Saturday, May 19, 2012
..Grand Island farmers widely expected to appeal decision..
..by Ossie Bladine..
After more than a year of continuation, to await resolution of related legal issues, the Yamhill County Board of Commissioners made quick work Thursday of a controversial application from Baker Rock Resources for permission to strip gravel from 175 acres of Grand Island farmland.
It granted approval on a 2-1 vote, with commissioners Leslie Lewis and Kathy George casting the yes votes and Commissioner Mary Stern sounding the dissent.
However, no one is naive enough to think the board has delivered the final answer. The approval will most certainly be appealed on up through the courts, possibly for years to come.
Both sides believed Lewis to be a solid supporter and Stern a solid opponent.
To the extent either harbored doubts about where George stood, she dashed them straight out of the box.
" I will be voting in support of this application," she announced.
The Grand Island resident living closest to the gravel mining site was shaken by the words and fought back tears as George continued.
" This is a business that is providing a necessary natural resource product to the community and to the region," she said in support of her decision.
George went on to say she was disappointed that the needed aggregate had to come from productive farmland and not from a section of the Willamette River known as Lambert Bend, where gravel has built up for decades, threatening farming operations. George joined others in a fight to win approval for mining there, figuring it would be a win-win, but were thwarted by federal environmental regulations.
In countering George's vote, Stern said she was not satisfied Baker Rock had met it's burden of proof and had doubts it can adequately mitigate conflicts with neighboring agriculture operations.
As potential conflicts, she cited " the lowering of groundwater resources, increased flooding, traffic impacts, geese predation and the general dust, which would be damaging to crops." She said, " I do not believe that the benefits of allowing the mining out-weigh the impacts on the identified conflicts."
And the argument will no doubt be carried forward by Protect Grand Island Farms, a group of local farmers and area residents opposed to the mining operation.
Spokesperson Kris Bledsoe, a Grand Island farmer herself, said she was 99% sure the group would appeal to the state Land Use Board of Appeals, but she would have to wait until the group's board meeting next week to say for sure.
" Of course we're disappointed, but we're not surprised," Bledsoe said of the 2-1 commissioner split. " In general, I think the decision was the wrong one for the health of the farmers."
Bledsoe said the group would have to engage in fundraising efforts to cover it's legal fees, but she thinks it is prepared to accept that burden.
The application will go to the county's counsel for a review of the supporting findings. It is scheduled for final formal approval June 7.
Meanwhile, the first element in the Goal 5 aggregate process-determining whether a site contains a legally significant resource-is back in play.
The county commissioners found that the Grand Island deposit was a legally significant resource on a 2-1 vote last spring.
They held off further proceedings on the Baker rock application, however, while opponents appealed that finding first to LUBA, then to the Oregon Court of Appeals. Only after prevailing at both levels did they take up the application itself.
Last week, Protect Grand Island Farms appealed the board's initial sufficiency decision on to the Oregon Supreme Court, and it's legal team is confident the court will take the case.
" We're not going to give up," Bledsoe said.
Thursday, April 5, 2012
Farmers Plan to Fight On to Protect Their Family Farms, Water Supplies
( Grand Island, Oregon ). In a decision issued April 4th, the Court of Appeals affirmed a determination by Yamhill County that high value farmland proposed to be converted into a large gravel mine contains a significant aggregate resource. Next, the mining corporation must prove that the proposed mine will not negatively impact existing farming operations immediately adjacent to the pits. The County counted two distinct layers of minerals to meet the " thickness "test, which is a prerequisite before high value farmland may be destroyed for commercial mining operations.
However, because the County bi-furcated it's decision the question remains whether the operation will have a negative impact on farming operations. The mining corporation also faces other hurdles, including the need to seek permission to cut a large ditch across popular State park lands along the Willamette River. The company has proposed the ditch as a way to allow endangered Salmon to escape if they get captured in the pits during seasonal flooding.
