In the fourth quarter of 2011, Friends of the Columbia Gorge saw great successes in its protection of the resources of the Columbia River Gorge. We launched a major community initiative to stop coal trains in the Gorge, celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Act, built support for the ambitious Gorge Towns to Trails Campaign and noted a quiet close to the proposed Cascade Locks Casino.
Here are some of the highlights of the fourth quarter of 2011:
- Stop Coal Trains in the Gorge. Right on the heels of Friends’ incredible victory setting the Boardman coal-fired power plant on a path to closure, the Gorge faces a major new threat from the coal industry. Proposed coal export facilities in Washington state would be fed by an additional 20 to 30 coal trains thundering through the Gorge every day, each 1 ½ miles long, carrying coal in open cars. BNSF Railway estimates that each car would lose 500 to 2,000 pounds of coal during transport. Locomotive diesel emission and coal dust would significantly increase air pollution problems in the Gorge, and exporting millions of tons of coal would worsen climate change worldwide. Friends’ is engaging communities throughout the Gorge to oppose coal export trains in the Columbia Gorge
- 25th Anniversary of the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Act. Friends’ culminated the anniversary with celebrations in Portland and Hood River, Oregon. The two events were a grand finale to an amazing anniversary year. Friends’ launched 25 Trails, 25 Years, a challenge to hike 25 trails in the Gorge. More than 60 people hiked all 25! Friends’ worked with Oregon Public Broadcasting on their 60-minute special about the National Scenic Area. We dedicated the Nancy Russell Overlook at Cape Horn. And through a settlement with PGE, we ensured a 2020 closure of the Boardman coal-fired power plan and secured $1 million for Gorge land acquisitions and enhancements.
- Gorge Towns to Trails: Making the Connection. Gorge Towns to Trails is a vision for a comprehensive trail system around the Columbia Gorge, linking communities with tourism, and highlighting and enhancing the beauty and wonder of the Columbia Gorge. Launched in October 2011 at Mosier Plateau, volunteers, funders and the community of Mosier have come together in trail building to connect Pocket Park and Mosier Creek to the Plateau with its Gorge panoramas and Mosier Valley views. Enthusiasm is building for this project, as Friends’ engages communities throughout the Gorge.
- Cascade Locks Casino Agreement Expires. Just as the New Year began, the epic 12-year battle surrounding a proposal to build a massive casino in the heart o the Columbia Gorge apparently came to a quiet end. On January 5, the Port of Cascade Locks decided to allow its agreement with the Warm Springs Tribes to expire. Expiration of the option agreement means the end of the pending casino application. The prospect of a massive casino in Cascade Locks faced stiff obstacles and strong opposition from thousands of Oregonians across the political spectrum, including Friends of the Columbia Gorge. Opponents were concerned about the impact a sprawling casino complex would have on the Columbia Gorge and its rural communities. The Warm Springs Tribes began construction of a new casino on tribal land along Highway 26, located some 80 miles south of the Columbia River. The new project is projected to boost business revenues, create jobs and generate significant income for tribal members.