Vernonia Community News


Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals Upholds Clatsop County’s Decision Denying Gas Pipeline for Proposed Columbia River Liquefied Natural Gas Terminal

A state appeals board agreed with Clatsop County’s decision that a liquefied natural gas (LNG) pipeline would threaten public safety and improperly harm protected rivers and farmland. 

Today the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA) ruled in favor of Clatsop County, upholding the County’s decision to deny a key permit for the Oregon LNG pipeline. Without the critical land use permit, the proposed LNG pipeline cannot be built, as state law prohibits the LNG company from securing state environmental permits or certifications without county land use permits.

“We are thrilled that LUBA chose to respect our county’s decision to deny Oregon LNG’s proposed natural gas export pipeline,” said Laurie Caplan, an Astoria resident and local activist representing Columbia Pacific Common Sense.

In today’s decision, LUBA ruled that Clatsop County properly decided that the LNG pipeline violates local laws designed to protect public safety and salmon. The County found that the pipeline operates with pressurized flammable and explosive gases that present a well-documented safety risk to nearby residential uses. The County also found that Oregon LNG’s plans to bore the pipeline under salmon-bearing rivers violated the requirement to protect the Columbia River estuary, an area at the center of regional and national efforts to recover endangered salmon.

“Today’s decision marks a significant turning point for LNG on the Columbia River,” stated Brett VandenHeuvel, Executive Director for Columbia Riverkeeper. “The people of Clatsop County want clean water, safe communities, and strong salmon runs. LNG development would take us in the wrong direction.” Read More

ODFW to Host Family Fishing Event at Vernonia Pond

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife invites new anglers to take part in its Family Fishing Event Saturday, May 2 at Vernonia Pond from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.  The event is free and open to the public.

ODFW will provide equipment for the event including rods, reels and bait on a first-come, first-served basis. Anglers are also welcome to bring their own gear.  Angling education instructors and volunteers will be present to answer questions and offer assistance.  Approximately 6,000 trout wiil be released into the pond just prior to the event to improve everybody’s chances of catching fish.

“This is an excellent opportunity for all to discover fishing, or for those haven’t fished for a while to reacquaint themselves with this activity,” said Ron Rehn, fishing event coordinator for ODFW’s North Coast Watershed. “We’ll have plenty of experienced anglers at the event to answer any questions and help with instruction,” he said.

Anglers 13 years old and younger do not need a fishing license while those 14-17 years of age will need a juvenile fishing license that can be purchased for $9. Everybody else must have an adult fishing license or day pass. Licenses will not be sold at the event so individuals planning to participate should obtain them ahead of time from an ODFW license agent, ODFW field office or on-line at

Vernonia Pond is a 42-acre former mill pond located in the city of Vernonia.  From Hwy 26 west of Portland, take Hwy. 47 north to Vernonia. Follow the highway through town to the pond, which is in a city park just east of the road.


Head Start Recruiting Now

Head Start, a federally funded pre-school program, is seeking students for the 2015-2016 school year.  Applications are being taken from all three and four year olds in Columbia County.  Recruitment for fall enrollment is now in progress.  If parents are interested in enrollment information they are urged to phone immediately.

Perspective students must be three or four years old by September 1, 2015. Children must be from limited income households or have a disability and/or special needs to qualify.

Head Start incorporates a total family program that includes nutrition, education, medical and dental services for the enrolled child and home visitations.  USDA approved meals are served.  Training on various subjects and on the job training is offered to all enrolled families.  Transportation is not available.

The U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) and the State of Oregon prohibit discrimination in all USDA programs and activities on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, religion, age or disability.

The Vernonia Center is located at 500 California Avenue next to the Blue Heron Hollow Apartment complex.  Families who live in the Mist, Birkenfeld and Vernonia areas may phone (503) 429-9243 or (503) 369-7249 for more information. Read More

May 19 Elections Give Voters Some Interesting Choices

The upcoming May 19 election will offer local voters the chance to elect representatives to the Vernonia School Board, The Vernonia Rural Fire Protection District, the Mist-Birkenfeld Fire District and the Columbia County 9-1-1 Communications District.  There are also three ballot Measures  for voters consideration.

