Editor’s Note: This is the second installment of a recurring feature examining how individual communities & jurisdictions in Clark County are poised to adopt and take advantage of the recently unveiled county-wide draft Economic Development Plan.
The Columbia River Economic Development Council (CREDC) recently unveiled a strategic plan for growing jobs in our community and region. Last month, the CREDC hosted the plan’s author, TIP Strategies of Austin, and a panel of local public and private sector representatives to discuss the inception and implementation of the plan.
While much of the discussion stressed the importance of higher education and leveraging the local resources of Clark College and Washington State University Vancouver, it also became apparent that our community is home to many vibrant businesses. Several of the panelists stressed the need to better leverage the needs of these businesses with our educational and regulatory policies.
An insightful comment by Rob Bernardi of Kokusai Semiconductors suggested that employers remain attracted to our community because of, “cheap and predictable power.” He implied that our regulatory environment and future infrastructure investment needs to be mindful of this. Bernardi heads the Clark County High Tech Community Council and stated that this organization will be partnering with others in the state to seek amendments to Washington’s 2006 voter approved I-937 which seeks to move our state’s utility toward renewable sources other than dams. Those efforts may focus on targets set in the legislation that may seem lofty in light of the recession.
Beyond regulatory changes, there remains the need to invest in future infrastructure to deploy developing renewable energy sources. To that end, the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) continues to move forward with their I-5 Corridor Reinforcement Project. As it stands, BPA identified four alternative routes crossing our community delivering power from Castle Rock to Troutdale, Oregon. As a local business owner, you should be aware of these alternatives.
While providing essential infrastructure (such as power) to keep our economy vibrant is important, we must also recognize the potential impacts it poses to our community and neighbors. Currently BPA is balancing the impacts and benefits in developing a draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) that evaluates the four proposed alternatives against a whole host of environmental, social, economic and engineering factors. The West Alternative, likely the most controversial of the alignments, would use existing right-of-way eventually cutting its way across a large portion of urban Clark County.
Two other alternatives, the Central Alternative and Crossover Alternative, would require new right-of-way acquisition, primarily in Clark County, and could potentially impact many smaller property owners. The fourth alternative, the East Alternative, would require new right-of-way acquisition, but would mostly impact non-residential land.
Property and business owners need to educate themselves about the locations of these four alternatives and develop a strategy for responding, especially if the West, Central or Crossover Alternatives are selected by BPA as the preferred alternative. This is especially true given the risks – either perceived or real – that these larger transmission towers pose. It may become harder to sell property or a business if there are transmission towers on or nearby the property.
The DEIS should emerge sometime in late fall and will provide a preferred alternative and another opportunity to comment. Property owners potentially impacted by the preferred alternative will want to remain informed and vigilant, especially if the BPA seeks to acquire right-of-way.
Additional public outreach efforts will continue until a final decision is made. For BPA's updates on the project, visit their website: www.bpa.gov/corporate/i-5-eis.
James Howsley is a partner in Miller Nash LLP’s Vancouver office. His practice focuses on land use and government affairs. He can be reached at email@example.com or 360.699.4771.