Economic Development

Economic Development takes many forms. The Ports of Portland, Vancouver and Longview hope to develop a new port terminals, while commercial developers of Vancouver’s riverfront have been fighting the ports plans due to increased railroad traffic.

Several Coal, Gas and Auto terminals are planned for the region.

In 2014 the Port of Vancouver will spend $17 million on rail improvements, as part of a larger and ongoing $275 million West Vancouver Freight Access project.

The freight rail expansion project is intended to bolster the regional economy by speeding the movement of cargo, attracting new industrial tenants and creating thousands of jobs over many years. Already, the port has spent about $150 million on the project, which has been on the drawing board since 2004. The project is more than half finished, and the port anticipates wrapping it up in 2017.

That’s a huge amount of economic development. And a huge increase in rail traffic. The economic impact of a new I-5 bridge for vehicular traffic is another unknown.

Proposed Vancouver Waterfront Development

On its website Gramor Development describes “The Waterfront Vancouver” as the city’s “largest commercial, urban development to date, valued at more than $1.5 billion.” In 2012, crews punched through the BNSF Railway berm south of City Hall on Esther Street, offering a view to the river that had been hidden for more than a century.

Plans for the former industrial site include expansion of the city’s Waterfront Renaissance Trail, a 10-acre park and a multiphase development including restaurants, 3,300 residential units, more than 1 million square feet of office space, 175,000 square feet of retail space and at least one hotel.

But developers have expressed concern that a significant increase in rail traffic could threaten their waterfront plans. “I can tell you the economic benefit from the waterfront (project) dwarfs any economic benefit the city would have by having the oil terminal,” Barry Cain, president of Tualatin, Ore.-based Gramor Development, told The Columbian.

Longview’s proposed Millennium Bulk Terminal would export 44 million tons of coal per year (the largest in the United States), and would bring 16 coal trains down the Columbia and through Vancouver and Longview each day.

Vancouver Washington’s oil export terminal, if approved, would add 4 trains, each more than a mile long, will run through Vancouver daily. That’s 8 trains a day (4 coming and 4 leaving) in addition to the 16 coal trains running through Vancouver.

In addition, the Port of Portland seeks a car import facility which would add more train traffic through the region.

Tesoro Corp and Savage Services want to spend up to $100 million to build a 42-acre oil-handling operation at Port of Vancouver sites, including the Terminal 5 rail loop and Terminal 4 marine-loading facilities.

Proposed Vancouver Oil Terminal

The oil export terminal in Vancouver is expected to receive up to 360,000 barrels a day, nearly half the capacity of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline through the Midwest.

Tesoro says the crude from the Vancouver terminal would be transferred to barges or ships and sent to 19 refineries in California, Washington, Alaska and British Columbia.

Public records obtained by The Vancouver Columbian show that the companies spelled out their approach to the project, designed to handle as much as 380,000 barrels of crude per day, in a Jan. 23 “statement of interest” document (Download .PDF), hauled by train from the Bakken shale formation in North Dakota.

Vancouver Port commissioners on July 23 approved leasing 42 acres to the companies, despite public testimony overwhelmingly against the oil-handling plan.

Tesoro and Savage Companies want to spend up to $100 million to build a 42-acre oil-handling operation Vancouver’s Terminal 5 rail loop and Terminal 4 marine-loading facilities. Oil would be hauled to the port by train from North Dakota’s Bakken shale formation, where crude is extracted by hydraulic fracturing. The oil would be stored at the port and transferred to ships headed to U.S. refineries. Tesoro says it would supplant imported crude and compensate for declining Alaskan production.

The Tesoro-Savage project would create an estimated 250 temporary construction jobs and, initially, 80 full-time jobs, according to Kelly Flint, general counsel for Savage. At peak operation, the companies would employ “110-ish” full-time workers, nearly all of them from the local market.

If the current rates of growth continue then crude production in the Bakken will reach 1 Million barrels/day by the end of 2013, up from 200 Mb/d in 2012.

BNSF says a single dedicated train can carry approximately 69,000-81,000 barrels of crude. A unit train must have a minimum of 100 crude railcars for unit pricing.

