Jon Hanken phone: 503-543-7146, email:  jonhanken@ci.scappoose.or.us
Director of Public Works: Terry Andrews phone: 503-543-7184, email:  terryandrews@ci.scappoose.or.us
Planning Comm. Chair: Bill Blank phone: 503-543-5570

City of Scappoose Chamber of Commerce :
2194 Columbia Blvd
Post Office Box 1036
Saint Helens OR 97051
Email:  officemanager@shschamber.org

Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors:
President, Steve Chase, Riverside Property Management

1st Vice President, Melanie Veach, Best Western Oak Meadows Inn
2nd Vice President, Michael Emmert, Emmert Chevrolet Buick Pontiac, Inc.
Treasurer, Adam Sommers, Sommers Financial Management
Tourism Representative, Steve Gibons, Scappoose Bay Kayaking
Board Secretary, Stephanie Cox, Pufferbelly Toys
Stacy Garrett, Garrett Marketing Solutions
Kim Shade-Houser, Port of St. Helens
Shawna Sykes, Oregon Department of Employment
Tim Lammers, Columbia River PUD
Pat Meredith, Riverside Training Centers
Bryan West, EDC Solutions
Ronda K. Courtney, Columbia County Fairgrounds
Deborah L. McQueen, Brown's Landing
Tim Sawabe, Boise Cascade LLC
Casey Wheeler, St. Helens Federal Credit Union

Morse Bros:  http://www.morsebros.com/