‘Does Gorge Act work?’ agency asks


News staff writer

November 18, 2006

The Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area Commission met on Tuesday in Hood River with history as its backdrop.

Friday marks the 20th anniversary of the Congressional legislation that created the scenic area. In 1987, Oregon and Washington came up with the 12-member commission. Executive Director Jill Arens referred to the date as she provided an update on the staff’s work plan.

“With the 20th anniversary of the act, it’s a good time to reflect on where we are at,” she said.

Arens said because of only having eight people on staff, the Gorge Commission office must be careful about how they prioritize their time. One of the eight items she gave the highest priority was the Indicators Project.

“(It will be) to look at how successful implementation has been,” she said.

The commission’s work plan runs in two-year cycles concurrent with biennial funding. Revisions are done as needed. The plan was last updated in April 2006. Among the other priorities, Arens chose to work with congressional delegations to secure additional funds for economic development as authorized in the National Scenic Area Act.

Congress approved $5 million apiece to go toward economic development in Washington and Oregon as part of the act. There remains $1 million yet to be appropriated for each state.

Friends of the Columbia Gorge representative Michael Lang said during public comment that the group felt recreation and land acquisition should be as equal a priority as economic development.

Hood River Commissioner Joyce Reinig said it looked to her like a tremendous amount of time by staff is spent working on applications from Klickitat County. She wondered if that could be changed. The other five counties in the 85-mile region each administer scenic area ordinances. For Klickitat County, the Gorge Commission staff performs that task.

“I’m hoping with Kenn’s input we can get them to buy in,” Reinig said.

Kenn Adcock represents Klickitat County on the Gorge Commission. He said the county’s commissioners have been reluctant to come forward due to the issue of liability and funding.

“There is reluctance on the commissioners’ part to come forward (because of such cases as the Bea house in Skamania County),” he said. “If we did we also would have to hire two full-time planners.”

Adcock said given the results of the recent election he doesn’t see there being any change on Klickitat County’s part in taking on scenic area responsibilities.

Commission chairman and Wasco County representative Judy Davis presented the plans so far for marking the anniversary. She said a one-day event in May is being planned. Ideas so far include having a panel discussion on the impact of the scenic area for the community, agriculture, citizens and businesses.

Arens announced that an appointment has been made to replace Roberta Kirk on the commission. The selection of Lonny Macy, of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, is not yet confirmed by Gov. Ted Kulongoski. Macy holds a graduate degree in planning from the University of Oregon and is of Wasco and Chinook heritage. He works as the tribal intergovernmental affairs planner and also serves on the Jefferson County Soil and Water District board.

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