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Walmart faces new appeal

The group known as Citizens for Responsible Development in The Dalles is appealing the May 10 wetlands permit issued to Walmart Stores, Inc., that would allow construction of a new Walmart Super Center in west The Dalles.

The group is a coalition of about 100 individuals, who claim they will be adversely affected by the siting of a Walmart Super Center in The Dalles “at a site where there are rare vernal pool wetlands and a nearby important local body of water — Chenoweth Creek.

“Many citizens in this community have spoken or written to us encouraging CFRD to appeal the DSL permit decision,” said John Nelson, representing the citizen group. “Those who have contacted us have expressed concern that approval of this permit will allow Walmart to build a Super Center in The Dalles at the Chenoweth interchange site, and that the implementation of the permit at issue will cause irreparable harm to what are acknowledge to be exceptionally rare public resources.”

Nelson said they also do not want to see degradation of water quality in nearby Chenoweth Creek, where storm water from the project would be directed. Chenoweth Creek receives federal protection under the Clean Water Act with regard to its water quality to protect steelhead and promote healthy habitat.

“There is concern among these citizens that the issuance of the DSL permit does not comply with the spirit of the law,” Nelson said. “There is also concern that a Walmart Supercenter will be detrimental to business and commerce in the community, and will add to the growing vacancies occurring in the historic downtown district. They fear that acceptance of a Walmart Supercenter in The Dalles will forever destroy the intimate, small-scale atmosphere of this community that residents and tourists alike enjoy.”

The Citizens group cites 10 reasons for the appeal and an 11th “other reasons as yet identified.” Specific reasons include:

  • no demonstrated need or benefit for the permit,
  • inadequate evaluation of stormwater impacts,
  • lack of information on listed species,
  • inadequate alternatives analysis,
  • insufficient wetland mitigation and monitoring plans,
  • wetland enhancement does not meet applicable criteria,
  • preservation credits cannot be awarded,
  • inadequate management for control of invasive species,
  • lack of mitigation for Chenoweth Creek impacts,
  • inadequate conditions.

Citizens for Responsible Development requests Department of State Lands’s new director, Mary Abrams, to call a contested case hearing and issue a stay or suspension of the wetlands permit.

"We are reviewing the appeal filed by the opposition group," said Rachel Wall, via email from Los Angeles on behalf of Walmart. "The fact is, our plans for this project have undergone extensive review and legal scrutiny -- and have been approved at each step. We don't see any reason that these continued appeals will meet a different outcome. We look forward to the day we can provide our customers in the gorge another full-service shopping option. The community has been very supportive throughout this prolonged process and we appreciate all those who have worked with us."

Walmart‘s proposal, which was approved by the City of The Dalles, has been held up for three years by regulatory challenges related to the protection of small seasonal water pools in recesses on the rocky property. To compensate for the loss of wetlands under the building and eight-acre parking lot, the company plans in its permit approved May 10 to create two small and one large wetland.

In addition, Walmart has agreed to enhance habitat on the property that was degraded by prior excavation and the placement of fill material.

Walmart’s initial permit application was submitted in December 2009 and deemed incomplete, said Julie Curtis of Department of State Lands. After numerous extension requests, public review and department deliberation, the application was approved May 10 of this year.

The request for a contested case hearing is the first step in the appeals process, Curtis noted. Response will include determination of whether a hearing is granted and a notice of the appealing party’s rights and responsibilities. If the appeal is unsuccessful at the department level, it could go on to the Oregon Court of appeals.

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