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Eugene Weekly : News : 12.30.10





News Briefs:
Potato Patch Idea Grows | Appealing Herbicides | Library Fines Improve Efficiency | Piercy, Taylor Get National Attention | Springfield Looks Ahead | Mortgage Assistance Available | Annual Bird Count Sunday | Activist Alert | Lane Area Herbicide Spray Schedule | War Dead | Corrections / Clarifications |

Slant: Short opinion pieces and rumor-chasing notes

Analysis:

Growth and Prosperity

Public policy often based on unsupported assumptions

Something Euge!

 

 


POTATO PATCH IDEA GROWS

Growing potatoes in composted leaves is a concept touted in EW News Briefs Nov. 18, and the idea appears to be taking root. Potato patches are popping up in at least one Eugene neighborhood, and thanks to email between friends and family members, people in Texas, New Mexico, France, Australia, Guam and elsewhere are expressing interest in trying it.

Fergus Mclean of Green Eugene heard about the concept from David Hazen, who was reportedly inspired by the “Social Business” concept of Muhammad Yunus, a noted Bangladeshi economist and instigator of microloans and microfinance programs worldwide. Mclean in turn got support and advice from Corvallis farmer Harry McCormack of Sunbow Farms. 

Eugene Master Gardener Ginny Ducale is involved and tells EW that some leaf rows have been established in an unused alley in the area of 25th Avenue and Van Buren. The most viable alleys run north and south, providing more sunlight, says Mclean.

“We did three different rows,” says Ducale. “One of compost and leaves, one with leaves and one with leaves and straw.” The rows are about 40 feet long and will be covered with burlap coffee bags purchased at 25 cents each from the Master Composters through the Extension Service. 

Amendments so far are lime and fireplace ashes. “When we plant, we will use an amendment, maybe seaweed or kelp powder or phosphate rock or whatever we determine will be the best,” she says. She is researching what types of potatoes to plant, “maybe three kinds, and then if we can, we will plant beans next.”

 Ducale says leaves were dropped off by the Leaf Collection Team for the city of Eugene, and were from the immediate neighborhood. The purposes are to make use of open land for agricultural purposes, keep the leaves for use in the neighborhood, have a place where neighbors come together and share a process that produces a food product and “to plant something that takes very little time and work but has high yield.”

Potatoes and other produce will be grown in the spring for use by the neighborhood or be donated to FOOD for Lane County, or go directly to low-income residents. 

After the New Year, work parties are planned to move some of the composting leaves into wire hoop cages for planting. The cages are 3 feet wide and 4 feet high. “A mix of soil, leaves, straw and compost will be added to the hoops as the potatoes mature,” says Ducale. 

Anyone interested in participating can call 485-9194 or email ginny@efn.orgTed Taylor

APPEALING HERBICIDES

Local groups and individuals are appealing a BLM decision that would increase the number and type of herbicides that can be applied on the 15.7 million acres of public lands in Oregon it manages. Some of those lands are interspersed with private lands, like those of Day Owen and Maya Gee of the Pitchfork Rebellion, who are among the appellants in the case.

The new rules would apply not only to killing noxious weeds but also would allow use for vegetation control in recreation areas and killing invasive species. 

The decision would replace a 1984 injunction (modified in 1987) limiting the use of herbicides to four different substances that could only be applied to kill noxious weeds. That injunction was the result of a lawsuit by local organization Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides (NCAP).

Environmental groups say that one of their concerns is about the permitted use of 2,4-D, a component of Agent Orange infamous for its contamination with the dioxin responsible for birth defects and cancers in the aftermath of the Vietnam War.  

Lisa Arkin, director of Oregon Toxics Alliance, which is an appellant in the case, says she worries that pesticide use will be increasing without any monitoring of soil and water. “They know that these types of pesticides bio-accumulate in the environment,” Arkin says. “If you spray year after year it increases the likelihood that you’re causing persistent contamination.”

