I’m just an old race horse out to pasture, pawing the ground when the race track bugle sounds. I still read the local public notices about developments, reflecting back on 40 years of environmental challenges, wishing someone was doing some more challenging.
And then something happened. I am terrible at this but I’m the only one starting this fight. I’m in Washington County, west of Portland, Oregon.
A developer wants to put a Chevron station on a lot right next to a wetland, where I walk every day. No one saw the public notice because it’s only sent to those within 500 feet. The ducks didn’t read it.
The station will be on the edge of a 15-foot-cliff. Below the edge of the overgrown cliff, braided shallow creeks carry stormwater and spring water and fish to the west, to Bethany Lake and Rock Creek, where the eagles, herons, cormorants, and osprey fish, and salmonoids roam.
It’s a long and narrow lot, and can’t meet codes, but the County has prepared variances.
These and other doomed trees provide shade and shelter for a variety of birds and creatures. This vicinity has elk, deer, mountain lion, bobcat, coyotes, eagles, osprey, and over 100 bird species have been spotted at Bethany Lake, into which this wetland flows. The wetland feeds Rock Creek and the Tualatin River Basin, home of spawning, endangered, salmon and trout.
Earlier drafts of the landscaping show that these big trees could be avoided.
These wetlands are part of a much larger nature trail, that wends for 10 miles to an eroded, forested volcanic crest. A dozen upstream creeks flow into the nature trail’s wetlands. The trees on this lot are the only large trees for hundreds of yards in every direction. Cutting them down will further fragment the natural habitat.
The wetland’s wild area is usually a half mile wide but is constricted to just a few dozen yards wide, where the station will go, because the stream is directed into a box culvert connected to Bethany Lake.
The lurking presence of nearby power lines and a natural gas pipeline require this area adjoining the nature trail to be closely mowed, across the Creek from the proposed station lot. Removing the vegetation and trees from the crest of the slope will further reduce the wetlands at this narrow point.
Did you know that gas stations have open vent pipes on their storage tanks that allow continuous venting of gasoline fumes? I estimate this station will vent 5.5 tons a year of Benzene. Oregon DEQ continues to disgrace itself by routinely permitting stations to vent 78,000 lbs. of gasoline fumes (volatile organic compounds, or VOCs) per year. Benzene fumes sink, so those emissions will settle down into the wetlands.
The stormwater runoff will be dumped into the County stormwater drains. No one is interested in how much oil, grease, and metals will be dumped into the wetland in that additional million gallons/year of stormwater. There is a pollution control device that will remove half of the copper and zinc but no information on what level of pollution is at the end of the pipe. Salmonoids do not tolerate copper well, it’s acutely harmful to them at the parts per billion level.
The application says there will be, or won’t be, a settling pond, in conflict with the Clean Water Services service letter. The application misnames the affected creeks in the wetlands. So you end up researching water quality on the wrong creek.
I am of course rallying the neighbors but time and money are too short to lawyer this.
I have many project related documents in electronic versions, for those with morbid curiosities.
Hayduke and his crew of monkey-wrenchers once said pick out a little spot and defend it by any means necessary, in one of the Abbey books. (Advances in surveillance render most of their literary tactics suicidal. )
I hadn’t planned on a hopeless cause. But when life hands you lemons, pour a little vodka into the lemonade.
The heron fishes just upstream from the big trees, in the wetland, culling bullfrogs. It warms my heart so.
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