Coos Bay's North Spit.

Coos Bay’s North Spit, where the proposed container port would be located.Photo by Alex Derr.

News flash: HB 3382, despite strong opposition from Oregon Shores and the entire conservation community, was passed by the Oregon Legislature and sent to Gov. Kotek for her signature. The version passed had been amended to somewhat limit the damage it would do, but it could still lead to massive dredging in Coos Bay, and still results in tinkering with the land use planning system at the behest of a special interest. The bill creates an “exception” through which local governments can allow deep dredging for port developments that would otherwise not be allowed by land use regulations. But would-be developers still have to apply for and receive exceptions–local governments can always say no. Oregon Shores will be fully engaged in the effort to dissuade Coos County and the cities of Coos Bay and North Bend from allowing dredging that would destroy the estuary’s habitats and resources.

Here’s the background:

HB 3382 in its original form would have eliminated land use planning laws for all of the state’s deepwater ports (those with navigation channels deeper than 37 feet). The immediate instigation was obviously the Port of Coos Bay’s scheme to develop a container port that would have major impacts to that estuary, but the bill would also have barred application of land use laws to ports in Yaquina Bay (Newport), Astoria, St. Helens, and Portland. Amendments narrowed the geographic scope to Coos Bay,but the version passed by the Joint Committee on Transportation and subseuently by the House Rules Committee remains pernicious.

Oregon Shores worked to rally the state’s conservation and community groups against the bill. Working with a number of partners, we crafted a letter to legislators urging that the bill go no further. Land Use Coordinator Annie Merrill worked to contact groups and invite them to sign on, and assembled the final product, submitted on Monday, April 10. Here it is. We do feel that these efforts by the conservation community at least forced to proponents into negotiating amendments that somewhat moderated the harm this legislation will do.

The bill was introduced just before the deadline for new legislative proposals, and a hearing before the legislature’s Joint Committee on Transportation took place on short notice for March 14. It has now passed the House and Senate, despite overwhelming opposition from hundreds of citizens. For information about the bill’s status, see the bill’s page on the Oregon Legislative Information site. .

For more on how to get engaged, see our Take Action section.

The bill was introduced at the behest of the Oregon Public Ports Association, which is seeking to pursue development for economic benefits without regard for environmental considerations. Ports could ignore land use and other regulations protecting habitats, species, water quality, and ecological functions including carbon sequestration.

The bill as initially proposed stated: “Notwithstanding contrary provisions of state and local land use law, without demonstrating compliance with state and local land use law and without taking an exception under ORS 197.732, ports specified . . . may construct, maintain and improve deep draft navigation channel improvements, including docks and similar berthing facilities.” It specifically exempted the ports from an array of land use and environmental protection laws, including ORS chapters 197 (comprehensive land use coordination), 215 (county planning and zoning), and 227 (city planning and zoning). In the form in which it was passed out of committee, it no longer completely undermines the land use planning system, but rather creates a special “exception” of land use rules that will enable deep draft dredging.

Had this bill been in effect earlier, Oregon Shores and many allies couldn’t have blocked the proposed Jordan Cove LNG facility which had been aimed at Coos Bay’s North Spit. That project was successfully opposed despite support at the federal level through application of Oregon’s land use and water quality laws. The federal government had to recognize Oregon’s rejection of Jordan Cove due to what is known as “federal consistency” under the Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA). Under the CZMA, when a state has a recognized coastal management program, as does Oregon, the federal government must act consistently with those state laws. If HB 3382 has passed in its original form, it would not only have unleashed development in estuaries harboring ports without environmental review, but would have also destroyed the leverage the state has through the CZMA—if we can toss out our environmental regulations, so can the feds. Fortunately, the strong opposition did force amendments to the bill that limited its scope. The amendments kept the process of permitting dredging within the land use planning system, weakening the system by allowing an “exception” for deep draft dredging, but not eliminating it, and also prohibited the use of the exception for fossil fuel developments. Opponents can take credit for greatly reducing the potential damage caused by the bill.

Nevertheless, if the Governor signs the bill, it would severely damage Oregon’s land use planning system—possibly to no purpose whatever. The likelihood of the port managing to develop a container port is entirely questionable. Coos County’s League of Women Voters chapter provides a video that discusses the realities behind the Port of Coos Bay’s aspirations for development.

For information about Oregon Shores’ position on the bill, contact Phillip Johnson, Conservation Director, (503) 754-9303,