News Briefs: Roundup Ready Plants and Pesticides | EWEB Waters Urban Sprawl | Oregon's Alpha Wolf Dead? | Medical Pot Initiative Nears Goal | Activist Alert | Lane Area Herbicide Spray Schedule | Lighten Up | Corrections/Clarifications
Slant: Short opinion pieces and rumor-chasing notes
Happening People: Ray Brown
ROUNDUP READY PLANTS AND PESTICIDES
Pesticides and herbicides are in the air these days in Lane County and across the country.
On June 21, the U.S. Supreme Court decided to lift a federal judge’s ban on planting genetically modified Roundup Ready alfalfa seeds.
In 2007 organic farmers sued Monsanto, the manufacturer of the widely used herbicide Roundup. The farmers argued that the GM alfalfa had not been properly assessed by the USDA for its environmental impact. There are fears that the herbicide-resistant crop could spread and become a “superweed.”
But the Supremes also ruled that the USDA had broken the law by allowing the seeds to be sold in 2005 in the first place. Technically, this means the genetically modified alfalfa cannot be sold until the USDA carries out an impact assessment. The company is also fighting a lawsuit from Oregon organic farmers on its Roundup Ready sugar beet seed, which the farmers say could contaminate their organic crops. The Willamette Valley supplies nearly all of U.S. sugar beet seeds. A district judge in California ruled last September that the USDA did not adequately assess the environmental affects of the GM sugar beet seeds either.
Local group the Pitchfork Rebellion has been feeling successful in their own fight against pesticides. The rural Triangle Lake area farmers and homeowners have long protested the aerial spraying of pesticides by timber companies in the area, which they say are affecting their health and their crops.
The group recently petitioned the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for a pesticide aerial spray buffer zone around homes and schools, citing the unique geography of the area. On June 17 three EPA representatives led by Pesticide Enforcement Coordinator Chad Schultze from the EPA’s Pacific Northwest regional headquarters in Seattle toured Highway 36 with a dozen members of the Pitchfork Rebellion and toured locations that Pitchfork Rebel Day Owen says people have been harmed by pesticide spray drift.
After the tour the group met at the Deadwood Community Hall and seven EPA scientists from Washington, D.C., joined the group by teleconference to hear a presentations by Owen and agronomist Stuart Turner on the issue of how pesticide spray can drift and affect areas that are not designated to be sprayed, like organic farms, homes and schools. “The EPA reps — including the scientists in Washington, D.C. — seemed impressed by the tour and our documentation,” Owen says.
The Pitchfork Rebellion received a 45-day extension on the public comment period on their petition. It will now end Aug. 12. For information on the petition contact Day Owen at email@example.com or go the Oregon Toxics Alliance web page http://wkly.ws/mv for links and instructions. — Camilla Mortensen
EWEB WATERS URBAN SPRAWL
While concerned citizens in Eugene put bricks in their toilets and install rain barrels to conserve water, EWEB plans a 10-mile pipeline to pump 150 million gallons a year of water to the lawns and urban sprawl of the Veneta bedroom community.
That’s enough water to fill more than 200 Amazon swimming pools per year. In the next two decades, Veneta wants to double its water use with a growth rate 10 times that of Eugene.
Environmentalists called for the Eugene City Council to join them in opposing EWEB’s plans for the pipeline at a June 14 hearing.
“This is a major regional growth issue,” said Kevin Matthews of Friends of Eugene.
“We’re encouraging unsustainable growth outside the city,” said activist Ashley Miller. Miller said such bedroom community sprawl increases global warming. She said the Veneta pipeline will set a precedent for other EWEB pipelines to Coburg, Junction City and other outlying towns.
Kathy Ging, a local Realtor, testified that Veneta should be looking for conservation such as low-water landscaping rather than the pipeline. “There’s all these lawns,” she said of Veneta.
