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Port tackles wetland permit

New state funding will help The Dalles in its quest to end the roadblock wetlands has been causing to local industrial development.

The Port of The Dalles has been awarded a grant not to exceed $30,000 from the Oregon Port Planning and Marketing Fund to help develop a Wetlands Regional General Permit “to look at all industrial lands at once,” said Andrea Klaas, port executive director, “and come up with a global solution for all the remaining industrial land in The Dalles.”

Additional funding is coming from the City of The Dalles ($5,000), the Oregon Division of State Lands ($5,000), the Oregon Investment Board ($10,000), and the Department of Land Conservation and Development ($10,000).

The scope of work is in two parts, Klaas said, on about 450 acres owned by five landowners, including the port. “The first part is to map and identify wetlands on all industrial land parcels,” Klaas said. “We’re going to delineate all of the wetlands at the same time. Then we’re going to sit down and identify all the wetlands on all the properties, and which ones are the most important to protect.”

Once those are identified, the Technical Advisory Committee working on the project plans to look at how to develop over the remaining ground to minimally impact the remaining wetlands.

“Instead of looking parcel-by-parcel at wetlands on one acre, we’re looking at 450 acres comprehensively,” Klaas said, “and coming up with a much better way to allow development to occur, but also to protect wetlands.”

Klaas said the community might need to look at different ways of mitigating the impact on wetlands, such as contributing to a mitigation bank, a possible partnership with the Wasco County Soil and Water Conservation District to do wetland restoration.

“If there are no other reasonable alternatives, we can pay money into a fund to help restore or improve wetlands,” Klaas said.

“We’ll look at all possible solutions and try to come up with the ones that are the most cost-effective.”

In the saga of local building projects like Walmart and the regional jail’s Dakine building, the U.S. Clean Water Act’s wetlands rules have been seen as the “ogre” that has held development at bay, in some cases for years, but a new committee is working on a way to resolve wetlands issues before specific construction is even contemplated.

The Regional General Wetlands Permit is intended to be an agreement that defines high-priority wetland areas that demand protection, high-priority development areas vital to the community’s economic development, and measures to compensate for other wetlands that must be filled in.

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