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Citizens groups debate forest zone measure

Hood River County voters are being asked to mark their Nov. 4 general election ballots on either one of two key land-use issues. To help voters gain a better understanding of the two ballot measures, the News has asked both proponents and opponents to present their viewpoints.

In the Oct. 22 edition, the two sides gave statements on Measure 14-16, the waterfront parks issue open to city voters. In this edition, Let The People Decide (LTPD,) sponsors of Measure 14-15, and opposing group Results Through Representative Government (RTRG) answered three questions to explain their positions on the forest zone issue, open to all county voters.

(Ballots are due by 8 p.m. Nov. 4 at the county elections office, Dean Building at Sixth and State streets, or at Cascade Locks City Hall.)

LTPD: ‘Common sense’ measure

protects water supplies

1. Do you believe the statutory processes already in place are stringent enough to guide rezones of forest lands, and why or why not?

Measure 14-15 does not involve re-zoning of forestlands. Because the county currently has no codes or ordinances to protect water supplies, Measure 14-15 will improve the chances that the forestlands where our water comes from will continue to provide reliable water supplies for farms and safe drinking water. Measure 14-15 does not try to zone or re-zone anything. We urge everyone to read the short text of Measure 14-15 at our website — www.itsyourwater.org and see for yourself. Measure 14-15 is a common sense measure that will help protect our water supplies.

Measure 14-15 gives our community an important way to have a say in whether a major new housing project planned for our county’s forestland watersheds are worth the potential costs to agriculture and our drinking water supplies. The purpose of Measure 14-15, the Forestland Water Measure, is to help ensure reliable water supplies for Hood River County farms and to protect the quality of our drinking water. Without good water supplies our ability to attract new jobs to the county will be compromised. Some have argued we should just trust elected politicians to protect our water supplies, but to date there has been no evidence of that protection.

2. What do you believe the legal ramifications, if any, will be if the citizen initiative passes?

Claims by a few individuals that a court may overturn the public’s right to be involved in key decisions affecting our water supply are contrary to a number of recent court decisions by the Oregon Supreme Court and the Oregon Court of Appeals and not much more than empty political rhetoric. These claims are an unfortunate scare tactic that are intended to detract from the real issue which is whether the public should have a say on major housing projects that could threaten our water supplies.

Most people are aware that Oregon’s Constitution gives Oregonians the right to be directly involved in important decisions affecting our lives through the initiative process. While the initiative process is far from perfect, Measure 14-15 gives our community an important opportunity to be directly involved when it comes to a decision that could have significant effects on the quality of water that we drink and the economic future of Hood River County.

3. If a forest development that would lie outside of a designated watershed is approved by the county please explain why you believe the issue should or should not still be referred to the voters?

Since only Crystal Springs and Oak Grove of the seven community watersheds have been mapped and certified by the state it is not possible to tell whether a forest development would be in or out of a watershed. Until they ALL are mapped, certified and protected from development by county ordinance or code, Measure 14-15 will offer some protection.

It is important to recognize that Measure 14-15 only applies to zoned forestlands where major housing developments are not generally even allowed under county law. If the county tried to bend these general rules, however, and allow a housing development of more than 25 units, Measure 14-15 would give our community the chance to consider whether the potential impacts on water supplies are worth the benefits.

Finally, Mount Hood and all of the designated forestlands in the county supply the water to the springs that orchards, farms and families rely on for their water. Until ALL of the forestland watersheds have gone through the process of mapping and state certification and are protected from development by county codes and ordinances, our community deserves the right to have a voice regarding the future of OUR water supplies.

RTRG: ‘Red Herring’ and ‘a step toward anarchy’

1. Do you believe the statutory processes already in place are stringent enough to guide rezones of forest lands, and why or why not?

Rezoning of Resource Lands (Farm and Forest) in the state of Oregon is a process with some of the most stringent requirements of any land use laws in the United States.

There are two methods to attempt this. One: Through the exception process, and; Two: through the destination resort process. Either one is a lengthy and very, very structured program that is expensive for the applicant and for the county. After a very costly and complicated application process to determine qualification there is public input all the way, legislative input through the county commission.

The destination resort qualifying material requires a state mandated mapping and strict procedure for all issues. Water, sewer, fire protection, with a county requirement for a third party expert review. Oregon DEQ reviews all clean water issues and pollution issues. Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife reviews all issues concerning them and National Marine Fisheries would get in the act along with other Federal agencies over Endangered Species Issues.

We do not need to add anything to this process. In fact initiative 14-15 could have the effect of prolonging the application to the point that it is turned over to the judicial branch of government for a decision. We don’t need that.

2. What do you believe the legal ramifications, if any, will be if the citizen initiative passes?

We feel there is no way this initiative can stay out of the courts. We feel it is unenforceable because it attempts to refer a quasi judicial land use decision to the voters.

The county will have to write this ordinance and try to do it in line with Oregon land use laws and appeals and still do what the initiative mandates.

It is likely that Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development will have a legal problem with it. The initiative will definitely change the process that was valid when Mt. Hood Meadows purchased the property or took title to it.

There are situations where an application could end up having a judge invalidate the process and give the applicant the exception. Does this mean that the 20 houses with their septic tanks atop the Crystal Springs watershed will have legal problems?

We, the taxpayers of Hood River County, in addition to paying for the extensive time and effort to incorporate this initiative into the county plan will have to pay the legal fees to defend it and pay the costs of damage awards from it. It is a bad policy that is not needed.

3. If a forest development that would lie outside of a designated watershed is approved by the county please explain why you believe the issue should or should not still be referred to the voters?

There is no difference in these issues. The watershed issue as it pertains to Crystal Springs is just an emotional smoke screen for the underlying issue to keep development out of Hood River County and especially a Mt. Hood Meadows development. It seems to make no difference that Meadows has stated publicly and repeatedly that they would not build on the Crystal Springs watershed.

The hypocrisy coming from some of the residents of the 20 homes (with septic tanks) at Mt. Shadows development currently sitting atop the Crystal Springs watershed is deafening.

There is no apparent harm to the spring from their presence. Springs at their emergence are susceptible to surface water contamination where the surface runoff might inter-mix with emerging spring water until put in pipe for domestic use. Hood River’s Cold Spring and Crystal Springs have had fecal contamination issues in the past from animal pollution.

They were mitigated by a fence and concrete ditch in the immediate vicinity of the emergence. The state discovered the contaminants in routine, required checks, directed the fix, and has made them install chlorination equipment.

With all of the protection of water resources by Oregon and federal agencies the claims by sponsors of this initiative have no merit.

Voting for these reasons make a mockery of an initiative which has no language about water. It is a Red Herring, The Big Lie told often enough, The Step Toward Anarchy.

If the initiators of this petition want to change something then change the process so it is fair to all applicants. The voters already have inputs on this issue through representative government. We should not refer any private land use decision to a vote.

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