Oregon Coast Alliance Newsletter
Dune-Grading and Wheeler Development Proposal
Kiewit Ends its Application for a Mega Quarry in the Sixes Watershed  
Kiewit Edson Creek Quarry Proposal. Courtesy Curry County
Kiewit, having failed in its bid for the $139 million contract for the Columbia River South Jetty restoration project, has withdrawn its application for the Edson Butte mega-quarry in the Sixes River Watershed. The nightmare of a 60-acre  industrial operation  in this very rural area is over. Kiewit also pulled out of their effort to gain approval for the proposed Marblemount Quarry on the Skagit River in Washington. Both quarry  applications  were last-minute efforts by this large corporation to garner a procurement source of the enormous, specialized jetty stone needed for the South Jetty repairs.

Jetty stone quarries are particularly environmentally damaging operations, because up to 80% of the quarried stone is waste rock, which leaves enormous  slag heaps in the vicinity. These  quarries also require blasting to dislodge the stone,  and typically also have large  holding ponds full of mud and rock. They are major industrial mining operations requiring a great deal of land and huge pieces of mining equipment, and they cause permanent environmental scarring. The sensitive headwaters of the Sixes River is no place for such an operation. Narrow rural roads and small, tightly-knit rural communities like that on the Sixes should not be subjected to  an enterprise  so clearly out of scale with what the environment, the rural transportation network and the community can integrate. There is too much danger to the public health and safety.

Botts Marsh LLC Development in Wheeler: Hearing October 3rd  
Wheeler waterfront. Courtesy City of Wheeler
Botts Marsh LLC, the company of Seaside developer Ken Ulbricht, is proposing a development on the old Scovell upland waterfront property (as it is known) in Wheeler. Currently the land is vacant, except for a sparse cover of local and invasive plants. The property is in the urban growth boundary, but would need to be annexed into the City of Wheeler. Ulbricht proposes two buildings for the site: a retail/wholesale building for fish and shellfish sales that would include a community center and future restaurant, with second floor residential rental apartments for employee housing; and a 44-room hotel. Ulbricht stated in his application, "Allowing a hotel on the property is consistent with the Vision Plan and provides an additional room tax revenue to the city by increased room tax dollars."  The geohazard report Ulbricht submitted dates from 2006, written for a failed proposal by another developer that was for seventeen 3-story townhouses with a total of 92 living units. This is completely inappropriate, especially as this waterfront site lies directly in the tsunami zone.

The hearing will be before the Wheeler Planning Commission:

Thursday, October 3rd
7:00 PM
Wheeler City Hall 
775 Nehalem Blvd.
Email testimony to City Manager Juliet Hyams.

An airy statement to the effect that a 44-room hotel right on the waterfront is consistent with Wheeler's Vision Plan and Comprehensive Plan does not make it so, especially since the hotel would require a variance to build to the desired height. Ulbricht is requesting a variance to allow the building to change from 24 feet to 34 feet, thus able to build rooms on a third floor, and "not be forced to expand the length of the building along the river," as the application puts it. The application specifically states the applicant believes the variance would be of minor height  appearance, as  much of the  view is  already obstructed by trees, and would also allow more open space.

Apart from the questionable assertions about whether a large hotel on the waterfront complies with Wheeler's planning documents, the commercial buildings for fish retail sales brings up a multitude of questions, thus far unanswered: where will the necessary water come from? What about the septic/sewage needs of a large building whose commercial activity will presumably create a great deal of fish offal? Does Wheeler have the capacity to handle that much fish processing waste? What about increased truck traffic on Highway 101 as it passes through town? Please attend the hearing and testify, if the future of this small and picturesque town on Nehalem Bay is of importance to you.

Cannon Beach Winds Down Its View-Grading Hearings: Final Hearing, October 7th  
Dunes in Front of Breakers Point in 2015. Courtesy ORCA
The final hearing on view grading will be before Cannon Beach City Council at 5:30 PM on Monday, October 7th, at City Hall on 163 E. Gower  Ave.  Only oral testimony will be allowed - please attend if you are concerned for Cannon Beach's future. 

The City of Cannon Beach has been going through a tumultuous process for more than a year to decide whether or not to continue to allow foredune-grading for views, which only began twenty years  ago. The  public process has been very revealing. The three areas of town with concentrated beachfront homeowners are at Chapman Point at the north end of town, Breakers Point on the north bank of Ecola Creek, and the homeowners on the so-called "Presidential" streets further south. Breakers Point and the Presidentials have been allowed to occasionally grade to  maintain views  (with permits from the City and the Parks  Department) in  the last twenty years; Chapman Point homeowners have not, due to a deed restriction  that specifically prohibits  view grading.

All three groups are jockeying for position and making suggestions for how  to increase grading amounts,  as well as  make  view grading standards more "flexible."  The city planning commission, during their drawn-out deliberations, recognized this problem and recommended  that City Council end view grading. There is no way to satisfy the  oceanfront homeowners; they will seek to expand or eliminate any standard the city might wish to impose. ORCA also believes that view grading must end. It is the only fair and equitable solution for all Cannon Beach residents. The dunes are a crucial bulwark against king tides, increasing wave heights in storms and blowing sand, which impact all homeowners and business owners.  In addition,  Cannon Beach's economy is based on its coastal beauty, of which the dunes form a crucial part. All residents have a stake in maintaining and safeguarding that beauty.

Perhaps most important of all, ending view grading would mean Cannon Beach is moving to the new philosophy of living with Nature rather than taking whatever one wants from Nature. As ecosystems worldwide, and the climate, continue degrading at alarming pace, shifting gears to living within Nature's limits is essential. Specifically with respect to shoreline protection, a more sustainable philosophy is that embodied in the Living Shorelines Act, recently introduced in Congress by Senators Wyden and Merkley. This proposal  follows  the nascent concept of living with Nature's defenses, including dunes, and encouraging municipalities to plan and develop within the limitations of dunal ecosystems. Cannon Beach has an excellent  opportunity to  be a leader in living with Nature, thereby  also  safeguarding the coastal ecosystem that sustains it.

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