By Jeb Bladine • President / Publisher • 

Consider possibility of Riverbend closure

All WhatchamaColumns

Thursday, Yamhill County commissioners voted 2-0 in favor of the zone change needed for a 37-acre expansion of Riverbend Landfill. In the lead-up to this week’s vote, people for the first time started to consider the possibility of a short-timeline shutdown of Riverbend.

It was Commissioner Allen Springer’s first vote on the controversial issue, and there was growing speculation that he might oppose the zone change. He voted in favor, but the plan he approved with Commissioner Kathy George requires landfill owner Waste Management to develop a green technology solution at the landfill within seven years. Waste Management reportedly will accept that provision and move ahead with expansion plans.

Current disposal rates would fill the existing landfill in six months. A berm project now under construction would add 3 to 4 years of capacity, and the expansion would add another 20 years.

Defeat of the zone change this week would have plunged Waste Management into a flurry of decisions. Appeal the political action? Abandon the costly berm project? Seek changes in various solid waste disposal agreements and begin an orderly shutdown of Riverbend over the next few years?

Naturally, there are dramatically different versions of what happens if Riverbend were to face relatively sudden closure.

Both sides agree it would require development of a commercial-scope solid waste transfer station, likely on the current in-town site of the Orchard Avenue recycling center. Riverbend opponents welcome that possibility; others say it could produce odors rivaling what comes from the landfill at random times and places.

One side points to thousands of trucks-trips through town headed toward other landfill sites, assuming regional capacity exists, saying that extremely high disposal costs would be passed on to consumers through hauler contracts with unlimited escalation clauses. The other side, as presented in testimony this week to McMinnville City Council (see today’s story), says most of that solid waste could be diverted by local residents through strong “zero-waste” practices.

All of this should have been part of the long-running Riverbend debate. So far, passionate anti-landfill interests have defined that conversation, with only occasional business community concerns expressed about high costs of alternative solid waste disposal.

The zone change request is approved, for now. But given the whims of Oregon’s land use system, this vote could be appealed for years as the clocks ticks on Riverbend’s lifespan. The community still should devote attention to the challenges that would arise from a near-term Riverbend closure.

Jeb Bladine can be reached at jbladine@news or 503-687-1223.

Web Design & Web Development by LVSYS