Grand Island is home to a diversity of family farming operations and orchards. The island draws people to a stretch of the Willamette just downstream from the historic Wheatland Ferry and is home to Grand Island State Park. Baker Rock Resources seeks to dig a series of mining pits adjacent to existing orchards and family farms and haul the rock out on the islands narrow roads. The land regularly floods from seasonal rains in the spring and summer and the operation requires the dewatering of the pits which will alter the flow of water for neighboring farms. While Grand Island farmer Sam Sweeny is disappointed in the Court's decision, he is optimistic that other state laws will protect the island from the proposed mine. " The Court's decision means too much valuable farmland along the Willamette could be mined, and underscores that state land use safeguards need to be fixed to protect these valuable resources. Regardless, these mining pits cannot co-exist with our farming operations. The proposal to dewater the pits will negatively impact our water supplies. Without water, we cannot farm."
Orchardist Ron Schindler took over the farm started by his father and he echoed these concerns: " The mining corporation proposes to mine below the water table, which will significantly impact shallow wells that I rely on to grow cherries. I cannot shoulder the burden of depleted and contaminated water supplies. We farmers have enough to worry about already."
The mining corporation also proposes to cut a channel across an Oregon State Park, because in floods endangered fish will get captured in the stagnant mining pits. Long time local resident Margaret Scoggan stated " The mining corporation proposes to cut and dig a large ditch across a state park that is owned and enjoyed by all Oregonians. They promise that the pits will become ponds and habitat- they will, for invasive weeds and hungry geese and ducks." To these local residents and thousands of Oregonians who visit the Island annually, Grand Island is a special place, the Suavie's Island of the Willamette. The mining operation would be in operation for three to four decades and would seriously harm the investment that local farmers have made in this land and a place enjoyed by thousands of Oregonians.
BACKGROUND & CONTEXT
Oregon's Land Use Laws Protect Farms from Mining Using a Two-Part Test
Oregon land use safeguards protect the highest value farmland from conversion into mining unless the mining corporation can show two things:
1. The site contains a significant aggregate resource which is mineable.
2. The mine will not conflict/negatively impact neighboring farming operations.
The County has only decided one of many issues. The Yamhill County Planning Commission issued a decision recommending the proposal be denied because of conflicts to family farming operations. The County Commissioners have not decided whether the operations conflicts with farming operations-this issue remains to be determined.
Grand Island has a very long growing season that supports a diversity of family farms. The Island is home to a popular pumpkin patch and a State Park and it draws lots of visitors on bike and by car. The family farms include CSA operations, staple crop farmers and cherry and fruit orchards.
Local farmers, residents and concerned citizens are working together as Protect Grand Island Farms to protect Grand Island. Hundreds of people turned out to testify and submit comments in opposition. The family farmers and local residents submitted uncontested evidence of how their operations will be impacted.
For example, the dewatering of the mining pits will affect shallow wells immediately adjacent to the pits. The farmers and the families on Grand Island cannot afford to pay to install new wells if their pumps get clogged.
The farmers grow specialty vegetables and fruit crops. The crops cannot take heavy washing from the dust of the operation, nor can the farmers afford the increased cost from interference with traffic and road damage from heavy trucks.
Thursday, October 6, 2011
..Good news, Protect Grand Island Farms has decided to appeal the LUBA decision which ruled in the favor of the county and Baker Rock. We are going to continue our fight against the proposed quarry for as long as it takes to stop the quarry.
The legal fees to continue this battle will be ongoing. This is money well spent. CRAG Is charging us a reduced rate and provides us with high quality legal advice.
If you would like to help us by donating money to PGIF it would be much appreciated by us and all of the many people who will be negatively affected if this quarry is established. Donations can be sent to PGIF, P.O. Box 1803, McMinnville, OR 97114. We are a 501-c3 non-profit organization and your donation is tax deductible. Donations can also be made thru Paypal on our sister website: http://protectgrandisland.com/
If you would like to discuss the quarry application with one of our board members I am certain they would be more than happy to answer questions. The PGIF board members are: Katie Kulla, Laura Masterson, Margaret Scoggan, Sam Sweeney, Neil Svarvervd, Ron Schindler and me.
Thank you for all of your support. This is a great community!
Thursday, September 29, 2011
Monday, August 22, 2011
By Sheldon Alberts, Postmedia News Washington Correspondent August 20, 2011
WASHINGTON — They came to the White House planning to get arrested, and very quickly got their wish.
Dozens of environmental activists opposed to the Keystone XL oilsands pipeline were led away in plastic handcuffs after staging a sit-in Saturday aimed at persuading President Barack Obama to deny a permit allowing construction of the 2,700-kilometre project.
