West Hayden Island

West Hayden Island is a largely undeveloped wilderness area, located just west of the Burlington Northern Railroad bridge. The beach is publicly accessible but there are no public roads available. Much of the 800 square acres is currently a nature preserve and owned by the Port of Portland.

As part of Portland’s Comprehensive Plan update, the city is obliged to show state land-use regulators it’s accommodating land for new jobs over the next two decades, including industrial acreage and harbor-related sites.

Hayden Island is just North of Terminal 6, with the Columbia River flowing on both sides. Here’s a walking tour though West Hayden Island, the “undeveloped” western half of the island.

Port of Portland’s Marine Terminal 6 is south of Hayden Island, across the slough. Kelly Point Park, the point of confluence between the Columbia and Willamette Rivers, is just West of Terminal 6.

In July, 2013, the city’s Planning and Sustainability Commission voted to support annexation of the Island to the City of Portland to enable the Port to create a deep water marine terminal on some 300 acres, but that support carried a variety of mitigation requirements for the Port.

On Jan 8, 2014, Port of Portland officials said that they would NOT proceed with developing marine terminals on West Hayden Island. The Port blamed the city for requirements that would price the land out of the market.

In 2014, city planners included 300 acres on West Hayden Island for development, enabling the city to meet its projected 20-year land supply for harbor and industrial jobs. Finally, in 2015, bowing to a public outcry, the city yanked West Hayden Island from its proposed list of industrial lands earmarked for development.

Portland’s Planning and Sustainability Commission chose the environment over jobs as part of the 2035 Comprehensive Plan Update it recommended to the City Council to continue to designate that portion of the island as Rural Farm Forest outside the city limits for the next 20 years. That recommendation would eliminate the option of developing 300 acres of West Hayden Island as a marine terminal by the Port of Portland.

The Port of Portland bought West Hayden Island from Portland General Electric in 1994 specifically to develop its as a marine terminal. That plan is backed by many Portland businesses — especially those in the Portland Harbor. But environmentalists argue the property should be preserved as habitat. They are supported by many residents in the area.

The final decision is up to the City Council, which is scheduled to hold hearings on the recommended Comp Plan Update and vote on it by the end of the 2015. Many in the business community, such as the Columbia Corridor Association are expected to testify in support maintaining the option of developing West Hayden Island.

For the first time, the plan must identify enough employment land to accommodate the additional jobs expected to be created over the next 20 years. In the past, the city only had to identify enough residential land to house predicted future residents.

The West Hayden Island proposal would have developed some 300 acres of the 800 acre area into a new marine port terminal, for both auto importing and grain exporting.

Portland’s Planning and Sustainability Commission send their report to the City Council in July, 2013, recommending that a significant amount of remediation would be necessary.

Port of Portland estimated that a grain terminal on West Hayden Island could provide 110 jobs for every million tons of grain moved per year, including spinoff and indirect jobs. By comparison, the Columbia Grain terminal, at the Port’s Terminal 5, shipped more than 4 million tons of grain last year.

Port of Portland officials said on Jan 8, 2014, that they would NOT proceed with developing marine terminals on West Hayden Island. The Port blamed the city for requirements that would price the land out of the market. In July, the city’s Planning and Sustainability Commission recommended annexing the property, proposing mitigation steps that the Port found unreasonable, reports The Oregonian.

In a letter (pdf) to Portland Mayor Charlie Hales, Port Executive Director Bill Wyatt withdrew consent for city annexation of its property on the Columbia River island. It ends a four-year planning process that envisioned 300 acres of auto and bulk-product marine terminal development and 500 acres for recreation and wildlife habitat.

It was a big win for Bob Sallinger of the Portland Audubon Society and most residents of Hayden island.

The City of Portland planning process lead to a proposal to annex West Hayden Island, making way for a plan for future development by the Port of Portland.

The Oregonian, the The Audubon Society and the Port of Portland have more on the West Hayden Island proposal.

You can walk around the perimeter of the island along the beach…if you have a boat to get there. At the beginning of 2017, the Port of Portland, working with a private landowner who owns land just east of the BNSF railroad bridge, put up a large, barbed wire fence preventing pedestrian access to the access road and beach. This was done to deal with a growing homeless population living on the beach and on the island.

While the Port of Portland owns much of the West Hayden Island property, the public has access to the beach, which is controlled by the Department of State Lands (up to the high water mark).

Click on these panoramas to see larger versions.

– Sam Churchill