Arkin says that the use of herbicides to kill invasive plants has the potential to go ironically awry by killing microorganisms, worms and beetles and creating an environment in which it is more difficult for native species to flourish. “When we spray these very toxic herbicides, we’re killing the micronutrients in the soil, which makes it easier for a nonnative invasives to grow there,” Arkin says. “The native plants are less hardy, and they grow in small ecosystem area. Invasives can grow in almost anything.”

In its comments on the proposed new rules, NCAP pointed out that the BLM has not addressed the root causes that spread noxious and invasive weeds: land management practices that disturb soil and native vegetation. Other management agencies use alternatives to herbicides as a strategy to combat invasives and control growth. Shade cloths, foraging animals and mechanical removal are all used as alternatives to herbicides in Lane County. — Shannon Finnell 

 

LIBRARY FINES IMPROVE EFFICIENCY

So now that the Eugene Public Library has doubled its fines to 50 cents a day, is the library rolling in dough?

No, not really, according to city spokesperson Laura Philips. “There has not been a significant increase in the total dollars collected,” Philips emailed.  

So are people scared of the fines and not checking out as many books? Nope, according to Philips. Looking at the first few months of data since the fines were raised, “there appears to be no correlation between the amounts of fines and circulation figures,” she wrote.

What does appear to be happening is that the higher fines are having their intended purpose of getting people to return their books on time, according to Phillips. She writes: “This makes it possible for the library to run efficiently and cost-effectively while delivering a high level of service to everyone. Bottom line: The existence of overdue fines leads to responsible borrowing which saves money, not raises money.”

Anyway, fine revenue the library collects doesn’t go directly into the library budget. “Overdue fines go into the general fund to help support library services,” Phillips wrote. 

 Library Journal recently ranked the Eugene Public Library as one of the most efficient in the nation in terms of services delivered per budget dollar. Eugene ranked in the top 3 percent of libraries nationwide in terms of circulation, visits and other services per capita for libraries of similar budgets. 

The Eugene Public Library processes nearly three million check-outs per year, holds events attended by nearly 40,000 people and clocks 300,000 internet sessions. Every day, about 4,000 people walk through the doors. 

Library Director Connie Bennett said in a press release, “Eugene Public Library truly is a top performer, returning the greatest value for taxpayers’ dollars.” — Alan Pittman 

 

PIERCY, TAYLOR GET NATIONAL ATTENTION

Eugene Mayor Kitty Piercy was acknowledged in The Nation magazine as the country’s “Most Valuable Local Official,” and City Councilor Betty Taylor has been named to chair a national panel on municipal policy. 

Piercy made the magazine’s “Progressive Honor Role” in its latest issue based on her “activism to address global warming.”

 “Along with fellow members of the Mayors Innovation Project, Eugene Mayor Kitty Piercy has promoted the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement, now backed by more than 800 local leaders,” reads the article.

“One of her first projects after her 2004 election was a Sustainable Business Initiative that encourages the growth of businesses that produce sustainable products while promoting green building, recycling, natural food, alternative fuel and alternative energy development.”

The magazine reports that Eugene has decreased its city CO2 emissions by 10 percent, and the community recently developed a broader plan to cut carbon, citing city purchases of hybrid vehicles and the use of biodiesel fuel. 

“In addition to her environmental activism, Piercy champions LGBT rights, women’s rights and child-welfare initiatives,” according to The Nation. She is quoted saying at a peace rally, “Some may scorn our local efforts to change national priorities, but I, like you, believe in the power of our city, the fierce grassroots power of our people to do what needs to be done.”

Councilor Taylor was appointed in late December to chair the National League of Cities’ 2011 Human Development Policy and Advocacy Committee. The panel is one of NLC’s seven standing committees developing policy positions and advocating on behalf of municipal governments. NLC is a resource and advocate for 19,000 cities and towns, representing more than 218 million Americans.

 

SPRINGFIELD LOOKS AHEAD 

Eugene is looking at its transportation needs over the next 20 years (see News Briefs last week). and Springfield is also beginning the same state-mandated process. Eugene’s process is commonly referred to as TransPlan, while Springfield’s Transportation System Plan is called the Springfield TSP.

