The Eagle Creek fire has closed most trails from Wyeth to Troutdale.

Friends of the Columbia Gorge's Current Legal Docket

Friends' legal work emphasizes protection of the Columbia Gorge's resources and enforcement of Scenic Area land use laws and rules

Friends of the Columbia Gorge's Current Legal Docket
Springtime view from Coyote Wall in the Catherine Creek area of the eastern Gorge. (photographer: Annette Hadaway)


We focus on litigation and administrative proceedings that will help protect the Gorge's sensitive and unique scenic, natural, cultural, and recreational resources and establish positive precedent for future decisionmaking.

See a list of past cases involving the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area.
 

Energy Development

1. Friends v. Bonneville Power Administration (U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals)

Friends of the Columbia Gorge and Save Our Scenic Area filed an appeal of the BPA's decision to allow the 75-megawatt Whistling Ridge Energy Project to be connected to the BPA's energy grid. The project would consist of up to 35 wind turbines, each up to 430 feet tall, on forested ridgelines in Skamania County overlooking the National Scenic Area. BPA failed to consider reasonable alternatives and failed to adequately review the environmental impacts of the project, including adverse effects to birds and bats.

Status: Briefing has been completed. Oral argument has not yet been scheduled.
Counsel: Dave Becker, Gary Kahn
 

Coal and Oil Transport

1. Sierra Club v. BNSF Railway Co. (U.S. District Court, Western District of Washington)

The Sierra Club, Friends of the Columbia Gorge, and other conservation organizations filed an action against BNSF Railway for violations of the Clean Water Act. BNSF is violating the Clean Water Act by discharging coal from trains into the waterways of the United States without a permit.

Status: The parties reached a settlement that is currently being implemented. Plaintiffs' motion to recover attorney fees and costs is pending.
Counsel: Charles Tebbutt, Daniel Snyder, Sarah Matsumoto, Andrea Rodgers Harris (all plaintiffs); Nathan Baker (Friends); Jessica Yarnall Lorie (Sierra Club); David Pettit, Morgan Wyenn (NRDC)
 

2. Vancouver Energy Oil Terminal (Washington Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council)

Friends and allies are participating in an adjudication conducted by the Washington Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council to oppose an oil terminal proposed by the Tesoro and Savage companies at the Port of Vancouver. The proposal would be the largest oil-by-rail terminal in the country and would substantially increase the shipping of oil by rail through the Columbia River Gorge.

Status:The Council has concluded the adjudication and is awaiting the completion of the Final Environmental Impact Statement so that it can begin deliberations.
Counsel: Kristen Boyles, Janette Brimmer, Matthew Baca (Earthjustice); David Bricklin, Bryan Telegin (Bricklin & Newman, LLP)
 

Land Use and Zoning

1. Save Our Scenic Area v. Skamania County (Clark County Superior Court)

Save Our Scenic Area and Friends of the Columbia Gorge filed suit against Skamania County for failing to zone thousands of acres of unzoned, forested lands. The County is in violation of state law for failing to adopt zoning and failing to protect forest lands for forest uses.

Status: In July 2015, the Washington Supreme Court remanded the case to the Clark County Superior Court. Settlement discussions between the parties are ongoing. A trial has been scheduled for September 2017.
Counsel: J. Richard Aramburu (Save Our Scenic Area), Gary Kahn and Nathan Baker (Friends)
 

2. Union Pacific Railroad Company v. Wasco County (Columbia River Gorge Commission)

Union Pacific, Friends of the Columbia Gorge, Columbia Riverkeeper, and Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility have all appealed a final decision by the Wasco County Board of County Commissioners to deny a proposal to construct approximately four miles of second mainline track on Scenic Area lands on either side of Mosier. The project is prohibited by multiple zoning requirements and the application fails to comply with numerous rules protecting scenic, natural, cultural, and recreational resources.

Status: The Gorge Commission has rejected Union Pacific's appeal and decided not to address the merits of the appeal brought by Friends of the Columbia Gorge, Columbia Riverkeeper, and Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility. The Gorge Commission will issue a final written order by September 11, 2017.
Counsel: Gary Kahn, Steve McCoy
 

3. Union Pacific Railroad Company v. Runyon (U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals)

Union Pacific filed an action seeking to enjoin the National Scenic Area permitting and appeals processes for its proposal to construct approximately four miles of second mainline track on Scenic Area lands on either side of Mosier.​ The U.S. District Court of Oregon dismissed the case because Union Pacific had failed to name several Northwest Indian Treaty Tribes as defendants in the case. Union Pacific then appealed to the Ninth Circuit.

Status: Union Pacific's opening brief and excerpts of record are due August 21, 2017.
Counsel: Gary Kahn, Nathan Baker, Steve McCoy

4. In re Yang Farm Dwelling (Clark County Hearing Examiner)

Friends appealed an administrative decision by Clark County approving a proposed new farm dwelling in eastern Clark County. The proposed farm dwelling is prohibited because the subject farm already contains a dwelling that can be used for the farm, it does not meet the commercial farming requirements, and its large size would be incompatible with existing dwellings in the vicinity. 

Status: A hearing before the Hearing Examiner is scheduled for August 24, 2017.
Counsel: Gary Kahn, Nathan Baker, Steve McCoy

5. In re Zhou Farm Dwelling (Clark County Hearing Examiner)

Friends appealed an administrative decision by Clark County approving a proposed new farm dwelling in eastern Clark County. The proposed farm dwelling is prohibited because the subject farm already contains a dwelling that can be used for the farm, it does not meet the commercial farming requirements, and its large size would be incompatible with existing dwellings in the vicinity. 

Status: A hearing before the Hearing Examiner is scheduled for August 24, 2017.
Counsel: Gary Kahn, Nathan Baker, Steve McCoy

6. In re Thomas Boundary Line Adjustment (Skamania County Hearing Examiner)

Friends appealed an administrative decision by Skamania County approving multiple boundary line adjustments between six tax lots in Underwood, Washington. The decision violates the Skamania County National Scenic Area ordinance and the Gorge Management Plan for several reasons, including that one of the tax lots is not a legal parcel and boundary line adjustments cannot involve more than two parcels.

Status: A hearing before the Hearing Examiner has not yet been scheduled.
Counsel: Gary Kahn, Nathan Baker, Steve McCoy

7. Reynier v. Skamania County (Skamania County Superior Court)

Friends intervened in support of Skamania County in an appeal by a landowner of a county decision that approved a proposed dwelling and denied a second proposed dwelling. The subject property consists of one legal lot that is eligible for only one dwelling.

Status:  A settlement was reached in 2012 but has not yet been implemented.
Counsel: Gary Kahn


8. Reynier v. Skamania County (Skamania County Superior Court)

Friends and adjacent neigbors intervened on behalf of Skamania County in an appeal of a county decision denying a third dwelling on a parcel eligible for only one new single-family dwelling.

Status: See above.
Counsel: Gary Kahn


9. Friends v. Columbia River Gorge Commission (Klickitat County Superior Court)

Friends has challenged the Gorge Commission's adoption of an administrative rule that unlawfully attempts to insulate the Gorge Commission from accountability for its determinations of the locations of urban area boundary lines by declaring that such determinations are not decisions and cannot be appealed.

Status: After the Gorge Commission repealed the challenged rule, Friends moved to dismiss its appeal without prejudice. Friends' motion is pending.
Counsel: Gary Kahn


This page was last updated on June 27, 2017 by Nathan Baker.