I moved to Clark County in 1989. When we first moved here, we lived in the Country Manor mobile home park in Brush Prairie, on the last street, right next to the Chelatchie Railroad line, maybe 30 feet away. We heard the trains, of course, and they shook the house, but we lived with it. The trains were short and didn’t carry the loads projected for the future. My husband and daughter even rode the passenger line one fall.
Since then, we have moved, but every aspect of my life here is still entwined with the railroad. My kids went to Glenwood and Laurin schools and crossed the tracks to get there. Now I cross the tracks at 87th Avenue and 119th Street, just to get to Winco. I live on the east side of Curtin Creek, with the railroad on the west side, next to the one parcel changed to heavy industrial use, nestled among many housing developments. When I drive to Battle Ground, I cross the tracks by the sheriff’s department in Brush Prairie. I have concerns with the way the Clark County Council is pursuing heavy industry along the railroad overlay, come hell or high water.
My concerns are first with the safety of the line. When the entire stretch from Yacolt to Vancouver is upgraded, including intersections and bridges, the trains will be able to carry much heavier loads; this will affect nearby homes seismically, to the extent of mimicking earthquakes. I experienced that in Country Manor with light loads. Those of you who live along Grace Avenue had better take notice.
Mitigation of railroad accidents and spills from Yacolt to Vancouver must be prepared for. Glenwood and Laurin schools will be affected not only on the street there, but by the playing fields. When the railroad has longer trains and heavier loads, will the sheriff’s department and rescue vehicles be adversely affected at the intersection across state Route 503 in Brush Prairie, losing precious minutes in emergencies because the road is blocked?
If the county’s dream plan goes into effect, how much more farmland, wetlands, and forest lands will be turned into concrete warehouses and industrial complexes?
The Railroad Advisory Board has painted a rosy financial picture for the council, with millions of dollars of added taxes. However, since the council wants the future industries to self select according to sewer or not and doesn’t want to provide expensive sewer systems, this vision of dollar bills may well be an illusion. And who pays for it all in the end? We residents of Clark County do — in quality of life and added taxes.
I urge the Clark County Council to tread lightly with plans for the future industrial railroad use and consider the well-being of the citizens first. I urge all citizens to keep an eye on the council and the land management plan the council is crafting.