The Springfield TSP will update the policies, projects and strategies that guide transportation planning and investments within the Springfield area for the next 20 years. A new website at www.springfieldtsp.org will be regularly updated with new information and opportunities to participate.

The website has an survey for public input and asks residents about their experience getting around Springfield and the region.  Community members can also identify problem locations and ideas for improvements on a regional interactive map.

“Other local long-range transportation plans from the cities of Eugene and Coburg, Lane Transit District and point2point solutions will be coordinated with the Springfield TSP update,” according to an email from David Reesor, Springfield’s senior transportation planner. “These concurrent planning processes provide a rich opportunity for collaboration and coordination through a Regional Transportation System Plan planning process.”

The survey and interactive map will be available through Jan. 31.

 

MORTGAGE ASSISTANCE AVAILABLE

Online applications are still available for Oregon’s Mortgage Payment Assistance (MPA) program. More than 5,000 homeowners in Oregon will receive up to $20,000 for one year of mortgage payments through this program. 

“The program is designed to help those who have recently lost their jobs or significant business income due to the recession and have fallen behind on their mortgage payments or are struggling to make them and are at risk of foreclosure,” according to Aria Seligmann of the state Housing and Community Services agency.

Applications for the program will be open until Jan. 14. Go to  www.oregonhomeownerhelp.org to apply or call 541-752-7220 for information.

 

ANNUAL BIRD COUNT SUNDAY

The Audubon Society of Lane County will be conducting its 69th annual Christmas Bird Count on Sunday, Jan. 2. The count will be part of the National Audubon Society's 111th annual Christmas Bird Count.  

There will be 27 teams of bird watchers, each led by an expert birder, covering the standard 15 mile-wide circle that includes all of Eugene, east Springfield, LCC, Spencer Butte, Fern Ridge Lake, Alvadore, Coburg and the area north of the Eugene Airport.  

“Some teams even start before daylight to search for owls,” says  Dick Lamster, Count Coordinator. “Afterward, the bird watchers will gather to discuss the day’s activities, submit the list of birds they saw and have a chili dinner.”

Lamster says people who do not want to walk around all day looking for birds can submit the list of birds they saw at their bird feeders in their backyards during the day and this will be added to the totals. Bird feeder watchers should call Herb Wisner at 344-3634 to receive information and the proper forms. 

For other information please call Lamster at 343-8664.  Last year 136 species were seen and 92,541 individual birds were counted.

 

ACTIVIST ALERT

• A “Transition Town” discussion group will meet at 11 am Sunday, Jan. 2, in the meeting space behind Theo’s Coffee Bar at Cozmic Pizza downtown. The group will be discussing The Transition Handbook, and plans to meet the first and third Sundays at the same location. See www.transitiontowneugene.org

• The 2011 State of the County Address will be at 10 am Monday, Jan. 3, at Harris Hall, 125 E. 8th Ave. in Eugene. Commissioner Rob Handy will give the “Looking Back” address, followed by Commissioner Faye Stewart with “Looking Forward.” Circuit Court Judge Mary Ann Bearden will swear in new commissioners Jay Bozievich and Sid Leiken, reelected Commissioner Stewart and reelected Asssessor Anette Spickard.

• Eugene Mayor Kitty Piercy’s 2011 State of the City Address will be at 5:30 pm Tuesday, Jan. 4, at the Hult Center lobby. The annual event is free, open to the public and light refreshments will be served. 

• A five-member committee tasked with advising the Oregon Department of Forestry on the state’s Smoke Management Plan will from 9 am to 2:30 pm Thursday, Jan. 6, at ODF headquarters Building D, 2600 State St. in Salem. Public comments will be received at 2:15 pm. On the agenda will be prescribed burning, burn strategies, alternatives to burning, biomass, technology, the Regional Haze Plan, etc. 

