Mid Columbia Economic Development District, in conjunction with a Columbia Gorge Economic Development steering committee, conducted seven regional outreach sessions in 2016 to develop a comprehensive economic development strategy (CEDS) for counties in the Columbia Gorge region. This includes Wasco County.
The CEDS includes some basic demographic data as well as economic data that provides context for many of the strategies that resulted from the planning process. The priority goals that were identified were:
- Financial capital and entrepreneurial environment
- Regulatory Environment
Several challenges and opportunities identified under these goals have implications for land use planning.
The infrastructure goal specifically targets broadband as a critical goal to improving internet access to our rural communities. A key strategy to support this goal is to reduce barriers to efficient broadband expansion and support streamlined permitting for broadband projects. Planning is called out as a partner for helping to identify opportunities for easier, more efficient permitting.
Currently, in Wasco County outside the National Scenic Area, utility facilities under 200′ in height are not required to go through a land use review. Many of the fiber optic lines are placed in the right of way, and do go through Public Works for permitting. The Wasco County Public Works and Planning Departments collaborate to flag any concerns about projects.
There is opportunity in Wasco County 2040 to develop some additional policies that support broadband and other types of infrastructure development through a streamlined approach. We would love to hear your feedback. You can submit comments through this project website or email or mail comments to the Planning staff. We would also love you to spend 7 minutes and answer 10 questions by taking our current survey on a variety of issues including economic development.
For the National Scenic Area, there is also still an opportunity to provide input about utility and infrastructure development by getting involved in Gorge 2020, the Management Plan update. The Columbia River Gorge Commission has a public input tool available here: https://gorge2020.consider.it/.