Gorge Commission Denies Union Pacific Appeal

The Columbia River Gorge Commission voted to uphold Wasco County’s decision to deny Union Pacific a permit to build a second track through the Mosier area.  In a series of motions, the Gorge Commission did not agree with Union Pacific contentions the County erred in a number of different ways, including finding the National Scenic Area ordinance was not pre-empted by the Federal Railroad Act, and that the project would violate tribal treaty rights and impact treaty fishing rights.  The treaty rights issue generated the most discussion among Gorge Commissioners, with some questioning whether the County had established in its findings that treaty rights would actually be impacted, but others saying the evidence showed it would. with Chairman Bowen Blair noting the record indicated eight lakes and wetlands would be disturbed by the rail expansion.  The vote on that particular topic was 9-3 to uphold the Wasco County decision with Dan Ericksen, Keith Chamberlain, and Damon Webster voting against the motion.  Commissioners voted 10-2 to rule a Friends of the Gorge appeal on conditions for the project had it been approved was moot with the denial of Union Pacific’s appeal, but also indicated Friends did have standing in the case should there be a remand in future appeals.  Chamberlain and Ericksen voted against that motion.  Blair indicated findings of the Gorge Commission decision would be finalized by September 1, and Union Pacific would have 60 days to appeal to the Oregon State Court of Appeals.

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