News Briefs: Behemoths Barge the Columbia | Justice for a Horse is Worse, Of Course | Student Non-Voters | Boosting Biking | Eliott Update | Gravel Pit, Wildish Land Saved | Activist Alert | War Dead |
Slant: Short opinion pieces and rumor-chasing notes
Will politics or science determine clean water?
BEHEMOTHS BARGE THE COLUMBIA
|Twisty Highway 12|
The massive superloads of tar sands equipment being fought by conservationists, native tribes and concerned citizens have begun to make their ponderous trip up Oregon’s Columbia River.
The equipment, some of which weighs half a million pounds and stands three stories tall, is part of ExxonMobil’s Kearl Module Transport Project (KMTP) and is destined for the Alberta tar sands. The tar sands are viewed by oil companies as the next oil boom and by opponents as a toxic and climate change disaster.
Trish Weber, a Corvallis electrical engineer and land use planner, is one of the founders of All Against the Haul, a group organizing against the planned route for the super-sized oil machines. The haul route not only goes up the Columbia but follows twisting, turning scenic Highway 12, bordered by rushing rivers and pristine hot springs from Lewiston, Idaho, through Missoula, Mont., and north to Canada, endangering salmon habitat and causing alterations to the roadways and forests as it goes.
Weber says despite the fact that authorization for the route has not gone through — it’s been held up by another similar superload case in Idaho Supreme Court — ExxonMobil has already sent at least 16 massive loads up the Columbia.
She says the loads are going up the river 24/7. Barge accidents are not unheard of on the Columbia. In July 2009 a barge was grounded for two days in the river. In other incidents barges have run into the dams, and in February 2008 several barges apparently hit a lock gate at the John Day Dam, damaging the gate with a repair cost exceeding $4 million. According to a report in The Oregonian on barge incidents, the Columbia’s high winds, fog and river traffic from barges to fishing boats to recreating kite boarders make the river tricky to navigate.
The KMTP calls for more than 200 loads to make their way up the river, which is home to wild salmon and steelhead populations. The loads will eventually become part of a bitumen separation facility. Forty loads are expected to go up the Columbia before the dams shut down for repairs in December.
The Montana Department of Transportation still has not released its findings on the state Environmental Assessment it conducted, though EW located a draft “Finding of No Significant Impact.” According to an Oct. 19 article in The Texas Tribune, the super heavy loads that have been hitting Texas roads thanks to the boom in natural gas drilling and the wind industry are making an impact, and “trucking companies and the industries they serve rarely shoulder the cost of fixing the damage, which can run in the hundreds of thousands of dollars for a single state road.”
Several states are seeing an increase in superloads, and several studies on the loads’ effects on roads and bridges say not enough research has been done on the impacts in each state.
The Idaho Supreme Court decided Nov. 1 that there was no “final agency action” that warranted judicial review and vacated a lower court’s ruling, deeming it premature because the Idaho Transportation Department had not issued a final order on whether the shipments could proceed. This possibly clears the way for a contested case hearing that will allow for more public input. State high court justices didn’t weigh in on the merits of the case.
Weber says if Idaho permits the superloads to hit the road, “Our legal team is ready to file a lawsuit.”
The Montana attorneys for the Western Environmental Law Center, which has its main office in Eugene, are part of All Against the Haul’s legal team. Donations to aid All Against the Haul’s fight against the superloads can be made through WELC.
For more on the superloads and their environmental and social issues go to westernlaw.org (WELC), allagainstthehaul.org, www.wildsalmon.org and fightinggoliath.org — Camilla Mortensen
JUSTICE FOR A HORSE IS WORSE, OF COURSE
|Grace, shortly after rescuers stepped in|
Ginger and Grace have a lot of things in common. Both are about 20 years old, both have fighting spirits and both were starved nearly to death before being rescued by horse-lovers.
Their stories take a gentler turn at Strawberry Mountain Mustangs near Roseburg, where they’re being rehabilitated with the simple addition of mushy alfalfa pellets to their diets. A couple of months ago bones jutted out of their hips and spines towered above their rib cages, but those sharp lines have softened with the addition of 200 pounds apiece of healthy flesh. They each need at least 200 more.