Howard Bonnett, a member of the city’s Sustainability Commission, said the pipeline “enables sprawl” beyond the city’s urban growth boundary. “Going ahead with this contract is a very big mistake.”
Jan Wilson, an attorney with the Western Environmental Law Center, said the Veneta water pipe “runs directly counter” to Eugene and state regulations and plans to control urban sprawl. She said it’s an “outrage” that EWEB, which touts its environmental friendliness, is behind the pipeline and water waste.
EWEB argues that it needs to send water to Veneta to secure its rights to withdraw more water from the McKenzie River in the future. But that contention appears to have little basis.
Under questioning from city councilors, city staff and a state water regulator said the Veneta pipeline would make little foreseeable difference in the city’s ability to secure water. They said the city likely has enough water rights to last for a hundred years of growth and could easily apply for more water. “That’s like four Eugene’s worth of water,” said Councilor Alan Zelenka of the surplus supply in the McKenzie.
“There are no significant water rights at risk; that’s a myth,” Matthews said.
EWEB has also argued that the Eugene City Council cannot veto its pipeline plan. But the Eugene city charter which created EWEB specifies that the public utility is “subject to the control by the council of extension of water service.”
The pipeline issue has lead some to question whether EWEB has gone rogue and needs larger reform. “The city could take EWEB back if we wanted to,” Councilor Betty Taylor said. — Alan Pittman
OREGON’S ALPHA WOLF DEAD?
In the weeks after the Oregon Fish and Wildlife issued two permits to ranchers to shoot and kill two uncollared wolves as well as seven permits that would allow them to kill collared wolves if they were caught in the act of attaching livestock, ODFW reports that the pack’s alpha male has gone missing.
The alpha male and female are among the Imnaha pack’s four collared wolves. They are the only breeding pair of wolves in the state, and are believed to currently have a litter of 8-week-old pups. ODFW’s Russ Morgan told the La Grande Observer that the 115 pound alpha male went missing about three weeks ago. The collar has either stopped functioning or the wolf is dead, he said.
The wolves, which have been making their way back to Oregon from neighboring states, have been causing controversy in Eastern Oregon lately. Ranchers have reported livestock being attacked and killed by the wolves, which led, ODFW said, to issuing the permits. The permits were recently extended for another week.
According to Josh Laughlin of Cascadia Wildlands, there is no stipulation under the kill permits that allow the shooting of collared wolves that would prevent ranchers from killing the breeding pair.
“Even if the alpha male is dead, ODFW still has the responsibility to try to prevent further depredation since there has already been six confirmed livestock losses to wolves,” said Michelle Dennehy of ODFW. If the wolf was shot, “ODFW will of course investigate what happened if the alpha male is found dead and bring in Oregon State Police if necessary,” she said.
Wolves are currently not listed as endangered species federally, but are protected under Oregon’s Wolf Conservation and Management Plan. The Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), Cascadia Wildlands and other conservation groups are currently suing to help the wolves regain their federal endangered species status in Montana and Idaho, and in the eastern third of Oregon and Washington. The Oregon plan is under review and the public can make written comments until June 30 by sending an email to ODFW.Comments@state.or.us
Noah Greenwald of CBD said, “If the wolf is in fact dead, it highlights just how tenuous wolf recovery in Oregon and the need to take a more cautious approach than the one ODFW has been taking by authorizing killing of two wolves in the pack.” — Camilla Mortensen
MEDICAL POT INITIATIVE NEARS GOAL
Local organizers of an initiative to expand and liberalize the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act announced this week that they are 8,232 valid signatures short of the 82,769 valid signatures needed to put the measure on the November ballot. The deadline for submitting the final batch of signatures is July 2.
Organizers turned in an initial 110,000 signatures May 20 to the Oregon secretary of state and the validity rate exceeded 67 percent, says Jim Greig of the Eugene Voter Power office. He says the campaign turned in an additional 7,000 signatures June 14, and “the prospects of the initiative making the ballot are looking good.”
