Oregon Coast Alliance Newsletter
The Paving Plant, The Bay and the Creek
Asphalt Paving Plant Proposed Near Langlois

View South of Blacklock Point. Courtesy ORCA
Bandon Concrete submitted an application to Curry County for a portable asphalt plant on a 9-acre site right on Highway 101 south of Langlois. There  has been  a lot of local concern about this application. Highway 101 is a federally-recognized Scenic Byway. That is no place for an asphalt plant. These plants, which mix sand and gravel with crude oil derivatives, are notorious air polluters. They are  known to spew carcinogens like arsenic, formaldehyde and benzene, and require an air quality permit from the Department of Environmental Quality. This application did not even address the problem of air pollution - a serious omission, as there is a KOA campground just across the road.

The Forestry Grazing zone allows portable asphalt plants as a temporary use for a specific paving project. But  the applicant had something different in mind:  "It is envisioned that the portable asphalt plant will be owned and operated by any company who would like to utilize the site while they are doing paving jobs." Confusingly, the applicant also says the plant would be removed when the paving job is completed. There is no mention of specific timelines for the plant's  use for a specific project.  This  conflicting  description certainly made it appear that the plant would be permanent in some fashion. But the zone does not allow this. The mere fact that an asphalt plant is portable and therefore can be moved does not make it temporary.

The planning commission told the applicant it needed more information before making a decision.  ORCA agrees  with this assessment. The application is  misleading  and contradictory; there is inadequate consideration  of  the air pollution effects on neighbors, which includes a KOA campground; there are no maps showing how the applicant will protect Swanson Creek, an Oregon Coast Coho stream that passes through the property;  and Highway 101, a Scenic Byway,  should not be the site of an asphalt paving plant.
Ulbricht Development Proposals in Wheeler Appealed to City Council

Wheeler Waterfront. Courtesy City of Wheeler
Wheeler planning commission for the last several months has been grappling with a two-pronged proposal by Seaside developer Ken Ulbricht for a 28-room hotel and a commercial building variously proposed to include fish processing, a restaurant, apartments and possibly community space. Both would be sited right on Nehalem Bay. There  continues to be  enormous interest in these two proposals from town residents, as both buildings would block  views of the  Bay. The development also runs contrary to the town's Vision Plan, adopted into the Comprehensive Plan, which guides the kind of future development allowable in Wheeler. A primary concern of the Vision Plan is to maintain Wheeler's small town character, and limit development to projects that meet that goal. These two buildings do not fit within the town's vision for its future, and this  is  of major concern to town residents.

The Wheeler planning commission in early February rejected the proposed hotel on a tie vote. Ken Ulbricht, the developer, immediately appealed the denial to City Council. The planning commission did approve the commercial building, and Oregon Coast Alliance has appealed the approval to Council as well. Hearings on both appeals will be scheduled in March.  ORCA  and town residents continue to participate vigorously in the hearings,  as well as  writing testimony to  highlight  the many problems with these proposed buildings on the edge of  Nehalem Bay.
Sheet Pile Bordering Ecola Creek Estuary in Cannon Beach?

Ecola Creek by Breakers Point in King Tide, January 18, 2018. Courtesy ORCA
Ecola Creek runs right through Cannon Beach and empties into the sea midway along the city's famed beachfront. But there is an area in the creek's estuary that is cutting into the sand bank very near the southern edge of the Breakers Point condominiums, where the buildings were built too close to the estuary edge decades ago. This erosion point is of longstanding concern, especially during storm surges and king tides, because of a gas pipeline buried in the area. It has  occasionally  been  exposed during  storms. For many years Breakers Point used sand from allowed dune-grading to strengthen the weak area, but that never provided more than a temporary fix, quickly washing away a few months later.

It is clear to city officials, ORCA and residents that a more permanent solution is needed. Breakers Point's idea is to place a sheet pile wall on their property above the erosion, in hopes of simply stopping the wave action where it erodes most strongly.  They have submitted an application to the city for this project.   Being above  mean high water, the proposal would not require supervision from the Department of State Lands, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers or any other known agency except the City of Cannon Beach. This by itself is of concern.

But the principal problem is that sheet pile is the worst possible alternative for fixing  the  problem. It causes the highest amount of erosion and sand scour, because it is merely a vertical wall. The creek waters would  hit it unrelentingly,  causing greater erosion downstream as Ecola Creek heads for the sea. There are better alternatives - but they will require collaboration among parties who have been at loggerheads in the past. First, a knowledgeable coastal engineer must be hired to assess the situation. This will take money, but there are grants  available.  There are many options, but the correct one must be chosen based on what will provide the greatest longterm benefit with the least environmental damage. There are "soft armoring" options of different kinds, groins in the creek to slightly alter the flow, and several others. Moving the gas pipe is easily feasible,  but  the erosion must also be brought under control.

ORCA is ready to collaborate with the city, Breakers Point and concerned residents to begin exploring how best to permanently solve this erosion problem, while maintaining the ecological integrity of Ecola Creek, which is important salmon habitat, and  also  a central feature of the town. The proposal will likely have its initial hearing before the Cannon Beach planning commission in March.
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