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About West Hayden Island

West Hayden Island is located nine miles north of downtown Portland near the confluence of the Columbia and Willamette Rivers. The rivers are part of the Columbia River catchment that drains a 259,000-square-mile basin that includes territory in seven states (Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Wyoming, and Utah) and one Canadian province. The Columbia River flows for more than 1,200 miles, from the base of the Canadian Rockies in southeastern British Columbia to the Pacific Ocean at Astoria, Oregon, and Ilwaco, Washington.

Approximately 800 acres in size, West Hayden Island comprises the western half of Hayden Island situated along the Columbia River. It is currently within Multnomah County but is not part of the City of Portland. West Hayden Island (WHI) is an important natural area in the Columbia River eco-system as well as an important site for future expansion of Portland’s Harbor, a regional economic driver. It has been identified by Metro as regionally significant industrial land and a regionally significant Habitat Conservation Area. A central question in this project is determining how a mix of natural resource areas, industrial development and recreation can be accommodated on WHI.


Hayden Island probably originated as a mid-channel bar in a shallow portion of the Columbia and grew into a series of islands, shoals and channels, based on early survey maps. Subsequent dikes placed along the island, placement of fill on the island, the dredging of areas for boat moorage, and the construction of groins to stabilize the banks have helped form the various islands into the single land mass it is today.

The western part of the island is 800+ acres of relatively undeveloped land. Much of West Hayden Island is vegetated with black cottonwood trees and an understory of Himalayan blackberry and other native and non-native plants. There are also meadows, wetlands, open sandy fill areas, beaches, and shallow water areas. Development on West Hayden Island includes electrical power lines, transmission towers, the Columbia Wastewater Treatment Plan pump house and de-chlorination facility, and dredge spoil dewatering and storage areas.

Natural Resources and Wildlife Habitat around Hayden Island

In 2005, Metro adopted the “Nature in Neighborhoods” program which adopts a regional approach to their fish and wildlife habitat goals, known as Goal 5. As a part of this program, WHI was identified as a moderate Habitat Conservation Area because it contained both high development value and high riparian habitat values.

Wildlife habitats on WHI support a variety of mammal, bird, reptile, amphibian and insect species. A number of studies in the 1990s identified seven species of mammals, 81 species of birds, two amphibian species, nine butterfly and moth species and six aquatic insect species. Threatened, endangered, or sensitive wildlife species, which have been observed on WHI, include bald eagle, pileated woodpecker, willow flycatcher, and painted turtle (Smyth 1999). Forest habitat provides nesting, roosting, and perching locations for a number of bird species. The Black Cottonwoods on WHI are 4 percent of the remaining cottonwood habitat in a 100 river mile length.

Salmon, steelhead and lamprey migrate past Hayden Island to upstream spawning grounds; their offspring migrate back to the Pacific Ocean. During this migration, which varies in season, salmon depend on channel and shallow water habitat which include the shoreline of Hayden Island. Other salmon use the River year round, inhabiting the Island’s off channel and shallow water habitat.

Regionally Hayden Island is part of a network of islands and main land riparian corridors that includes Smith and Bybee Wetlands, Sauvie Island, Vancouver Lake Lowlands, Ridgefield Wildlife Refuge and the Lower Columbia River Estuary. Each of these provides specific values for wildlife at a local and regional scale.

West Hayden Island as a Regionally Significant Industrial Area

In 2004 Metro designated WHI as a Regionally Significant Industrial Area. Metro’s land designations are intended to guide future growth within the region. An area designated as “regionally significant” implies that the area has special characteristics which lend itself to future industrial development. In the case of West Hayden Island, the area is in close proximity to the region’s transportation infrastructure, including rail and marine routes, highways, and the Portland Airport.

In 2006, the Port of Portland completed a trade analysis and forecast for the Portland region that suggested the demand for marine industrial land was greater than what is currently available for development on both sides of the Columbia River. These results and the timing of the Columbia River Crossing and the East Hayden Island Plan provided some of the momentum for the current planning process to come together at the same time. Metro will be considering an Urban Growth Boundary expansion in 2009.

The Port of Portland has been working with Metro, the Port of Vancouver USA and others to further analyze the economic need by looking at cargo growth and the regional supply of marine industrial property. Reports indicate that trade volumes will double over the course of the next 20 years.

Acquisition History and Previous Planning Projects

West Hayden Island had been owned by Portland General Electric for many years. In 1983, while under PGE’s ownership, the island was included in Metro’s Urban Growth boundary to serve marine industrial needs.

  • In 1987, PGE completed an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and received the appropriate permitting to develop on WHI. The proposed development was to provide access for deep-draft vessels and included construction of a bridge, extension of utilities to the site and construction of on-site land transportation facilities.

  • The Port of Portland purchased the PGE properties in 1994 for marine industrial development.

  • In the late 1990s the Port began both an annexation process and creating an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for prospective development. The project was abandoned due to changing economic, environmental and political conditions. The Port has since held the property in reserve for future potential marine development.

  • The Port was approached by the City to pursue the current planning process in order to take advantage of other planning processes currently underway. The City will coordinate this effort with planning work being done on the Columbia River Crossing (CRC) bridge project and East Hayden Island.

Click here to download a document created by Ball Janik Attorneys, which provides additional background information on the planning history of West Hayden Island.