Originally published July 22, 2015 at midnight, updated July 22, 2015 at midnight
The Hood River County Board of Commissioners signed multiple resolutions into action at a regular meeting Monday night — most notably, one declared tighter enforcement on oil trains rolling through the Gorge, and one reallocated $7,000 to the County 911 Emergency Dispatch radio system, which police and emergency officials have called “poor to non-existent” in some areas.
The County’s July 20 oil train resolution resembles a similar declaration made by the City in December — it calls attention to the risk of fiery derailments of crude oil rail cars rolling through the Gorge and urges for tighter safety enforcement — however, the County’s declaration does not call for the outright banning of oil train traffic.
In their declaration, the County urged Oregon Governor Kate Brown to encourage federal rules regarding transportation of crude oil by rails. They requested that the state and federal government be more coordinated and prepared for potential disasters resulting from derailments.
The most vehement provision calls on the state to place the responsibility of derailments in the hands of rail owners and operators. The document urges the state to “require owners and operators transporting crude oil by rail to assume all risk and to be sufficiently bonded and insured against the risk of catastrophic fire and explosion, loss of life and property, environmental destruction and damage and any other harm connected with a derailment or accident.”
Unlike the City declaration, the County’s declaration does not include provisions regarding coal train traffic.
Hood River County Administrator Dave Meriwether asked commissioners if the resolution was suitable, or if they would prefer “a more forceful statement.”
Commissioners agreed that the current resolution would convey the County’s concerns regarding the risk of fiery derailments in the Gorge without being “extreme.”
“We’re not standing on the train tracks waving pitchforks,” said County Commissioner Bob Benton.
At the meeting Monday night, the Board of Commissioners also approved a resolution that moves $7,000 from the County materials and services budget to capital outlay in the 911 Center budget for the 2015-2016 fiscal year. The County is moving forward on a unified security system, operated through the 911 communications center, which will tie in with the Hood River County Courthouse and Sheriff’s Office.
In mid-June, Joel Harrington, an ADCOMM Engineering consultant proposed a new countywide radio system that all fire and police departments could use. This would replace the current system, which gets “poor to non-existent portable radio coverage” in remote areas of Hood River County, and even some areas within the city.