The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) has extended its deadline for public comment about impacts that a 3rd Bridge would have on three local natural areas, until August 11.
However, the controversy surrounding the public notice itself continues.
The stated purpose of the most recent public notice published on July 26, is for ODOT and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to learn what citizens feel about how the proposed “3rd Bridge” or Salem River Crossing would impact the three natural resources that are, Wallace Marine Park, Wallace Natural Area and the Willamette River Water Trail.
Although the notice extends the comment period a second time, critics express frustration over its lack of images and obfuscating language, as well as the lack of links – or provision anywhere – by ODOT or FHWA of meaningful, accurate information for interested citizens.
“I am still amazed,” says Linda Bierly, naturalist and member of the Glen and Gibson Creek Watershed Councils, “that a government asking for comment on a proposal, does not geographically define the project area. If I am applying for a permit… the same organizations do not accept such sloppy work.”
Bierly is also surprised by the continued lack of imagery or description in the notices, which are already written in opaque legalese. She notes as well that “the second extension still gives too little time to allow for a response in the summer, when many organizations are inactive.”
The second extension was requested by Salem City Council at its July 24 public meeting.
“The amount of information contained in the public notice is woefully inadequate,” says EM Easterly, a West Salem resident. He is disappointed that the notice, like previous notices, lacks consistent or clear descriptions of the areas impacted. “This is a major flaw,” he says.
For example, “the notice says 1.4 acres of Wallace Marine Park will be impacted, but fails to identify which areas are included in the 1.4 acres. The report then claims 1.4 acres are just 1.6% of the Park area.”
“The numbers do not add up.”
ODOT staff who specialize on this issue were out of the office when we asked for comment but Doug Hecox of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) provided government perspective.
Although Hecox acknowledged that neither maps or images were provided with the public notices he says, “The notice in the newspaper is one of several means ODOT and FHWA seek comment… In addition, information on the proposed findings is also available at the project website (http://www.salemrivercrossing.org/) and the City website (http://www.cityofsalem.net/activities).”
Neither of these website are mentioned in the public notice.
Additionally, the City link takes people to a page that pre-describes the impacts as “negligible” in its title. “Negligible” is a description that, critics say, is prejudicial to any citizen unfamiliar with the significant and lasting impacts of the project on Wallace Marine Park, Wallace Natural Area the Willamette River Water Trail.
In response to requests, ODOT will now send interested people a map. However, the map it sends is for only one of the three natural areas and the burden is on citizens to request the map. Further, the fact that people have the option to request a map is not published in the notice.
Critics also say ODOT’s map itself is inadequate. Bierly notes that the proposed bridge and roadways are only indicated by a pink stripe that is not faithful to the project; while the bridge and roadways would require building a 150′ ramp over the Union Street Railroad Bridge trestle pedestrian path at a height of 10′-15′ – “by looking at the map,” she says, “one would have no idea that this is the case.”
Hecox says that “hard copy notices” with more information have been placed in physical locations around Wallace Marine Park and the Wallace Natural Area.
These notices are widely considered uninformative and uninviting by critics.
“The map they posted is of the entire SRC project and has no detail about the impact on the parklands,” says Jim Scheppke* a 3rd Bridge opponent. “Lame. They are just going through the motions. No one will read this sign.”
For thorough, detailed and accurate descriptions of bridge impacts on natural areas near Salem, readers may want to visit the NoThirdBridge Facebook page.
Public remarks are limited to the effects of a 3rd Bridge would have on Wallace Marine Park, Wallace Marine Natural Area and The Willamette River Water Trail. Send them to Anna.Henson@odot.state.or.us before August 11.
*Scheppke is a member of Salem Weekly’s editorial board
See Salem Weekly’s July 20th story:
To see the October 2016 report on “de minimis” impacts from consultants, click here. Be aware, however, that the report does NOT show the now-built Glen Creek Trail in relation to the proposed changes to Marine Drive – though many in the community have requested it..”