• Springfield Mayor Christine Lundberg’s 2011 State of the City Address will be at 11 am Thursday, Jan. 13, at the Wildish Theater, 630 Main St. Free and open to the public. This is Lundberg’s inaugural address after being appointed mayor. The former council member will be serving out Mayor Sid Leiken’s term following Leiken’s election to the County Commission.  

Planned Parenthood Advocates of Oregon is launching the Lane LAT (Legislative Action Team) at 6 pm Thursday, Jan. 13, with a general meeting. Interested community leaders will meet once a month to plan political strategies and organize local events. For location and other information, contact Nichi Masters, field organizer, at 510-2025 or nichi.masters@ppcw.org to register.

 

LANE AREA HERBICIDE SPRAY SCHEDULE

At Triangle Lake School: Nick Domes of Nick’s Timber Services, (503) 910-1120, will “hack and squirt” maple trees on the hillside next to classrooms on three acres with Arsenal Applicator’s Concentrate (imazapyr, modified nicotine) for Triangle Lake Charter Schools (925-3262) possibly starting Jan. 5 (ODF Notice No. 2010-781-00877). Comments are due Jan. 3 at Oregon Department of Forestry Office in Veneta. Call Paul Clements at 935-2283. Arsenal releases quinolinic acid which is an excitatory neuro-toxin, and causes headaches and depression.

Compiled by Jan Wroncy, Forestland Dwellers: 342-8332, www.forestlanddwellers.org

WAR DEAD

In Afghanistan

• 1,427 U.S. troops killed* (1,427)

• 9,828 U.S. troops wounded in action (9,771)

• 594 U.S. contractors killed (594)

• $379.2 billion cost of war ($376.9 billion)

• $107.8 million cost to Eugene taxpayers ($107.2million)

In Iraq

• 4,421 U.S. troops killed (4,421)

• 31,935 U.S. troops wounded in action (31,935) 

• 185 U.S. military suicides (updates NA)

• 1,507 U.S. contractors killed (1,507)

• 108,377 to 1.2 million civilians killed* (108,235)

• $748.2 billion cost of war ($747.2 billion) 

• $212.8 million cost to Eugene taxpayers ($212.5 million)

Through Dec. 27, 2010; sources: icasualties.org;  

defense.gov, U.S. Dept. of Labor

* highest estimate; source: iraqbodycount.org; based on confirmed media reports; other groups calculate Iraqi civilian deaths as high as 655,000 (Lancet survey, 2006) to 1.2 million (Opinion Research Business survey, 2008)

CORRECTIONS/ CLARIFICATIONS

Regarding our cover story Dec. 9, “Freshwater Fisticuffs,” neither the McDougals nor Greg Demers nor any of their entities own any interest in Tribute Properties LLC.

 

 

 

SLANT

Our Fragile Tap Water

We much-rained-upon Oregonians west of the Cascades don’t worry much about droughts. We turn on our faucets, and cool, clean water pours out in a seemingly endless supply. 

So when local landowners found out this fall about Lane County's renewed effort to protect Eugene’s drinking water, the issue seemed less about keeping the McKenzie River clean — doesn’t EWEB say our tap water is awesome? — than  private land rights. Right?

Wrong. 

We’ve been spoiled when it comes to water from our fabulous McKenzie River, but that water bonanza will only continue if we protect it. EW’s December series “Mayhem on the McKenzie” by Camilla Mortensen laid out the complicated issues surrounding drinking water, land use and water rights on the McKenzie River. 

The old and outdated water rights system determining how the McKenzie is used needs to be changed. Right now, whoever gets the water right first has claim to the water, and in general they must “use it or lose it.” It’s not decided by who or what needs the water the most, and as it stands endangered species have no more right to the water than a chicken farmer does. 

In part I, “Freshwater Fisticuffs” (12/9), we looked at EWEB’s claim that it needs to sell water to Veneta in order to get its third water right on the McKenzie “certificated” or “perfected.” Why now, when EWEB’s had the permit since 1961? EWEB already has two certificated rights and has enough water to sell to places like Santa Clara. Spurring EWEB on is the climate change issue, and the fact that there’s going to be less water available on the McKenzie and a lot less water available elsewhere. To have that third water right, EWEB needs to prove it will put the water to beneficial use, and the city of Veneta would like to be that use.