Tesoro and Savage weren’t the only companies to come to Vancouver looking to take advantage of the U.S. oil boom, reports The Columbian. The port had already been getting numerous inquiries “around the movement of crude oil and liquid petroleum,” said Theresa Wagner, the port’s communications manager. So it decided to ask for formal proposals.

The state review could take a year, and the companies hope to start construction in 2014. The applicants say the oil terminal could bring $4.5 million in revenue to the Port of Vancouver annually and support 120 jobs.

The state Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council would review the proposed crude oil facility and make a recommendation to Gov. Inslee, who has the final say.

Rail Capacity

Washington’s rail infrastructure, from Vancouver to Longview, is superior than Oregon’s infrastructure from Portland to Port Westward, and can accommodate more rail traffic. If Vancouver Washington’s oil export terminal is approved, 4 trains, each more than a mile long, will run through Vancouver daily. That’s in addition to the coal trains.

Sightline Institute’s The Northwest’s Pipeline on Rails (blog) has a comprehensive, region-wide review of all the oil-by-rail projects planned or currently operating in the Northwest. It does not count trains carrying coal down the Columbia.

Millennium Bulk Terminals near Longview Washington

Proposed Longview Coal Terminal

Millennium Bulk Terminals, is planning to develop a 406-acre Reynolds facility in Longview, Washington into a coal terminal, reports TDN[9]. Millennium’s CEO, said he thinks projected Asian demand for coal could support “multiple” terminals on the Columbia River.
The proposed export facility [10] would ship from 5 to 60 million tons of coal to Asia annually. Five million tones is an amount said to be roughly equal to the amount of coal burned in the whole state of Washington, reports SustainableBusinessOregon [11].


If approved, Longview’s proposed Millennium Bulk Terminal would export 44 million tons of coal per year (the largest in the United States), and would bring 16 coal trains down the Columbia and through Vancouver and Longview each day.

A mudslide derailed a BNSF freight train near Everett last year and a coal train derailed north of Pasco, Washington, on July 2, 2012, spilling coal from 31 cars.

Proposed Vancouver Potash Terminal

Vancouver’s proposed oil export-facility at Terminal 5 isn’t the only project planned for Vancouver’s 218-acre Terminal 5.

Global mining giant BHP Billiton planned to build an export facility at Terminal 5 to ship potash — a crop nutrient — primarily to Asian markets. In 2010, BHP, based in Melbourne, Australia, selected the Port of Vancouver’s Terminal 5 as its preferred site for an export facility. with construction expected to begin in 2014. The Potash facility didn’t happen, with Billiton killing their Vancouver plan (for the moment).

The West Vancouver Freight Access project by the Port of Vancouver is investing in freight rail infrastructure to move “unit” trains through the Port without disrupting the BNSF yard in Vancouver, WA.

Portland’s terminal 5 has also operated a $48 million Potash export facility since 1997. The potash export business, which is a benign mineral, has been good for the region and has generated little or no controversy.

Imports and exports at the Port of Portland total about $15.4 billion annually. The Port of Vancouver contains five terminals along with the largest mobile harbor crane in North America, for wind energy equipment. Their top exports include wheat, scrap metal, bulk minerals and pulp. Both ports can accommodate Panamax vessels.

West Hayden Island is a largely undeveloped wilderness area, located just west of the Burlington Northern Railroad bridge. The beach is publicly accessible but there are no public roads available. Much of the 800 square acres is currently a nature preserve and owned by the Port of Portland.

Proposed Portland Auto Import Terminal
The Port of Portland hopes to develop at least 300 acres in West Hayden Island for a marine terminal. Portland’s Planning and Sustainability Commission send a proposal to the City Council in July, 2013.

The City of Portland planning process lead to a proposal to annex West Hayden Island, making way for a plan for future development by the Port of Portland.

The Oregonian, the The Audubon Society, Portland Business Alliance and the Port of Portland have more on the West Hayden Island proposal.

Wheat and Trade


Coal/Oil Export

NEXT: Events

RETURN TO: Hayden Island Info


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