- The navigability of the Columbia river permits Portland, located more than 100 miles inland from the Pacific Ocean, to function as the major port of the state of Oregon. It could be expected that the waterfront spanning the greatest share of the distance between Portland and the ocean should reflect a multitude of riverine functions associated with a major water route. However, in spite of such expectation, even a cursory examination of the lower Columbia shoreline reveals little specialized riverine use.
The purpose of this study is to synthesize and analyze the information and data relating to the lower Columbia riverfront. Such analysis helps clarify the interrelationship which exists between the sinuous strip of land fronting on the water an driver use or nonuse. The study is empirical and employs three basic geographic concepts: resource utilization, spatial distribution and functional interaction. Analysis explains the spatial distribution of riverfront land. Distributive patterns of riverfront parcels according to physical and economic characteristics are analyzed. The physical characteristics of 1) size, 2) front footage, 3) slope, 4) mean water depth offshore and 5) distance to the navigation channel; together with the economic characteristics of value and demand are described.
Systematic interpretation of the data helps provide a realistic perspective of riverfront resources which portend importance, but which have lacked analysis. Utilization of the economic and physical characteristics, identified above, provide a means of explaining some of the interactions which exists between the waterfront parcels and the river, between adjoining parcels and between the riverfront and its hinterland.
Four hypotheses are tested. These are: 1) less than 20 percent of the riverfront parcels make direct use of the river, 2) land owners are rational managers and utilize their land for their greatest benefit, 3) municipalities have the greatest share of direct river use, and 4) land value is not contingent upon direct river use. Each hypothesis is tested by analyzing seven Columbia County zones and three Clatsop County zones.
Analysis includes interrelating parcel utility with the physical-dimensional variables and the monetary values of land value per acre and total value per acre. The physical variables are correlated and analyzed. Eight variables are arrayed by sequential data plots that depict their distribution by quintiles for the 10 study zones. The data plots also depict parcel utility according to four major uses: 1) direct intensive river use, 2) direct extensive river use, 3) nonriver use and, 4) nonuse.
Study findings reveal that the mix of the physical-dimensional variables do restrict parcel utility. Depth 100 yards offshore from the parcels, coupled with slope and parcel size, are factors which limit river use. For the 572 shoreline study parcels in the two county region the utility percentages for the 24,774.65 acres are: direct intensive river use, 28 percent; direct extensive river use, 9 percent and nonriver use, 63 percent.
The hypothesis stating less than 20 percent of the parcels make direct use of the river was rejected while all other hypotheses were accepted. Research indicated that while over 60 percent of the study acreage was not used for direct river use, nonriver use and often nonuse were viable alternatives for land owners to pursue. A limited portion of the riverfront is used for, or has the potential of being used for, deep draft navigation and related industrial uses. In the aggregate the study parcels encompass an overabundance of land not suited for riverine functions related to waterborne commerce or industrial uses dependent upon the river.
The lower Columbia River region has not succeeded in establishing a powerful sphere of influence, at least in part, because it is situated too close to the Portland metropolitan area. The majority of the study parcels have limited riverine potential due to restrictive qualities and due to competition from the Portland area. Although the riverfront was once the dynamic hub of the two county region, it no longer is and likely will not become so in the future.