Darla Clark, owner of the rescue operation, says that Ginger and Grace were two of the most serious cases she’s seen in which the horses have actually survived. “This situation with this horse is neglect,” Clark said of Ginger, “and the fact that we have rehabilitated her so quickly proves that case beyond any reasonable doubt. If I can put 200 pounds of weight on this horse in 45 days, her previous owners could have as well.”
The greatest difference in the stories of Ginger and Grace is what’s happening with their owners. Grace’s owners are being charged with criminal animal neglect in Douglas County (where she was seized), while Ginger’s owner, in Lane County, is likely to face no more than a violation equivalent to a traffic ticket.
Ginger’s case was monitored by Lane County Animal Services (LCAS) for four or five months before her owner voluntarily surrendered her. The owner was ordered to take her to a veterinarian, and she saw one who Clark says would have given the owner the simple and helpful prescription of alfalfa pellets, the same food that has rehabilitated Ginger at Strawberry Mountain Mustangs.
The definition for second degree animal neglect is, a Class B misdemeanor, is that “the person intentionally, knowingly, recklessly or with criminal negligence fails to provide minimum care for an animal in such person’s custody or control.” A Class A misdemeanor (first degree neglect), means that the same actions result in serious physical injury or death.
LCAS Director Tom Howard says that the decision not to pursue a criminal prosecution is at the discretion of animal control officers, and that the owner did show some responsibility by voluntarily surrendering Ginger. “The most important part of this is not that someone is prosecuted, but that the horse ended up in a really good situation,” Howard said. “I think that is the greatest outcome that we have.”
Clark and Douglas County Animal Control say they hope to introduce legislation through the Oregon Animal Control Council next year that would make aggravated neglect a felony.
“These are crimes, and they need to be handled as crimes,” Clark says.” She worries that without a record, owners will neglect horses repeatedly, causing suffering and eventually death. “I totally respect our animal control guys, whatever county they’re in, but evidently in Lane County, something needs to change.”
You can like Grace on Facebook and see photos of both horses recovering by going to http://wkly.ws/w0 or searching for: “Grace — the little horse with the big spirit.” — Shannon Finnell
As the voting drop boxes closed Nov. 2, a large and influential number of college students left their ballots jammed under midterm study guides, in recycling bins alongside old bills, doubling as placemats on the kitchen table, or, for some, still waiting in a mailbox.
The voter precinct enveloping University of Oregon and its surrounding student-heavy neighborhoods has had a history of neglect when it comes to local election participation. While 86 percent of the UO area’s voters cast their ballots in the Nov. 2008 presidential election, a measly 11.8 percent partook in the May 18th primary election. Judging by students’ general apathy prior to this week’s voting deadline, this trend hasn’t changed.
“It’s not my top priority,” Ashley Kelley, a 21-year-old UO student said. “I just haven’t taken the time to educate myself on the candidates, so I feel like it’s not worth it.”
Kelley, a Portland native, said she hasn’t voted in most elections due to a general lack of time to learn about the issues at stake.
Pierce Kennedy, a 20-year-old UO junior, agreed with Kelley.
“I don’t feel informed on what’s being voted on and I don’t think a lot of people who do vote are either,” Kennedy said. “A lot of people just vote to say they voted.”
Kennedy added that one of his professors was so adamant on getting his class to participate that he urged the class to “just vote, it doesn’t matter for what!”
Amelia Botteron, 20, one of the few students who voted this week, said that participating in any election has always been a standard for her. However, she relied on off-campus information to educate herself prior to Tuesday’s election.
“Honestly, if candidates visited campus, it would make a big difference,” Botteron said. “Students could connect with the politicians and understand how they may be affected by what’s on the ballot, which is key.”
While many students left their ballots blank due to insufficient information, others based their lack of participation on a general distrust in the political system.
“So many politicians say that they are going to make a change and don’t,” 22-year-old Sean Lynch said. Lynch is not registered to vote. “What’s the point of voting if no one is keeping their promises? I’ll wait until I trust the people who run.” — Alex Zielinski
Can Eugene, already the top city of its size in the nation for biking, become like cities in Europe where half of the people bike — saving huge costs in healthcare, freeways and global warming while creating some of the happiest, most livable cities in the world?
|UO Bike Music Festival|
More than a hundred people interested in the question packed into a meeting room at the Eugene Electric Station Oct. 22 to hear a panel discussion on a “Transportation Remix” for Eugene.
