In answer to criticism, Port Commission President Bill Hunsinger explained comments he made on the Port's Strategic Business Plan that implied he doesn't support existing tenants.

Hunsinger said he does support current Port tenants - that's a given.

But he wants the Port's new strategic business plan to explore new ideas.

"We already know we need to support our tenants," he said. "Now we need to see something new."

The Port's strategic business plan maps out opportunities for future economic development. It is required by the state to justify grants and loans for Port projects. The Port has hired a consulting firm, Makers Architecture & Design, to build the plan, which is tentatively scheduled for Port Commission approval in mid-May. A page of the current draft plan document cites several responses from Hunsinger, including one bullet point stating that the consultants' recommendation to support existing tenants should not have been emphasized.

That item touched a nerve with opponents of the Port's new log export plan, which has generated controversy over whether the Port's new business plan meshes with the one in place now.

Hunsinger said he was disappointed the plan submitted by consultants wasn't creative in exploring new development concepts. Among other recommendations, Makers advised the Port to support its existing tenants.

On Friday, Hunsinger quoted a Jan. 14 letter that details his conversation with Makers partner Julie Bassuk about the plan: "This is an obvious recommendation and should not have been emphasized."

The Port will be addressing a lease with Westerlund Log Handlers of Bremerton, Wash., at its regular meeting Tuesday. However, the commission is not scheduled to vote on the lease Tuesday. Tonight, the company is hosting an open house at the Port offices from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

Tenants at the Port's central waterfront, where the log export operation is proposed, are worried the project's truck traffic, noise and dust will hurt their businesses.

Port leaders note the log export market is ripe, and Clatsop County has lots of timber to sell - some of which is already getting exported through the Port of Longview in Washington.

The Westerlund project would deliver an estimated $1 million a year to the Port of Astoria - boosting annual revenues by 25 percent. It would also generate jobs in the local area, although it's not clear how many of the jobs would go to unionized longshoremen.

Another potential benefit of the log export operation would be providing bark for the proposed Tongue Point Investors biomass facility at the Port's property at North Tongue Point.

Log exports were a longtime moneymaker at the Port until 1996. In 1999, the Port started a new business strategy aimed at cleaning up property and leasing it out for a marine services center. Two anchor tenants - Englund Marine & Industrial Supply and Bornstein Seafoods - both relocated and built new facilities on the Port's central waterfront. A boatyard was built on Pier 3 to provide a public place for boat repairs and maintenance. Westerlund has proposed to store and debark logs on Pier 3 and ship them off Pier 1. The boatyard would have to be moved to make way for the log export project, and Bornstein Seafoods would not have access to the Pier 1 space it has been leasing for a parking lot.

Port Executive Director Jack Crider said the?Westerlund project is "not entirely outside the scope of the existing plan" because Pier 1 has always been designated for cargo. The new strategic business plan for the Port moves beyond the marine services center. It looks at tapping the log export market as well as other shipping-related business opportunities with the possible purchase of a mobile crane and expansion of the land base on Pier 3. The plan also envisions developing North Tongue Point into a self-supporting marine industrial facility. However, Port leaders say Tongue Point is not an option for the log export operation because the shipping channel leading to the site can't be dredged soon enough to accommodate Westerlund's plans.

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