Tuesday, July 3, 2012


Lawsuit Targets Failure to Address Impacts to
Low-Income Community on Hayden Island

July 3, 2012, Portland Oregon.   A group of environmental justice and community advocates filed a federal lawsuit yesterday challenging the Columbia River Crossing (CRC) bridge project for failing to address the full range of impacts on the health and livability of Hayden Island residents.

Leading the charge is the Hayden Island Livability Project (HILP), a grassroots group comprised primarily of residents of the Hayden Island Manufactured Home Community, along with other island residents and stakeholders.

"We tried to approach this process with an open mind,” says HILP co-chair and community resident, Donna Murphy.  "After four years of public process, we have even more concerns and questions than when we started. We believe this project in its current form will put our community and our health at serious risk, especially for the most vulnerable among us."

Joining HILP in the lawsuit are the Homeowners' Association (HOA) for the community and OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon, a grassroots nonprofit organizing communities in the Portland metro region.  Hayden Island has been ground zero for this project since planning first began over a decade ago. The bridge interchange on the island -- currently the only on/off access point for residents -- is the most costly and physically largest component of the project.  As the project staff worked to cater to the interests of developers and the Jantzen Beach Super Center mall, the size of the interchange on Hayden Island ballooned to a 22-lane span, resulting in significant impacts to the local community, which sits at the fence line of the construction staging area for the project.

The Hayden Island Manufactured Home Community is the largest such community in the state. The community consists of approximately 1,200 residents, including many elderly and low-income families living on fixed incomes with existing health concerns, disabilities, and limited mobility.  Residents will be directly exposed to dangerous levels of air toxics, dust, noise and vibration from the construction activity, yet the project staff failed to quantify or analyze the expected impacts to this local community.  The project will also displace the local Safeway, currently the island's only source of fresh food and prescription medication.  Federal officials never even considered developing a project that would save this local grocery store, nor did they consider measures to address this loss to the community. 

"As this lengthy process entered its final stages, it became clear that the powers that be - the Federal Highway Administration, the state Departments of Transportation, and the Governor's office - were not going to slow down for environmental justice," says HILP co-chair and community resident, Herman Kachold. “For all the meetings we have had out on the island, they still haven't done the basic analysis or offered much by the way of protection for our community. They saw us as just a minor speed bump in the road.”

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Portland, Oregon, alleges that the federal government failed to disclose the numerous and widespread impacts on this vulnerable community.  The project has been a lightning rod for criticism in the Portland metro area and would result in more than six years of construction-related impacts on this small, low-income neighborhood on Hayden Island. Hayden Island, at the intersection of two bridges and a freeway interchange, stands to suffer some of the most severe effects of this behemoth construction project.

"This is one of the clearest examples of environmental injustice in our region," says OPAL Executive Director Jonathan Ostar. "All we're asking is that the government satisfy its obligations under federal law and conduct a thorough analysis of the health and livability impacts facing this poor but proud community. It's the government's job to explore alternatives, and as necessary, apply appropriate mitigation, and they must also ensure that as a community and as a region, we are fully informed. This lawsuit was always a last option, and they forced our hand."

For further information or comment, please contact:

HILP formed in 2009 to ensure fair treatment and equal protection for island residents in the course of the Columbia River Crossing project planning process as the community became aware of potential impacts from the project.

The Manufactured Home Community Homeowners’ Association is a membership organization for residents of the manufactured home parks on Hayden Island.  The mission of the Homeowners Association is to protect and advance the health and livability interests of all residents of the manufactured home community.

OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon is a grassroots nonprofit organizing low-income communities and people of color in the Portland metro region around issues of environmental justice. OPAL began engaging with and supporting HILP in 2009 after community leaders appealed to the Governor’s Environmental Justice Task Force.

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