COOS BAY — After a yearlong process, the Coos Bay City Council voted Tuesday night to approve a land use application submitted by the Jordan Cove Energy Project that will allow dredging in part of the bay to increase the width and depth of the shipping channel.
In a 4-3 vote, councilors Robert Miles, Stephanie Kilmer, Philip Marler, and Mayor Joe Benetti voted to approve the dredging of the channel. While councilors Lucinca Di Novo, Carmen Mathews, and Drew Farmer voted against approval.
“I know that we’ve all reviewed this and we’re all going to have our own discussions and decisions on it, but the facts that our Planning Commission have adopted I find accurate and I will be following that with my vote,” Benetti said. “The Planning Commission vote was a vote that supported the Jordan Cove application.”
In addition to the Planning Commission's recommendation, there has been public testimony on the application that was considered in the decision, but the meeting Tuesday was closed to further evidence, testimony and comments.
The Lane Council of Governments, the organization that served as an outside consultant on the application at JCEP's expense, began the meeting by presenting its staff report. The Lane Council of Government's report recommended denial of the application, saying the application fails to prove the dredge project is within the public interest. However, the consultants followed that report by saying what’s to be considered in the "public’s interest" is subjective.
“We asked for technical assistance and a neutral, professional opinion from a third party so we could make an informed decision," Councilor Di Novo said. "The recommendation we received was not to approve the application. Unless there is other information this council is not privy to, I personally refer to the recommendation from LCOG."
Specifically, the approval makes map amendments that changes the designation of 3.3 acres of Natural Aquatic area to Development Aquatic area, a text amendment to Coos Bay’s Comprehensive Plan to authorize the map amendments, and two permits that allow for new maintenance dredging and a temporary dredge transport pipeline.
It is important to note that this decision does not approve the Jordan Cove Energy Project. Rather, it approves a plan to make changes to the bay’s navigation channel in an area that falls under the City of Coos Bay's land use jurisdiction.
Council chambers quickly filled to capacity at Tuesday's meeting and hundreds more than the approximately 100 at the meeting tuned in at a screening thrown together in front of city hall, and at the local restaurant, Coney Station.
The application decision can be appealed to the Land Use Board of Appeals.