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.
Portland’s Planning and Sustainability Commission chose the environment over jobs as part of the 2035 Comprehensive Plan Update it recommended to the City Council to continue to designate that portion of the island as Rural Farm Forest outside the city limits for the next 20 years. That recommendation would eliminate the option of developing 300 acres of West Hayden Island as a marine terminal by the Port of Portland.
The Port of Portland bought West Hayden Island from Portland General Electric in 1994 specifically to develop its as a marine terminal. That plan is backed by many Portland businesses — especially those in the Portland Harbor. But environmentalists argue the property should be preserved as habitat. They are supported by many residents in the area.
The final decision is up to the City Council, which is scheduled to hold hearings on the recommended Comp Plan Update and vote on it by the end of the 2015. Many in the business community, such as the Columbia Corridor Association are expected to testify in support maintaining the option of developing West Hayden Island.
For the first time, the plan must identify enough employment land to accommodate the additional jobs expected to be created over the next 20 years. In the past, the city only had to identify enough residential land to house predicted future residents.
The West Hayden Island proposal would have developed some 300 acres of the 800 acre area into a new marine port terminal, for both auto importing and grain exporting.
Port of Portland estimated that a grain terminal on West Hayden Island could provide 110 jobs for every million tons of grain moved per year, including spinoff and indirect jobs. By comparison, the Columbia Grain terminal, at the Port’s Terminal 5, shipped more than 4 million tons of grain last year.
Port of Portland officials said on Jan 8, 2014, that they would NOT proceed with developing marine terminals on West Hayden Island. The Port blamed the city for requirements that would price the land out of the market. In July, the city’s Planning and Sustainability Commission recommended annexing the property, proposing mitigation steps that the Port found unreasonable, reports The Oregonian.
In a letter (pdf) to Portland Mayor Charlie Hales, Port Executive Director Bill Wyatt withdrew consent for city annexation of its property on the Columbia River island. It ends a four-year planning process that envisioned 300 acres of auto and bulk-product marine terminal development and 500 acres for recreation and wildlife habitat.
You can walk around the perimeter of the island along the beach. Portland’s water bureau, which runs the North Portland sewage treatment plant, runs purified water – after final treatment by the North Portland treatment plant – out into the Columbia, opposite the Vancouver grain terminal.
While the Port of Portland owns much of the West Hayden Island property, the public has access to the beach.
The access road is the easiest way to travel to the extreme west end of the island. You can access it at a water pump site not far from the gate under the Burlington Northern railroad bridge.
Click on these panoramas to see larger versions.
– Sam Churchill