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Port of Woodland reviews longterm rail, shipping terminal options

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Austin Point Property stock

This aerial shot of Austin Point in 2019 shows the 200-acre property the Port of Woodland owns and could use for developing a deep-water access terminal.

WOODLAND — The Port of Woodland wants to bring in business, and is considering building a dock to unload and load goods off the Columbia River.

Officials are asking for the community’s input on possible long-term plans, where construction is not slated to end until 2031 at the earliest.

The port is in the early stages of studying and designing projects for Austin Point and Woodland Bottoms, which are port-owned land parcels that have remained empty for decades, said Executive Director Jennifer Wray-Keene.

Wray-Keene said the port has potential to grow and bring new jobs to the Woodland area.

“It is critical for us that as we get further into this, we can study alternatives that will benefit everyone,” Wray-Keene said.

Types of businesses

Consulting firms Tuesday at the port’s open house set up presentations and answered questions at Woodland High School. David Evans and Associates, Inc. discussed the port’s rail options, KPFF Consulting Engineers reviewed possible port industries, and Ecological Land Services discussed environmental effects of development.

Ellis Beckwith, project manager with KPFF, said the company is studying the possibility of constructing a shipping terminal at Austin Point where the Columbia and Lewis rivers meet.

What type of business will be introduced to the area is still up for discussion, but the port’s commissioners have made one thing clear: no fossil fuels.

They would accept grain terminals, production of clean energy or metal and wood products, according to the port’s website.

“It’s well-situated to support something like this,” Beckwith said. “That’s why we wanted to get out early and we’re starting to study the economics of what commodities we could go after.”

Attendees were encouraged to fill out comment cards, and they can also give their feedback through an online form on the Port of Woodland website.

“If 99% of our community comes and says, ‘No, we do not want any of this here,’ then the commissioners have made it clear they will not go forward,” Wray-Keene said. “We want this to fit what the community wants.”

Environmental protections

So far, many of the comments have been a mixture of curiosity and concern about being environmentally friendly, said Jyll Smith, public engagement manager with David Evans and Associates.

“There’s definitely a lot of interest, but I’ve heard a lot of questions of how we’re going to protect habitat,” Smith said.

That’s a question Ecological Land Services is hoping to answer.

Francis Naglich, senior wetlands biologist and founder of ELS, said Austin Point often sees an influx of fish who come in when the Columbia River’s tide rises, but it can sometimes pose a problem when the tide lowers and fish do not have an easy way back out to the river. It makes them easy targets for birds and fishermen.

To help this, Naglich said they are studying the possibility of installing a channel in the wetlands.

“You’re taking care of the fish before the actual impact happens,” he said.

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