More than 80 people have organized as Concerned Friends for Clatsop County to influence a county plan to relocate the public works facility in Astoria out of the tsunami inundation zone.
Known as the “Resiliency Project,” the potential relocation is part of a long-term strategy to move essential county buildings and infrastructure to safer ground in preparation for a Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake and tsunami or other disaster. The project also entails creating an alternative and evacuation route.
The county is negotiating to purchase the 50-acre Warrenton Fiber sort yard in Lewis and Clark and a 30-acre property known as Crown Camp in Seaside. Letters of interest have also been obtained for about 8 miles of the Lewis and Clark Mainline, a logging road that connects the two properties.
The county said Crown Camp could also be used by Seaside and Gearhart for emergency services.
Residents in Lewis and Clark felt caught off guard when they learned about the idea. Some are concerned relocating facilities and constructing a public road will lead to other new development, altering the landscape of the rural area.
The county held a virtual meeting about the project in August and sent out a letter to residents describing the project, along with a questionnaire. The county continues to update its website with information about the project, as well as answers to questions from the public.
However, some residents say they feel unheard.
A letter to the county Board of Commissioners signed by Concerned Friends for Clatsop County said they came away from the virtual meeting “shaking our heads at the lack of answers from simple questions about the road layout to more pointed questions about how much this will cost the taxpayers.
“This project may have merit, but if the agenda hadn’t been hidden from us for so long, we could have aided in the decisions that have been made to date.”
The letter demanded an in-person public meeting before any purchases are made. The letter was submitted along with a petition that more than 120 people have signed.
“Our main concern is not just the road and development,” Suzette Bergeson, a homeowner in Lewis and Clark and a representative of Concerned Friends for Clatsop County, said in an email.
“It’s unwarranted spending of millions of taxpayer dollars without their consent, the other options pushed to the side and the petition and voices of concerned citizens being ignored. The lack of the transparency to the citizens of this county is appalling. The fact that we’re being ignored only fuels our fire to get to the truth and get it to the residents of this county.
“They certainly aren’t doing that.”
The Concerned Friends for Clatsop County’s Facebook page has more than 300 followers. The group has also created its own communication and educational materials.
Commissioner Pamela Wev, who represents Lewis and Clark, said she likes whenever people organize and express consistent comments. She believes the county’s initial communication with residents about the project should have been handled better.
Wev said she is meeting with county staff to discuss scheduling future meetings and conversations with landowners in Lewis and Clark. She said she is looking forward to seeing the results of the county’s survey.
“I understand the issue of livability. I also understand that they’ve been using the old mainline road,” Wev said. “And I get that. A lot of people out there have horses and they ride on it. And that I can certainly understand. But in terms of the relocation, I was actually quite surprised that they spoke out against the use of the sort yard.
“Even though I only represent a fifth of the citizens, I try to make decisions that take into account 40,000 people who live here. And when we’re talking about saving lives and public safety in general, to me, having public works up there is just so important for everybody in the county.
“It has everything to do with with resiliency. And that has been high on the county’s list for a long time because they’re in an inundation zone that would paralyze them. And they need to be more accessible to mid and South County.”