At 11 percent, Eugene’s biking rate is more than 20 times higher than the U.S. average, and Eugene is the top biking city of its size or larger in the nation.
But biking in Eugene could go a lot higher. Hugh Prichard, a local developer, toured European cities with bike rates as high as 70 percent. Cities in northern Europe have high rates year round despite heavy rain, winter darkness, snow and wind, and Paris and cities in Spain have overcome a bike unfriendly design and culture in recent years to reach high cycling rates, according to Prichard. “The idea that it’s Europe and that it won’t happen here is just wrong,” he said.
Prichard showed slides of families with multiple children commuting in cargo bikes and separated cycle tracks crowded with all ages and types of people, many riding to work in suits and/or high heels.
In Groningen, a Dutch city about Eugene’s size with about 70 percent biking, the cars “get to sit behind delivery trucks for many hours while the bicycles whiz by” in separated lanes, Prichard said. On a street in Copenhagen, there are twice as many bikes going by per day as Coburg Rd. in Eugene has cars, according to Prichard.
Prichard said a key part of Denmark’s success has been marketing “to view people on bikes with affection.” A pick-up truck driver on Coburg Rd. needs to understand that bikes are reducing congestion and gas prices for him and freeing up parking spaces, he said. “That’s good news for someone who will never get on a bike.”
Portland consultant Jessica Roberts is working on increasing Eugene’s bike rate as part of a new bicycle and pedestrian plan for the city (www.tiny.cc/qf74b). “We are in an exciting moment,” the Alta Planning consultant said of the effort to increase biking. “The number one thing people are asking for is more separation from vehicles,” she said.
Ed Fischer, a former state traffic engineer with ODOT, toured Europe as part of a federal trip to look at ways cities have attracted more cyclists by making them feel safer. Some of the new cycletracks in Portland are separated from cars only by paint rather than the curbs used in countries with higher bike rates, he noted. “You would not call this a cycletrack in Europe,” Fischer said.
Fischer said data show increased biking can snowball as more people make biking safer due to a “safety in numbers” phenomenon. “There’s a real awareness of bicycles and pedestrians out on the street when there’s a lot more of them.”
With obesity rates in the U.S. about triple that of Europe, there’s a strong argument to increase biking here, said Sheila Lyons, the bike and pedestrian coordinator for ODOT. “This is the first generation of 10-year-olds that is not expected to live as long as we do,” she said. “The public health society is terrified.” —Alan Pittman
(A version of this story first appeared at Eugenecycles.com)
Habitat-shmabitat. The Oregon Board of Forestry (BoF) proposed a plan on Nov. 1 that would ramp up logging from 25 million board feet to 40 million board feet in the Elliott State Forest and use a controversial “take avoidance” method of trying not to kill protected fish and wildlife during logging.
The Elliott is a Coast Range forest that contains mature and old-growth forests that give a home to threatened species like the marbled murrelet, northern spotted owl and Coho salmon (See EW cover story 10/28).
The board has been unable to come up with a plan for logging in a way that doesn’t harm listed species. The current Habitat Conservation Plan has been called flawed by conservationists, and local group Cascadia Wildlands alleges the habitat plan does not take into consideration new information showing the northern spotted owl is facing increased threats.
A 2004 attempt at revising the habitat plan faced criticism from the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) for fish buffers that are too small and would not protect threatened salmon from the effects of logging. A solution has not been reached.
“Take avoidance,” the method the BoF is planning to use, is based on finding protected species in the forest, and trying not to log in ways that would directly harm them.
Frances Eatherington of Cascadia Wildlands says, “If the biologists say increased logging will harm endangered species, the state should just believe them, instead of trying to push through an unrealistic increase in clearcutting in a time when the housing market doesn’t even need the wood.” For more on the Elliott go to cascwild.org — Camilla Mortensen
GRAVEL PIT, WILDISH LAND SAVED
Things might be looking up for local salmon. A little more Lane County land was put into trust this fall. The McKenzie River Trust (MRT) announced its acquisition of a recently active, 56-acre gravel quarry owned by Douglas Melevin on Nov. 2, and Friends of Buford and Mt. Pisgah and The Nature Conservancy announced that the much anticipated Wildish land acquisition went through on Oct. 29. This marks two properties along Lane County rivers preserved from further extraction and development.
