By Erik Olsen, February 12, 2013, Longview Daily News
Port of Longview officials will meet with a mediator next month to negotiate a purchase price for Howard Island, a piece of land in the Columbia River that the port wants as a dredge disposal site.
Port commissioners Tuesday directed CEO Geir Kalhagen and attorney Frank Randolph to meet March 6 with representatives of Dr. Gene Davis of the Tigard, Ore.,-based Foreign Mission Foundation, which owns the 168-acre island at the junction of the Cowlitz and Columbia rivers.
Commissioners say they hope negotiations head off a costly court battle. Last May, commissioners from the ports of Longview, Kalama, Woodland and Vancouver voted use their power of eminent domain to force Davis to sell, saying the land is needed to store dredge material dug up to maintain shipping lanes.
Port officials said Davis is willing to sell, but the two sides are haggling over the price. The port appraised the island’s value at $913,000. The courts would decide on the sales price if the two sides can’t agree.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers finished deepening the 103-mile-long Columbia River shipping channel from Astoria to Portland in 2009. Lower river ports are responsible for providing places to dispose of material the corps dredges to maintain the channel, which was deepened three feet.
The four sponsoring ports already own nearby Cottonwood Island, which was merged with Howard Island with silt dredged out of the rivers following the mud flows created by the May 18, 1980, eruption of Mount St. Helens.