01/08/2015 – Bill Monroe – The Oregonian/OregonLive
GLADSTONE, OR – Upset anglers have drawn a line at the lower Willamette River’s most popular and accessible bank-fishing hole and asked – not dared – the City of Gladstone and the Port of Portland to not step across.
It’s not rhetoric. They’ve painted a white stripe across “the blacktop,” an asphalted area on Dahl Beach, adjacent to Gladstone’s Meldrum Bar Park where the Clackamas River enters the Willamette. Salmon and steelhead pause within casting distance on upriver journeys from Estacada deep into the Willamette Valley.
From the white line to the river’s edge is marked for removal.
Gone forever would be a critical gathering spot where young and old anglers alike share time, casts, memories. It’s yet another dwindling opportunity for those who can neither afford nor climb into a boat.
“This is where I learned to fish,” said Pete Tracy of Gladstone, organizer of a hurriedly assembled, standing-room crowd of about 100 anglers and city and Port officials at a riverside Gladstone pub Thursday evening. “It’s where I taught my grandkids. Please don’t take this from us.”
The Port is looking for projects to mitigate work in Terminal 4 of the harbor’s Superfund site. It partnered with Gladstone on removal of a failing steel bulkhead downriver from the blacktop that’s sinking into the Willamette. The project, however, will also restore the riverbank up to and including the forward area of the blacktop. The work is scheduled for late summer.
That eliminates the safest and most popular bank-fishing area on the lower river for disabled anglers to cast near their vehicles and from wheelchairs.
The planning and approval process have been in the works for more than a year, but with legal-yet-minimal notice. Nearly everyone Thursday evening said they’ve only been aware of the proposal in the past few weeks.
“It wasn’t enough notice,” Tracy said.
“It’s how the system works,” city officers replied.
Tracy has support from both the Association of Northwest Steelheaders and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.
“What we need is a win-win solution,” said Todd Alsbury, the department’s district fish biologist. Alsbury met with port officials earlier Thursday on the blacktop and told them the minimal environmental advantages of their plan aren’t worth the loss of angler access. He said they told him the project is “on a fast track.”
Steelheaders’ members said they’ll investigate whether the project’s funding requires the Port to provide access for disabled anglers.
Port and Gladstone city officials weathered Thursday evening’s heat without making commitments, tacitly leaving the issue somewhat open.
Kelly Madalinski, environmental program manager for the Port of Portland, seemed to leave the door open for further consideration.
“What we need is a win-win solution,” Todd Alsbury, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife
“We’re here to listen,” he said.
And across the river: Oregon City officials are quietly working on a plan to rebuild and relocate the once-popular boat ramp at Clackamette Park, a short distance upriver from the mouth of the Clackamas.
The ramp is closed because the shifting Clackamas has forced the river’s flow directly at the ramp, creating often dangerous, even impossible, launching conditions.
The plan’s genesis was aired before the Oregon State Marine Board Thursday and will be discussed with city officials on Jan. 14, although both agencies remain far from a decision.
They’re working on a consultant’s survey suggesting a) An approximate $100,000 project to repair and redirect the existing ramp to make it temporarily useable for a few years and b) Use that time to obtain permits to build a new ramp downriver, closer to the mouth in deeper water, clear of the Clackamas’ shifting current.
“We’re a long way from a decision,” said Scott Archer, Oregon City’s director of community services.