Ballot Measure 5-243 is a county wide measure that would increase the Natural Resources Depletion Fee  by thirty-five cents ($.35) per ton to a total of fifty cents ($.50) per ton. The current fee primarily provides revenue for county roads. The increase is intended to cover the costs to the infrastructure of Columbia County that result from mining activities. The additional fees would be used as follows:

• Ten cents ($.10) for road improvements and maintenance of existing roads and bridges.

• Twenty-five cents ($.25) for Columbia County Rider Transportation.

The initiative requires that none of the proposed increased funds could be used for other county general fund purposes.

Measures 5-245 and 5-246 would raise funds for the Vernonia Rural Fire Protection District.  Measure 5-245 is a ten year bond for the purchase of fire apparatus and is estimated to cost taxpayers an average of $0.2621 per thousand of assessed value each year. For the owner of a home or property owner, the estimated annual average cost would be $26.21 per $100,000 of taxable assessed value. Measure 5-246 is a five year levy which would fund  the salary and benefits package of a Training Captain. This person would be responsible for the District’s training program and responding to incidents.  This measure is estimated to cost taxpayers an average of $0.32 per thousand of assessed value each year. For the owner of a home or property the estimated annual average cost would be $32 per $100,000 of taxable assessed value. Read More

Merkley and Bonamici Hold Town Hall

US Senator Jeff Merkley and US Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici held a joint Town Hall at the Vernonia School on Friday, April 3, 2015.

MerkleyBonamici-FlagUnderwood-webOver sixty people were in attendance when Senator Merkley opened the meeting by making a presentation of a United States flag to high school principal Nate Underwood.  The flag  had previously been flown over the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C.  “This school contributes so much to the strength of this community,” said Merkley.  “This is really in appreciation for how every facet of the community came together to make this happen.”

Merkley and Bonamici both made opening remarks and then took questions from the audience.

In his opening remarks Merkley stated that not much has been passed through the Senate since January.  He noted that the Senate had spent almost a month working on the Keystone Pipeline issue which President Obama had said he would veto and did, spent a month on a Homeland Security bill which everyone agreed on but then had unrelated immigration policy riders added, and spent a few weeks on a new trafficking bill which everyone agreed on but then an unrelated social issue was added to it, and then time was spent on the budget.  Merkley also mentioned conversations about authorizing military force in Syria, the Iran nuclear weapons treaty, and the attempt to fast track the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement. Read More

Vernonia Marathon and Half Marathon Results

Nicole DeWitt of Vernonia finished the marathon in 3:27:34.

Nicole DeWitt of Vernonia finished the marathon in 3:27:34.

The Vernonia Marathon and Half Marathon took place on Sunday, April 12.  The Marathon runners started at Cedar Ridge and traveled along the Banks-Vernonia State Trail.  Half Marathon runners started at Stub Stewart State Park.  All runners finished at the Banks High School.

Nicole DeWitt of Vernonia finished the Marathon in 3:27:34, the 24th finisher overall and 4th among women and qualified for the Boston Marathon.  Jennifer Draeger also completed the marathon in a time of 3:58:34 good for 67th place out of 147 runners.

Top Vernonia finishers in the Half Marathon included Derek Handegard who finished 19th with a time of 1:30:02;  Tim Becken, 22nd, 1:30:37; Nicole Miller, 185th, 2:02:37; Andrea Grant, 186th, 2:03:03 and Rebecca Scotto, 233rd, 2:10:07.  453 total runners completed the Half Marathon.

New Girls Basketball Team Completes Successful Season

The Vernonia 6th, 7th, and 8th grade girls formed a tournament basketball team for the first time this year and had a very successful “season.” They competed in both Banks and Forest Grove tournaments, placing second in each.  The team hopes to be strong competitors again next year and add more tournaments to their calendar.  They are a group of upcoming athletes to watch!

Left to right: Brooklynn Walters, Jessica Butcher, Lauren Ely, Jordan Walters, Coach Jim Krahn, Assistant Megan Ely, Karrah Delemos, Joyce Everett, Sophia Tesdall, Hannah Baska.  Not pictured are Sofia Wolf and Madison Dennis.

Left to right: Brooklynn Walters, Jessica Butcher, Lauren Ely, Jordan Walters, Coach Jim Krahn, Assistant Megan Ely, Karrah Delemos, Joyce Everett, Sophia Tesdall, Hannah Baska.  Not pictured are Sofia Wolf and Madison Dennis.