“Signature gatherers and volunteers across the state have done a great job so far,” says Greig. “However, we don’t want to leave any doubt as we have the opportunity to finish with a momentous push that will get us on the ballot and carry us to victory in November. Grieg says independent public polling indicates 59 percent support for such a measure, with 32 percent opposed and 9 percent undecided.
The measure, if it passes, will create a regulated medical marijuana supply system to provide patients the choice to legally acquire medical pot at licensed dispensaries. The measure would also establish a program for low-income and homebound patients to get the help they need to purchase medical marijuana.
“We are on the verge of making history,” says Greig. To help with the campaign, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call Willamette Valley NORML at 517-0957. See more information at www.coalitionforpatientsrights2010.com
• Brewhaha, a collaboration between the Lane County Bus Project and EW, is back with a discussion titled, “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Budget?” from 7 to 9 pm Thursday, June 24, at Davis’ Restaurant, 94 W. Broadway. Free, all ages. Panelists so far include Rep. Phil Barnhart; Rep. Nancy Nathanson; Brett Rowlett, director of governmental and community relations at LCC; and Steve Robinson, senior policy analyst at the Oregon Center for Public Policy.
• Roger Gray, EWEB’s new general manager, will speak on “EWEB’s Next 100” at City Club of Eugene, 11:45 am Friday, June 25, at the Eugene Hilton. See www.cityclubofeugene.org
• What do the latest budget cuts mean to schools, and our state? What does the future hold? What direction do our schools need to go? “The Economy of Tomorrow is the Education of Today” is a presentation and discussion from 10:30 am to noon Saturday, June 26, at the Hilyard Community Center, 2580 Hilyard St., Eugene. Speakers include Rep. Phil Barnhart; LCC President Mary Spilde; and Joy Marshall, Stand For Children’s Lane County director. Contact email@example.com
• The Many Rivers Group of the Sierra Club is organizing a hike to Mount June and Hardesty Mountain Saturday, June 26. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org The club is also planning a beer social at 6:30 pm Tuesday, June 29, at McMenamins’, 19th and Agate. Contact email@example.com
• The Oregon League of Conservation Voters’ “Fantastic Farm Fiesta” will be from noon to 3 pm Sunday, June 27, at Grateful Harvest Farm in Junction City. Find the event and RSVP on Facebook at http://wkly.ws/mr
• The Opal Network is hosting a free public meeting on “Housing, Homeless & Peer Supported Housing in Mental Health” from 2 to 4 pm Tuesday, June 29, at the Eugene Public Library Bascom/Tykeson Room. Panelists will represent LILA, Laurel Hill Center, St. Vincent de Paul, ShelterCare and White Bird Clinic. For more information, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 345-9106.
• July 26 is the deadline for public comments to the Eugene City Council on a proposal to name the new I-5 Willamette River Bridge the “Whilamut Passage Bridge.” The council will send its nonbinding recommendation to ODOT. Comments can be sent electronically through the city website or in person at the council meetings at 7:30 pm June 28, July 12 and July 26. For more information, call 682-5010.
Lane Area Herbicide Spray Schedule
• ODOT will be spraying invasive species through June and July. Call Tony Kilmer (District 5) at 686-7626 to find out where ODOT is spraying. See forestlanddwellers.org/News/2010-News/ODOT/
• Highway 36: ODOT sprayed portions of Highway 36 with Milestone herbicide near bridges, guardrails and on knapweed on June 14-15, 17 and 21.
• Near Lake, Fish and Coyote creeks: Seneca Jones Timber (461-6245) will add 2,4-D LV6 to other herbicides for ground spraying near Coyote Creek (No. 781-00363).
• Near Greenleaf: Roseburg Resources (935-2307) will ground spray 66 acres (No. 781-00537) and 51 acres (No. 781-00538) with herbicides including Triclopyr Ester near Lake Creek starting June 25.
