Gorge panel to consider rule changes

Sunday, April 20, 2003
By KATHIE DURBIN, Columbian staff writer

The Columbia River Gorge Commission will take public testimony on proposed rule changes dealing with disposal of soil and rock from landslides, reclamation of abandoned quarries and replacement of existing structures when it meets at 9 a.m. Tuesday at the Rock Creek Center in Stevenson.

The proposed changes are part of a 10-year review of the 1992 management plan that controls development in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area.

The commission may take action on the changes Tuesday afternoon.

Current restrictions on deposit of rocks, dirt, mud, trees and brush within the scenic area are a concern mainly to Oregon and Washington transportation officials, who must find places to dispose of thousands of cubic yards of material from landslides and routine maintenance activities in the gorge every year.

The commission's staff is recommending that state and county public works departments be allowed to own and develop disposal sites in the scenic area as long as they comply with standards to protect scenery, wildlife habitat and cultural resources.

On the issue of quarry reclamation, the staff is recommending a new process that would allow interested parties to develop such projects as fish ladders and sediment barriers in abandoned quarries and to revegetate unused roads and recontour quarry walls. Such projects would have to restore sites to a natural appearance that blends with the surrounding landscape. All grading would have to be completed within six months after work begins.

Oregon's Wasco County has a number of abandoned quarries, including one immediately west of The Dalles along the Historic Columbia River Highway that is widely regarded as an eyesore and a safety hazard.

Regarding replacement of existing structures, the commission will consider relaxing current standards that apply when a property owner seeks to build a new house or other structure on the site of a building that has been damaged or destroyed. The new standard would also apply to buildings so dilapidated they need to be replaced.

Under current rules, the replacement dwelling may be no larger than the original building and must be built within its exact footprint. That standard caused a public outcry in 2000 when the commission's staff denied Lyle widow Gail Castle permission to build a new house slightly outside the footprint of her drafty, run-down 90-year-old farmhouse. The commission eventually reversed that decision.

The staff is recommending that a replacement building be allowed to be up to 10 percent larger than the original building and to overlap its footprint.

Replacement buildings would still have to comply with scenic protection guidelines that require them to be visually subordinate to the landscape through use of landscaping, paint colors and non-reflective material.


* WHAT: Gorge Commission to take public testimony on quarries, dredge spoil.

* WHEN: 9 a.m. Tuesday

* WHERE: Rock Creek Community Center Stevenson

* WHAT'S NEXT: Action on new rules could come Tuesday.


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