Joe Moll, MRT executive director says the group has renamed the Melevin land the “Coburg Aggregate Reclamation Project (CARP).” The tongue-in-cheek conservationist humor came about, he says, because “ironically, the CARP site includes warm water ponds that have a healthy population of beautiful but unwanted non-native carp.” Moll says, “Restoration of these floodplain habitats will make things better for cold water native species. Maybe down the road we’ll refer to it as Seasonally Animated Landscapes, Management Objective: NATIVES.”
The acquisition represents a tremendous land conservation legacy for the Melevin family, MRT says. All mining has stopped on the property, which in addition to housing the carp, provides habitat for a wide range of species, including several listed species: Oregon chub, upper Willamette spring Chinook and red-legged frogs. The property is adjacent to MRT’s Green Island restoration project on the McKenzie River.
The less deftly named but equally important Willamette Confluence Project is a 1,270-acre property located where the Middle and Coast Forks of the Willamette River converge near Mount Pisgah.
It was purchased from the Wildish family of Eugene by The Nature Conservancy for $23 million and has an array of habitats (river, stream, riparian, wetland, forest, oak savanna and prairie) that are home to at-risk Chinook salmon, steelhead, northern red-legged frogs, vesper sparrows and western meadowlarks.
Chris Orsinger of Friends of Buford Park says the group will begin to offer guided public tours this month. In addition, interested volunteers can assist with habitat restoration, such as invasive species removal and native plantings.
Funding for both purchases is aided by the Bonneville Power Administration’s funding for mitigating impacts resulting from the construction and operation of its dams on the Willamette.
• The Eugene Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee will discuss Fern Ridge and North Bank path design and their annual report on Thursday, Nov. 4 from 5:30-7:30 pm in the Atrium’s Sloat room.
• The Eugene City Council will discuss whether to pay the Arlie development company millions of dollars for ridgeline park land on Monday, Nov. 8 at 5:30 pm in the McNutt room, City Hall.
• The Eugene School Board, struggling with massive budget cuts, will meet in a work session on Wed., Nov. 10, 7-9 pm at 200 North Monroe St.
• Public comment on the Elliot State Forest logging plan (http://tiny.cc/5l6sa) has opened. Send comments by Dec. 30 to Keith Baldwin, Oregon Dept. of Forestry, 2600 State St., Salem, OR 97310 or firstname.lastname@example.org by email.
• 1,351 U.S. troops killed* (1,339)
• 9,095 U.S. troops injured** (8,825)
• 594 U.S. contractors killed** (594)
• $361.3 billion cost of war
• $102.7 million cost to Eugene taxpayers ($102.0 million)
• 4,422 U.S. troops killed* (4,421)
• 31,935 U.S. troops injured** (31,935)
• 185 U.S. military suicides (updates NA)
• 1,507 U.S. contractors killed** (1,507)
• 107,594 to 1.2 million civilians killed*** (107,594)
• $740.5 billion cost of war
• $210.6 million cost to Eugene taxpayers ($210.2 million)
* through Oct. 25, 2010; source: icasualties.org; some figures only updated monthly
** sources: icasualties.org, defense.gov, U.S. Dept. of Labor
*** highest estimate; source: iraqbodycount.org; based on confirmed media reports; other groups calculate civilian deaths as high as 655,000 (Lancet survey, 2006) to 1.2 million (Opinion Research Business survey, 2008)
•• Well, that sucked. Record unemployment, an avalanche of campaign cash from millionaires and limp turnout by Democrats swept right wingers into office from Lane County to Salem to Washington, D.C. The Lane County Commission will now be controlled by the timber, gravel and developer barons who funded Sid Leiken and Jay Bozievich’s victories. If Chris Dudley holds his narrow lead, and with Republicans gaining in the Legislature, Nike CEO Phil Knight may just get the big tax breaks he lavishly paid for. School kids may suffer the worst with revenue diverted for tax breaks to the rich and to the additional prisons needed with Measure 73. There’s also a new bipartisan assault on teachers by get-tough school bullies brewing. On the bright side, things can only get better. The no money for government folks will now have the opportunity to show what they can do when there actually is no money for government. Voters won’t like the result. You break it, you own it. Here in Eugene, people may have to look to lawsuits rather than the county commissioners so that wackos don’t literally shit in drinking water in the name of property rights. Democrats still hold the U.S. Senate, Peter DeFazio didn’t lose to a nut, local Rep. Val Hoyle won in a tight race and Democrats appear likely to still narrowly hold on to the Oregon Legislature. Republicans have no mandate. Their platform was a TV attack ad secretly funded by some right-wing tycoon. The mandate for Democrats is clear: Get some spine. Hiring the same generals and Wall Streeters to run the bloody wars and whacked economy the same as the Republicans has turned off the base that showed up in 2008 in record numbers hoping for change.