More Changes for Senior Center

SeniorCenter-webThe Vernonia Senior Center has adjusted their plans once again.

When their old location at 446 Bridge Street was scheduled to be demolished, the Seniors moved their thrift store to the Learning Center at 939 Bridge Street.  The newly named “Bridge Street Bargains” is now up and running and is loaded with merchandise for the thrifty shopper.

The Senior office is also on site at the new Bridge Street location.  Community Action Team’s  Karen Miller is available in the office on Mondays to assist seniors with their issues and concerns.

The big change for the Seniors is the relocation of the lunchtime meal program to the American Legion Hall which shares space with the Vernonia Cares Food Bank at 627 Adams Avenue.  Catered meals, which are delivered and warmed on site, will be served on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, beginning early in April.

“Since the Food Bank is open Tuesday and Thursday, this seems like a good fit and will make heating the meals easier for the cook, Wendy West,” said Sandy Welch, Executive Director of Vernonia Cares as well as the Secretary for the Senior Center Board of Directors

According to Welch Friday afternoon games will also be relocated to the Legion Hall.

Coffee with the Commissioners Scheduled

The Columbia County Board of Commissioners will be meeting in Vernonia to visit with local citizens for a “Coffee with the Commissioners” event on Friday, April 17 at 9:00 AM at the Black Iron Grill, 831 Bridge Street.

According to the Board of Commissioners office, the Board will be traveling around the county throughout the next year, meeting in each of the five cities for these types of events where they can chat with locals about their issues, concerns and ideas.

Vernonia Fire District Places Two Measures on May Ballot

The Vernonia Rural Fire Protection District has filed two ballot measures with the Columbia County Elections Office to be placed on the May 19, 2015 election ballot.

One measure is  a five year levy for Emergency Services Training and Operations.  This measure would provide funding for the District to hire a Training Captain who would be responsible for operation of  the District training program.  The Training Captain would also respond to incidents during their work shift, thereby increasing daytime response personnel within the District.  This levy would cost taxpayers an estimated $0.32 per thousand of assessed value each year.  The estimated annual average cost would be $32 per $100,000 of taxable assessed value.

The second measure is  a General Obligation Bond and would raise funds to purchase and upgrade fire apparatus and equipment.  The bonds would mature no later than ten years from date of issuance and is estimated to cost taxpayers an average of $0.2621 per thousand of assessed value each year.  The estimated annual average cost for property owners would be $26.21 per $100,000 of assessed value.

Fire Chief Dean Smith is the District’s administrator and only paid responder; all other emergency responders are volunteers.  Smith says his administrative duties are continually expanding and says the District is reaching a breaking point. He says the mandatory training requirements and time commitment for volunteers,  the continually increasing volume of calls the District receives, and the  outside priorities like family, work and school are creating a perfect storm that makes volunteer recruitment and retention extremely difficult.  With only eleven current volunteers, a number Smith says is as low as he’s ever seen it, Smith says the ability of the District to continue to provide the current level of service is impossible.

Volunteers from the Vernonia Fire District responded  to a structure fire on March 25.  Firefighters from Mist-Birkenfeld and Banks assisted with the call.

Volunteers from the Vernonia Fire District responded
to a structure fire on March 25. Firefighters from Mist-Birkenfeld and Banks assisted with the call.

“We’re at a point where the District has to have another body here that can take some of these tasks and manage them with oversight from myself,” explains Smith. “It’s become imperative.  We can’t continue to give the same level of service if we don’t.”

As an example, Smith noted that during the recent structure fire in town, Vernonia was only able to respond with one engine and only had one officer, two firefighters and one cadet available to respond.

“If we can get someone dedicated to the Training Captain position we can create a more stable and sustainable training program, and I believe we can only grow,”  says Smith.

Smith addressed the bond measure for the apparatus purchase,  saying the District’s equipment is mostly out of date and does not meet current safety standards or recommendations.  The bond would allow the District to purchase a brand new water tender/pumper  to replace the thirty-five year old, outdated one they currently are using.  Smith says the District last went out for a bond in 2000 which sunset in 2010 and used those funds to purchase their current first-out engine.  The recent purchase of a twenty year old engine from the Banks Fire District also provided an upgrade.   Read More