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Slough Trail tree toppling proposed


Who could be against the creation of a new solar energy facility? Well, Wilkes Community Group could take exception to it if it means the loss of previous mitigation.

The Portland Water Bureau is proposing to install a 270-kilowatt solar array generating station next to its groundwater pump station at 16400 N.E. Airport Way. The problem is that a grove of trees to the south would shade the array, limiting the amount of sun it gets and therefore its energy output. The amount of shading would increase as the young trees, now 15 to 30 feet tall, continued to grow. Therefore, the bureau proposes to cut 34 of the trees - a mixture of Douglas firs, western red cedars and red alders. In their place, the bureau proposes to plant 36 small trees - cascara, Western flowering dogwood and black hawthorne, together with a ground cover of Oregon grape, serviceberry, blue elderberry, Pacific ninebark and snowberry.

Unfortunately, Wilkes Community Group has a long memory. One of its founders, Alice Blatt, recalls that she personally had this part of the land adjacent to the Columbia Slough declared an Environmental Protection Zone to prevent the sort of thing the water bureau wants to do. Moreover, she and Hazelwood activist Linda Robinson said the trees in question were planted in 1997 as mitigation for the creation of the Columbia Slough Trail. Robinson said the plan was for the land south of the trail to be natural habitat.
“The idea of taking out plantings that were installed as mitigation, just as they're getting big enough to be effective, seems wrong,” Blatt told Water Bureau engineer Peter Nierengarten at a special meeting last month. “If this is being done legally, the code needs to be changed.”

“Would you agree not to come back in a few years and cut down the new trees?” Robinson asked Nierengarten. “There needs to be a system to decide what rises to the top (in terms of values).”

In addition to the general issue of reversing the course on mitigation, Blatt said, “The issue of a visual amenity is a problem. What you propose doesn't seem like enough to conceal the (pumping station's) chain link fence.”

The group adopted a position expressing concern about the proposal and calling, at the least, for some taller trees in the new mitigation area.

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