Veneta recently discovered a problem with its wells: There’s an underground connection to Fern Ridge Reservoir and Long Tom water that’s already been claimed, so Veneta has less access to water than planners thought. Veneta thinks its proximity to Eugene means it will grow as a bedroom community and it needs to have a plan for that growth, including a plan for water. Conservationists call that a plan for sprawl and an end-run around Eugene’s urban growth boundary.

But the sprawl issue doesn’t answer the question of why EWEB really needs a right to an additional 118.2 million gallons of water a day when Eugene isn’t using all the water in the rights it already has.

Enter the Willamette Water Company. This quasi-municipal water source has a very small (2.5 million gallons per day) right that it’s not really using. Yet it applied for a water right on the McKenzie for about 22 million gallons per day. Remember, whoever gets the right first, gets the water. If there’s too little water, the newer rights get cut off first. Could it be that EWEB wants the water before Willamette Water lays claim to it?

EW turned up some interesting information on Willamette Water. It’s owned and run by land and timber barons Greg and Jeff Demers and Melvin McDougal. The post office box listed by Willamette Water with the Public Utilities Commission is the same one used by the Oregon Land Company, which lists lands for sale owned by the Demers and Norman and Melvin McDougal, some through another of their many LLCs, Frontier Resources. It lists Parvin Butte, a butte in Dexter that the McDougals and Demers have begun to log and have slated to dynamite and strip mine for aggregate to the chagrin of nearby residents (“Small Town Strip Mine,” 12/16).

The McDougals and Demers own thousands of acres of land around Lane County. Their Willamette Water Company says in its permit application that it needs the water right in order to provide water for growth in rural cities in Lane County. Guess who owns the land that needs water if unsustainable sprawl is allowed to continue? Oregon Land Company lists several proposed subdivisions in Veneta for sale on its website, in addition to lands up the McKenzie. The water rights system is supposed to prevent people from speculating on water the way they do on other commodities, but like we said, that system’s not working very well. 

“Use it or lose it” doesn’t really apply to a certificated municipal water right. Because EWEB is a municipal water source, once it gets its water right partially certificated, it would have less pressure to use that water. If Willamette Water Company, as a quasi-municipal source got its right first, it would have to use it or lose it, and would probably do that by selling water to facilitate sprawl. 

We disagree with the principle behind selling water to Veneta, and we disagree with EWEB trying to circumvent the City Council to sell the water, but we would rather see the water stay in public hands forever. More importantly, the water rights system needs to change so the water benefits the river itself and the public, not private speculators.

It’s not just humans who need the McKenzie’s water; it’s fish and wildlife on the endangered species list like Oregon chub. ODFW asked for a bypass on EWEB’s permit that would ensure enough water stayed in the river for chub to spawn. EWEB fought it at first, but then agreed. Willamette Water Company is still fighting to keep the water from the chub in its permit application.

You’d think that with all this fighting for water rights that clean drinking water would be a big deal in Lane County. Part II, “Cry Me a River” (12/23), looked at the recent battle over the proposed floodplain and drinking water protection ordinances. From the R-G’s sketchy coverage, it would seem the only issue was the landowners getting upset. But EW examined just how the McKenzie works (including invisibly underground) and how fragile our clean water is. Of all the things that could hurt our drinking water — forestry, agriculture and development — it’s development on the river that has the fewest controls and the most potential to hurt our clean water. 

Most people who live near the river love the river and want to protect it. This series was an effort to explain just why Lane County needs to keep future development from hurting our drinking water. We hope EWEB and the county will try again to protect our clean water, this time with a public process that helps everyone involved feel more like they’re in the loop.

The McKenzie’s unique geology means that as the climate heats up, we’re going to have water when cities elsewhere run out. Forget use it or lose it. When it comes to the McKenzie’s water, the real issue is protect it or lose it.

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