My view of the Portland Harbor Community Advisory Group meeting, April 14, 2010

[Originally published on my blog Historical Threads on April 5, 2010. This version has been refined & corrected, where necessary.]

In a previous post, I reported on a meeting I attended of the Portland Harbor Community Advisory Group in December 2009. The present post provides some of my thoughts after attending the April 14, 2010, CAG meeting.

“Willamette River Pollution” film, 1940

Attendees at the meeting watched William J. Smith’s 1940 color film of Willamette River pollution. I’ve provided an overview of the historical context of this film here.

I have three primary thoughts whenever I view or think about this film. First, it’s great to see that the Willamette is not as visibly polluted anymore, after about eighty years of abatement activity. However, viewing this film also makes me think about how relatively easy it was to abate visible, point sources of pollution, but how difficult is has been since the 1970s to address the more complex non-point-source and persistent chemical pollutants. Finally, I am inspired by the tenacity of abatement advocates in the past (before Tom McCall and after) because their work shows precisely how a diverse array of citizens and government officials can come together to translate values and apply science in ways that lead to substantive regulations and appropriate technologies and approaches (it’s a long haul and ever a work-in-progress, but each generation since the 1930s has achieved notable abatement steps).

Discussion of the work of the Lower Willamette Group

I’m still learning about the work of the Lower Willamette Group (LWG) (some info here). Much of the discussion at this meeting centered on the role and charge of the LWG. The LWG is in the process of researching potential clean-up options for various EPA-designated pollution hot-spots along the North Reach. The LWG will forward thse options to the EPA, who will then evaluate these options and pursue clean-up methods that are considered feasible (in terms of available technology, time involved, and costs). The LWG representative at the meeting indicated that the LWG and EPA are interested in having citizen input on cleanup options.

Events I have inadvertently missed & new sources I learned about

I learned about a few events and sources that I was not aware of prior to last night:

Confluences: Water & Justice conference at the University of Portland, March 26-28, 2010. Conference attendees spoke very highly of keynote speaker Maude Barlow’s talk.

Water and Environmental Technology program at Clackamas Community College.

Duwamish River clean-up. The Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition is engaged in work similar to that being done by CAG and others in Portland Harbor. I am broadly aware of the Duwamish cleanup, having read about it in Matt Klingle‘s Emerald City and Coll Thrush‘s Native Seattle, and was pleased to hear that LWG members and others are not only aware of this work but have collaborated with the Seattle-area residents working on this project.

One CAG member recommended a ca. 1960s film titled “Damned Forever” about the impacts of dams on the Columbia system. I ran some searches on Google, Multnomah County Library, and the PSU Library, but wasn’t able to find any more information about this film.

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