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Multi-Year Air Quality Work Plan Goes Before Gorge Commission

The Gorge commission will consider a multi-year work plan for an air quality study at its Aug. 14 meeting

The Columbia River Gorge Commission at its Aug. 14 meeting will consider a multi-year work plan for an air quality study that will analyze emission sources from both inside and outside the Gorge.

The commission meeting will be from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Rock Creek Recreation Center, 710 SW Rock Creek Dr., in Stevenson.

Public comment, followed by commission deliberation on the air quality work plan, is scheduled to begin at 10:15 a.m.

The air quality work plan, which would take several years to comÿplete, calls for continued monitorÿing of air quality in the scenic area and identification of emission sources from both inside and outÿside the Gorge, including the Portÿland-Vancouver area.

Once technical studies are comÿpleted, a team comprised of experts from several public agencies would develop a strategy aimed at proÿtecting air quality in the Scenic Area and supporting the economy of the scenic area.

Principal authors of the work plan are the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, the Washÿington Department of Ecology, the Southwest Washington Clear Air Agency and the U.S. Forest Serÿvice, in cooperation with the six Gorge area counties.

Funding estimates for the work plan, ranging from $3 million to

$10 million, are preliminary beÿcause the scope of later phases of the technical studies hasn't been decided yet and is pending results of the initial study phase.

"This work plan takes a balanced approach to the air quality that is based on good science," said Marÿtha Bennett, the Gorge commisÿsion's executive director. "The study also is based on building consensus, and by the time we come up with regulations we will have solid agreement from all the agencies involved.

"Air quality is already a problem some of the time within the scenic area," said Bennett. "Air quality is a significant economic and recreaÿtion resource we must protect."

During public meetings on the work plan, some people raised conÿcerns about the length of time needed to complete the study while others voiced fears that economic investments in the Gorge could be hampered by the uncertainty of future air regulations.

"The work plan is based on estimates from technical experts regarding the time needed to proÿvide a reliable foundation of scienÿtific data on which to base a strategy," said Brian Litt, a senior planner with the Gorge commisÿsion. "Time estimates may change, depending on availability of fundÿing and what we learn in the first phase of the work plan."

Litt noted that scenic area's manÿagement plan was amended last year to eliminate any Class 1 study language.

"Also, the economic developÿment departments in both Washingÿton and Oregon do not believe the project will adversely impact ecoÿnomic development in the Gorge," Litt said.

The work plan and accompanyÿing appendix and response to comÿments are on the internet at www.gorgeair.org.

In the fall of 2000, a multi-agency project team began creating a Work plan for developing an air quality strategy for the Gorge. The project team held a public workÿshop in November 2000 in Hood River to get initial public input on the Gorge Air Quality Project and the values and concerns held by the public regarding the scenic area.

The project team used this input to develop a draft work plan.

A second public workshop held in June 2001 provided additional public and stakeholder comment that was used by the project team to further improve the work plan.

The work plan does not recomÿmend strategies or impose reguÿlations. It lays out a multi-step process for increasing scientific understanding of air quality in the Gorge; and for engaging the public in development of an air quality strategy.

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