By Erik Olson, March 12, 2013, Longview Daily News
Four lower Columbia River ports have tentatively agreed to buy Howard Island for $1.32 million, ending a dozen years of negotiations with the owner and avoiding a costly court battle.
Port of Longview commissioners on Tuesday approved their share of the deal, which is about $187,000. Port of Vancouver commissioners also approved the deal Tuesday, and Port of Kalama commissioners are scheduled to vote Wednesday. The Port of Portland has already paid a share.
The overall price is about $400,000 higher than the amount the ports had earlier identified as fair market value. It was determined after port attorneys and land owner Dr. Gene Davis of the Tigard, Ore.,-based Foreign Mission Foundation met with a mediator this month.
The Port of Longview is sharing the costs of the purchase with the ports of Kalama, Vancouver and Portland as portion of a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ effort to deepen Columbia River shipping lanes by three feet, a project completed in 2009. Lower river ports were responsible for obtaining dredge material disposal areas, and securing 168-acre Howard Island was part of that effort.
The island, located where the Cowlitz River meets the Columbia, was merged with Cottonwood Island by dredging operations following the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens.
“The sooner the better, we should get this cleared up. And today is a good chance to do that,” Commissioner Darold Dietz said at Tuesday’s meeting at the port office.
The corps identified Howard Island as a possible dredge spoils spot in the early 2000s. Last summer, port commissioners voted to force Davis to sell through eminent domain. The two sides agreed to let the ports take control of the land last September and meet with a mediator to hash out the price and avoid a costly court battle to determine the value.