Compiled by Jan Wroncy, Forestland Dwellers: 342-8332, www.forestlanddwellers.org
Public officials should stop using the phrase “bicycle safety” when talking about bike lanes, warning signs and traffic laws unless they are on the Glenn Beck show. The phrase creates the false illusion that riding a bicycle on the streets — with cars and trucks whizzing by an arm’s length away — can be made safe. In reality, riding a bicycle in the street is an inherently dangerous activity. Like hanging out with Joran van der Sloot. — Rafael Aldave, Eugene
Our cover story on urban sprawl last week (6/17) quoted an email from Shawn Boles saying he was disappointed with an Envision Eugene meeting last month. Boles said after he wrote the email, city staff addressed his concerns to his satisfaction.
• Soccer, football, fútbol. We’re hopeless fans of World Cup 2010. With grace, power, skill and controversies on global display in South Africa’s World Cup, it even seems that America’s sporting provincialism about fútbol is disappearing. A turnaround started with Annie Leibowitz’ beefcake photos of international soccer stars in Vanity Fair, then full-color righteous indignation about the U.S. goal called back on the New York Times front page, simultaneous games on ESPN and ESPN 2. The “beautiful game” has shouldered its way into our popular consciousness, although some boring old sportswriters still don’t get it. How many of you know what a vuvuzela is? The noisemaker has been pre-emptively banned from Yankee Stadium and Wimbledon, but you can still download its noise with an iPhone app. Even the noise of World Cup 2010 is buzzing around the world. And speaking of noise, following the World Cup can be more fun and more culturally diverse in a rowdy crowd. Check out http://wkly.ws/m7 for our listing of bars around town where you can go wild booing the fouls and cheering the chilenas.
• Wolf tails in PDX? We hear from a reliable Portland barkeep that small packs of dark-bearded young men can be seen prowling downtown streets after the bars close, swishing long wolf tails from their backsides. Are they furries out to scritch in the moon-lit alleys? Are they making a political fashion statement in sympathy with Eastern Oregon ranchers? Or are they true werewolves, and will they migrate south to inhabit Eugene’s dark spots? Are they already here?
• We go deep! Media Audit’s updated independent polling tells us Eugene Weekly is now third in the nation among 80 alternative newsweeklies in penetration! That might sound sexy, but it just means an exceptionally high percentage of Lane County’s population reads us. Our penetration rate is exceeded only by the Spokane, Wash., Inlander, and the Madison, Wis., Isthumus. We now have more than 89,000 readers in Lane County, another 6,000 in Corvallis and Albany, and more than 50,000 regular readers online. Thanks to everyone who keeps us alive and thriving! Our growth is the only kind of sprawl worth celebrating.
SLANT includes short opinion pieces, observations and rumor-chasing notes compiled by the EW staff. Heard any good rumors lately? Contact Ted Taylor at 484-0519, editor at eugeneweekly dot com
An avid scholar of our country’s founding documents, Cascade Middle School history teacher Ray Brown was lamenting the erosion of civil liberties a few years back when his son, home from college, asked, “What are you going to do about it?” Taking up the challenge, Brown had a colonial-era costume made in 2006, and he began making public appearances in the guise of A Son of Liberty. “I hand out copies of the Bill of Rights,” he says. “I talk about the ideals and principles that hold us together. I try to be beyond politics.” Brown moved to Eugene in 1979 after five years of teaching in his home state of Ohio. He was hired in the transition from junior high to middle school in the Bethel District, and spent nine years at Shasta Middle School before moving to Cascade. To celebrate his retirement from 36 years of teaching, Brown set out this month to walk across the U.S., carrying camping gear and his costume in a custom-built Equinox three-wheel trailer that can be either pulled or pushed. “I had 2,500 copies of the Bill of Rights printed,” he says. “My wife will send them to post offices ahead of me.” Brown expects to reach the East Coast next January. Follow his progress online at sonoflibertywalk.blogspot.com