By Nathalie Hardy • Columnist • 

DEQ grants tentative berm approval

The tenative approval is subject to formal ratification following a public hearing set for 6 p.m. Thursday, March 28, and a public comment extending through 5 p.m. Friday, April 5, assuming nothing emerges in those venues to significantly alter the equation. The hearing will be held at the McMinnville Senior Center, located at 2250 N.E. McDonald Lane.

Expecting to run out of space on its current footprint sometime next year, Riverbend’s parent company, Waste Management Inc., is seeking approval for a major expansion that would allow it decades of additional operating time. In the meantime, it is proposing to buy a few years of additional breathing room by erecting a berm formore fill capactiy.

The company initially proposed berms along the river side of the site as well, but scaled back in the face of intense opposition. It says the berm remaining on the drawing board would provide 1 million cubic yards of additional space, which is critical to its continued operation.

Yamhill County Planner Ken Friday said the tentative approval is in accordance with DEQ protocols. He said the agency had asked the county to supply the addresses of neighboring property owners so they could be formally notified.

Immediate neighbor Ramsey McPhillips, who has been helping lead the opposition, was quick to criticize the decision.

He said other entitites in Oregon are being held to higher earthquake protection benchmarks by other agencies, in recognition of the risk of a magnitude-9 Cascade Subduction Zone quake. “The state seems to have a double standard, protecting the people crossing bridges on one level and protecting people in Yamhill County and the aquifer surrounding the landfill on another,” he said. 

“Obviously, we knew this was coming,” McPhillips acknowledged. “The remedy is our group is going to have to sue, sadly, the DEQ,” he said.

Riverbend spokeswoman Jackie Lang offered an equal but opposite reaction to the news.

“We are very pleased to have earned this vote of confidence from state regulators,” she said. “The DEQ set a high bar for this project, and we met it with world-class geo-environmental engineering to protect the environment and meet the application requirements.”

She said, “This is an important step forward for a project that will mean more than a $12 million capital investment in this community in 2013.”

Comments can be made in person at the March meeting; mailed to Bob Schwarz, Permit Engineer, Oregon DEQ, 400 E. Scenic Drive, Suite 307, The Dalles, OR 97058; or posted online at

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