Wasco County Commission Votes to Deny Rail Expansion Through Mosier

Wasco County Commission Votes to Deny Rail Expansion Through Mosier
Looking west toward Mosier, OR, from Mosier Plateau, with the Union Pacific rail line running through town. (photographer: Paloma Ayala)

Thursday, November 3, 2016

by Michael Lang
Conservation Director, Friends of the Columbia Gorge

The Wasco County Board of County Commissioners voted unanimously Wednesday night to deny the proposed Union Pacific rail expansion planned for Mosier, OR. Friends of the Columbia Gorge (Friends), Columbia Riverkeeper, and Physicians for Social Responsibility had appealed the Wasco County Planning Commission’s decision last month to grant Union Pacific their permit for a new track through Mosier, OR. The Yakama Nation also separately appealed the decision due to the project’s violations of tribal treaty rights and the National Scenic Area Act. The Board of Commissioners based their denial of the project on National Scenic Area laws prohibiting adverse effects to treaty rights. The Board of Commissioners will meet next Thursday, Nov. 10, to adopt a final order denying the project.

“We applaud this decision by the Board of County Commissioners,” said Kevin Gorman, Executive Director of Friends of the Columbia Gorge. “The Planning Commission ignored tribal treaty concerns, environmental and scenic impacts on the Gorge, objections from the City of Mosier, and even the concerns raised by their own staff when they granted the permit last month. There were many reasons to deny this project, and the violation of tribal treaty rights is the most salient.”

The City of Mosier is still recovering from the Union Pacific oil train derailment, spill and fire on June 3 that leaked 40,000 gallons of crude oil and contaminated groundwater in the small town. The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) released a report in June finding that Union Pacific was at fault for the accident because it failed to follow safety and rail inspection requirements. 

A rail traffic report released by Friends last August found that increases in rail capacity from this expansion could be far greater than Union Pacific has claimed, potentially increasing rail capacity from about 35 trains a day to as much as 100 trains a day.  Link to report

View Wasco County’s website for more information on the hearing process.

Read the FRA’s preliminary factual findings report on the Mosier derailment, as well as the agency’s safety analyses of UP and all railroads, respectively.

News coverage of this story

The Dalles Chronicle
The Oregonian
Oregon Public Broadcasting
Willamette Week


View All News & Updates