Letter to the Editor: Don’t let PVJR steal Christmas



How the Portland Vancouver Junction Railroad (PVJR) Stole Christmas: the story of an out-of-town millionaire who wants to turn Clark County’s historic railroad into his 33-mile industrial wasteland at the expense of all of us.

Once upon a time, there was a rail operator who made a deal with Clark County to use our publicly owned railroad, the Chelatchie Prairie Railroad, which is well known to locals for its beautiful passenger excursions. One day, the rail operator set about lobbying to change a law to bypass typical zoning ordinances in line with Washington state’s Growth Management Act so that he could bring in heavy industry along the rail line and make some big bucks. This law passed and is known as the Freight Rail Dependent Uses (FRDU).

The problem was, the county kept approving residences and schools nearby the rail line as the years went by before the implementation of the FRDU, and he didn’t like the way county staff was interpreting the law. This made the rail operator very unhappy. To get his way, he started making public allegations, spending lots of money in local elections, filing ethics complaints and suing. He even canceled the Christmas trains one year like a true Grinch!

Eventually, the county and he became friends again, and he started telling them that they ought to change the zoning maps to heavy industrial without public input. When that didn’t work, he began claiming that he was not subject to local, state or federal law and had the authority of a U.S. marshal.

Drunk with his believed supreme power, he clear-cut a 20-acre parcel of protected oaks in and near wetlands next to the Curtin Creek Natural Area in Brush Prairie and started unpermitted construction of a road in Chelatchie, harming a fish-bearing creek containing endangered species. He said he did this because he needed to get ready for a rock-mining operation that doesn’t even exist.

These unpermitted activities are being investigated by multiple agencies, and there is plenty of evidence to show that this rail operator has failed to be a decent person. This Grinch has put the Chelatchie Prairie Christmas excursion and so much more under existential threat.

Today, our county retains the lease with this big green monster, and some of our councilors continue to support the grand FRDU plan.

This industrial rail plan will impact all of us. Do you…

Love the Christmas excursion tradition and the natural beauty of our county?

Live within 1 mile on either side of the railroad?

Enjoy clean water and air?

Like fish and/or want them to live?

Care about endangered species?

Want to be safe from derailments such as those in Mosier, Oregon, or East Palestine, Ohio?

Want to fight the climate emergency by preserving our carbon storing forests?

Have an innate burning desire to see justice served against rich bullies who throw their weight around at the expense of regular folk?

Then this is YOUR fight!!! Please join the opposition to Clark County’s partnership with Eric Temple and the Portland Vancouver Junction Railroad.

Karissa Halstrom