PORTLAND - A debate over development on West Hayden Island heated up Thursday.
The Port of Portland wants to develop a section of the island along the Columbia River, but others say those plans would threaten people and wildlife.
Thursday night, the city's planning commission listened to public testimony on the issue.
The proposal would allow the Port of Portland to build a new marine terminal on 300 acres of West Hayden Island. The other 500 acres would be set aside as a nature preserve.
The Port says a future terminal there would bring thousands of jobs to Portland area and millions in local and state tax revenue.
But environmental groups say it would triple the amount of air pollution, increasing the risks of lung cancer or other respiratory illnesses for humans, and it would destroy precious wildlife habitat.
“This will destroy one of the most important natural areas in the region. The mitigation that is being proposed is completely inadequate,” said Bob Sallinger, Conservation Director for the Audubon Society of Portland.
Mayor Sam Adams says the marine terminal is key for the future of Portland's economy.
“We have a goal to double our exports in the next five years and we'll need to double them again in the following five years,” said Adams,
Adams says if the proposal doesn't get approved by the end of the year and the end of his term, it may take another decade before it’s considered again.
He expects the proposal to head to the City Council next month.