ASTORIA - The Clatsop County Commission authorized Board Chairman Jeff Hazen last week to sign a letter of support for the proposed Columbia-Pacific National Heritage Area feasibility study.

Jay Flint of ShoreBank Enterprise Cascadia - the nonprofit community development institution coordinating the effort - was on hand to answer the commissioners' questions.

Commissioner John Raichl asked about some of the distrust people have regarding federally-funded projects like a heritage area.

The plan ShoreBank is proposing is different from the plans guiding the other 49 national heritage areas across the country, said Flint and David Szymanski, superintendent of the Lewis and Clark National Historical Park.

If the feasibility study passes the scrutiny of Congress, it will receive some federal money, but the plan is to use that money as seed money to start a heritage-centered investment fund.

"We're operating on a very different model," Flint said. "When the (federal) money runs out, we'll still be operating."

The two men also responded to concerns that a national heritage area would take over peoples' land and property rights.

With federal investment, the question often is "What else does it do?" Szymanski said. But this project, he said, was "always intended as a community development program."

The parameters of the program make it illegal for them impinge on the authority of local government, state government and private property owners, Szymanski said.

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