CRESWELL – A much-anticipated public hearing on a proposed permit renewal of the nonoperative Foster Farms chicken plant at 33464 West Lane in Creswell was postponed on Aug. 26 with three days’ notice, leaving residents’ questions to linger about the future of the plant.
Trihn Hansen of the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality announced on Friday that the meeting was canceled so that the county can assess if the necessary county land-use permit is still in effect. The county land-use permit is required prior to DEQ renewal of the wastewater permit.
“Really it’s pretty basic,” said Harry Esteve, DEQ communications manager. “The permit wasn’t ready to go forward because Foster Farms needs land-use approval from the county first. We can’t move forward with the water quality permit renewal. Until we have that, we have to hold off on the public hearing.”
Since word broke about the permit renewal proposal in late July, Creswell residents have expressed their concerns to Creswell City council and through written letters to DEQ, with the majority in opposition of the plant reopening. The plant has been inoperative since 2006.
Creswell Mayor Dave Stram sent a letter to the DEQ, compiling concerns on behalf of the council and its constituents. Some of the issues outlined included concern for an unnamed tributary of Camas Swale Creek being used for wastewater discharge. He also questioned how additional discharge would impact aquatic life in the Willamette River as well as residents quality of life who live downriver from Creswell. Stram also expressed concern for the “odor” would significantly reduce the attractiveness and property values of Creswell.
Creswell resident and former city councilor Jane Vincent is not as concerned with Foster Farms reopening. She said she used to work for the plant, and would be in favor of the jobs it would provide for the community.
“When I read some of the things that people had to say about Foster Farms, I got a little bit irritated because I had worked for them,” Vincent said. “People with families that they needed to support work there. I didn’t really care for what they said.”
Creswell residents Tom Partridge and Colleen Stewart are optimistic about the meeting having been postponed.
“I think it’s a good indicator,” Stewart said. “I was upset initially when I heard that the public hearing was being canceled. But there’s no reason to have a public hearing if they’re postponing the permit process for Foster Farms.”
Partridge agreed. “Our assumption is that all those comments are making them have to really be careful,” he said.
Should the land-use permit issue be resolved, a new public comment period will open and the public hearing will be rescheduled. It is too early to know if and when that will be.
Foster Farms did not respond to requests for comment by press time.