Rail Operator and County Headed to Mediation
For months Clark County and the Portland Vancouver Junction Railroad have been involved in an ongoing dispute that will now head to mediation. The dispute concerns the implementation of a change to state laws that would allow freight-dependent industrial development in a 33 mile stretch of rail line in Brush Prairie.
The dispute has been increasingly contentious and reached a boiling point in 2018. It was at that time that county officials, including Chief Civil Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Emily Sheldrick and former council Chair Marc Boldt questioned the validity of the lease. Before that, the lawyer for a local environmental group had also questioned the lease and whether or not the county had properly ratified it.
A judge temporarily blocked a non-profit from using the rail line for its annual Christmas excursion because of the ambiguity of the lease, at which point both sides agreed to abide by the lease until they entered in mediation in March.
Though Clark County Manager Shawn Henessee brought up the upcoming mediation, he did not answer a question presented to him at the county council’s most recent meeting. The current Council Chair, Eileen Quiring stated she just hopes “…that we will have this mediated and come to an agreement about what the lease states.”
She is one of the few involved in mediation who are optimistic about the outcome.
If the mediation is unsuccessful and the county continues to question the validity of the lease, the railroad junction’s owner will file lawsuit against the county seeking more than $100 million in damages. Many believe there is a high possibility of this occurring.