HEPPNER - The Port of Morrow has decided to withdraw a proposal to create a landfill four miles south of Heppner expressly for waste from the Heppner Power Plant.

The proposed site, near Clark's Canyon Road and Highway 206, was an abandoned quarry less than an acre in size and would not have been open to the public. But the plan drew criticism from both county planners and the state Department of Environmental Quality.

The county Planning Department concluded the site was too close to an existing home and the public highway. DEQ said it was just too small.

A landfill of less then an acre in size wouldn't have handled 20 tons of ash a day for long, said Scott Fairley, a natural resource specialist with DEQ.

The city of Heppner took no official position on the proposal but had raised concerns about the new landfill creating more truck traffic through town.

The power plant is being run by the Port of Morrow but will change ownership soon. Pinnacle Power out of Canada agreed to buy the plant, allowing the port to move away from the day-to-day operation. However, Port Manager Gary Neal said the port feels obligated to be sure the new owners have a place to dump the waste.

Dumping the ash outside Heppner would have been cheaper than going to the Finley Buttes Landfill south of Boardman, which charges $16 a ton and is about 70 miles round-trip from the power plant compared to 10 miles round-trip to the site south of town.

"We've been looking at alternatives for the last year," Neal said.

With plans for a new landfill abandoned, a deal with Finley Buttes is likely, Neal said. Instead of one load a day going out to Finley Buttes, the port may decide to only make one run a week to save money.

"It appears we've come up with some solutions," Neal said.

For now, the ash is being stored in concrete bunkers at the power plant.

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