• More than 400 folks from Lane County concerned about clean water? Cool! Or wait, was the mass turn out Oct. 26 for the Lane County Commission’s public hearing on the proposed drinking water protection and flood plain ordinances really about clean water and property rights, or were a lot of those Tea Partiers and Art Robinson supporters — demanding the meeting conduct the Pledge of Allegiance — looking to make a bang and big noise right before the election? If so, that sucks, because it means the folks who really wanted to give the commissioners feedback on the water issue got drowned out. And now it looks like they won't get heard with conservative commissioners voting Nov. 3 to cancel the scheduled Nov. 9 meeting at Springfield High (see EW story this issue). Go to the county’s webpage (www.tiny.cc/2fja0) and read up on the drinking water war, and check our blog for updates.
• Savage Love columnist Dan Savage’s “It Gets Better Project” has taken off, making headlines across the country and getting the word out to LGBQT kids and teens that it might be hard now, but it does get better. Televangelist Oral Robert’s gay grandson posted a video; Facebook employees did too. Some videos are slick and produced and some are just everyday people in front of their computer’s camera in their rooms. The UO Law School OUTLaws made a video that earned a big story in The RegisterGuard last week (Good news, gay teens: You too can grow up and be a lawyer … oh wait, is that good news?). But really, the more attention this project gets the better, and the more it inspires adults to make sure trans, bi, lesbian and gay kids don’t have to WAIT for it to get better, the better. No kid should be bullied. We thought we’d point out to the R-G that the “syndicated sex advice column for readers of all sexual orientations” that prompted the It Gets Better Project runs in what the R-G usually calls “a local weekly paper” — um, THIS weekly paper, OK? We’re proud of our smut, especially when it seeks to do some good in the world.
• Washington voters turned down Initiative 1098, which would have established an income tax on our neighbors for the first time. Advocated by Bill Gates Sr., 1098 would have applied only to the highest earning 1.2% of taxpayers, but big money convinced even the lowest earning that this was a dirty foot in the door to soon be followed by high income taxes on everybody. This “no” shouldn’t affect discussions in Eugene about city income taxes on the upper brackets to save our schools. Oregon recently supported a statewide tax increase on the rich, and Eugene has a history of generous votes to support fine public schools, some of the best in the country. We could do it again.
• In the midst of the Great Recession, Eugene should be thankful that one of its most important industries is running against the tide. With the job market offering little competition, the UO is breaking enrollment records. UO enrollment is up almost 7,000 students since 1993. That’s 7,000 more students bringing their parents’ money, savings, federal grants and/or student loans to spend in Eugene, generating thousands of the city’s highest paying, least polluting and most creative jobs. The UO plans to add another 1,000 students to the city’s vibrancy in the next few years. But at some point, even though only one in 10 UO budget dollars comes from the state, state budget cuts may put the breaks on the economic growth here. That is, unless Republicans realize that they can get far more job bang for their buck in funding education than funding corporate tax breaks.
• Huck the Fuskies, and huck them as far and hard as you can, Ducks. From the moment in 1948 when the University of Washington cast the bad-faith traitor vote screwing the Ducks out of a Rose Bowl appearance, there has been no love lost between Oregon and Washington. Anyone who read the fine Oct. 31 NYT sports piece on the Ducks, heralding not just Chip Kelly's “blur” offense but the team's less noticed weapons like wide receiver Jeff Maehl, realizes that this is our time, our year and altogether our conference to take. Good luck, Dogs. So what is a football strategist to do? Last week, USC tried to speed up their game, but the Trojan center snapped the ball off the quarterback's leg and the Ducks recovered the fumble. Oops! Maybe the Huskies should try an old-fashioned, grind-it-out approach Saturday at Autzen. The contrast could be fun, but the results... well, as they say on the Sopranos, fughettaboutit!
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