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Airport Futures nears completion


Following a long work session in April, the Airport Futures Planning Advisory Group is expected to complete its work on a new draft master plan for Portland International Airport this month. The final meeting is scheduled for May 18 at 5:30 p.m. in the new Port of Portland Headquarters Building at 7200 N.E. Airport Way.

The PAG last month completed work on a Natural Resources Proposal. As presented by the Port's Chris Corich, the Port would provide no mitigation for development activities on the airfield. None would be required on the Portland International Center, the industrial area to the east that includes Cascade Station. However, the Port would “voluntarily” $1,093,000 worth of mitigation activities to the Columbia Slough over 25 years, and $729,000 worth of “enhancements to the tree canopy” over the same period. They would also transform the Ikea Wetlands into “scrub shrub” at a cost of $150,000.

Mitigation would be required for development of four areas on the west side of PDX: the 150-acre Southwest Quadrant, the 35-acre Fuel Farm West, the 30-acre De-icing Field, and the 53-acre 33rd Avenue Field. For developing these 268 acres, Corich said, the Port would provide wildlife habitat mitigation for 300 acres on Government Island. Until this goal is reached, for every 25 acres developed, the Port would provide 50 acres of restoration. “We will always be paying it forward,” Corich said.

PAG member Bob Sallinger, representing the Portland Audubon Society, expressed some skepticism about this approach. Government Island appears to have been so “degraded” - over-run with blackberries and other invasive plants - that it is doubtful how useful it could ever be as wildlife habitat. In other cases of restoration as mitigation for development, the ratio has been as high as 8-to-1 ... 1-to-1 seems pretty low,” he said.

(Sallinger later told the Memo, “The Port does do a pretty good job of restoration and maintenance. I'd rather see 1.5-to-1, but what they're offering isn't a joke.”)

A bigger issue was Corich's mention that the Port could decide to sell some of the island for development, and do its mitigation elsewhere. Sallinger, Metro Chief Planner Andy Cotugno and Fred Stovel of the advocacy group Airport Issues Round Table all argued that this would reduce the value of habitat there. “It should be a closed system,” Sallinger said.

Conversely, PAG member and Woodland Park Neighborhood Association Chair Alesia Reese suggested that the Port of Portland do some mitigation activity somewhere else rather than Government Island. “We would like to keep those options open,” Corich said. However, after hearing from Sallinger and others, he said, “What I'm hearing is that sale of that land is a real significant thing to this group."
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