The protest marked the opening of a two-week campaign of civil disobedience that organizers hope will scuttle Calgary-based TransCanada Corp.’s $7-billion pipeline, which would carry up to 900,000 barrels of crude from northern Alberta to refineries along the U.S. Gulf Coast.
“I’m doing this because this is the clearest environmental test — on both sides of this border — that we have faced in a very long time,” said environmental author Bill McKibben, the chief organizer of the protests.
“The tarsands are the second largest pool of carbon on the planet. If we start burning them in large quantities . . . it is essentially game over for the climate.”
McKibben was one of about 70 protesters who refused orders from the U.S. Park Police to disperse after lining up on the sidewalk along Pennsylvania Avenue, directly in front of the White House entrance.
A bullhorn-wielding SWAT team officer gave the demonstrators three warnings before police began removing the demonstrators one by one. The protesters responded to each of the warnings with a chorus of “Hey-ho, Keystone XL has got to go.”
None of the activists resisted arrest.
“We have got to end tarsands exploitation period if we are going to continue to live on this planet. It’s going to fry the planet,” said Tom Weis, a climate activist from Boulder, Colorado.
“I am risking getting arrested to send a message to the Obama administration that we are not going to stand for this,” added Weis, who is planning a bicycle journey along the proposed Keystone XL route, from the Canadian border to Texas, in October.
Obama wasn’t home to witness the sit in. He and his family are vacationing at Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts.
Still, administration officials are taking notice of the pipeline opponents and recently agreed to a new round of public hearings this fall on the project.
The State Department, which has jurisdiction over pipelines that cross an international boundary, has promised a decision on the long-delayed pipeline by the end of the year.
Oil industry proponents say Keystone XL is vital to America’s energy security and would create thousands of jobs at a time when the U.S. economy is perilously close to entering another recession.
In the past month, two members of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s cabinet have been in Washington pressing for its approval.
“We need Canadians to understand that for the sake of the planet’s atmosphere, that oil simply has to stay in the ground. I know it is inconvenient, but that is the situation we are in,” McKibben said.
“We are very hopeful that the good people of Canada will start to take more environmental responsibility.”
Opponents warn Keystone XL poses unacceptable risks to the environment because it promotes further development of the oilsands. There are also concerns about the possibility of a spill in environmentally sensitive areas, like Nebraska’s Ogallala Aquifer, along the pipeline route.
Several high profile progressive activists, including actors Danny Glover, Mark Ruffalo and Margot Kidder have promised to participate in the protests over the next two weeks.
Canadian opponents, including author Naomi Klein and Council of Canadians chair Maude Barlow, are planning to attend protests later this month and in early September.
On the first day of the sit in, a handful of Canadians were on hand.
Linda Rosier and Liz Armstrong, both of Guelph, Ont., sat on the White House sidewalk as police put up barricades and ordered everyone to leave. They remained until receiving a second warning, then left before the arrests began.
Legal advisers to the activists have told Canadians they risk being deported or barred from re-entering the U.S.
“President Obama is a hero of mine, and I know he has the ability to deny the application for the pipeline,” said Rosier.
“We know that is where his heart is.”
Patricia Warwick, of Toronto, watched the arrests from across Pennsylvania Avenue, but plans to participate in Sunday’s sit in.
“I am a bit concerned about (being barred from the U.S.), but I have accepted that,” Warwick said.
“I am generally peaceful. I go to protests but I have never taken a risk. I feel this is serious enough that I have got to take a risk,” Warwick said. “I have got to make my voice known. So I am prepared to be arrested.”
Among the environmentalists arrested Saturday was Gus Speth, the former chairman of the President’s Council on Environmental Quality during the Carter administration. “If (getting arrested) is what it takes to get attention, to make people understand what is at stake, then it’s worth it,” said Speth. “After 30 years of inaction (on global warming), it is the thing I feel I have to do, because I have done everything else.”
Many of the U.S. protesters on Saturday wore Obama campaign buttons from the 2008 election, to remind the president that he draws substantial support from the environmental community.
“I dug out my old Obama ‘08 button from the sock drawer, and I am wearing it with some mixture of hope and trepidation,” McKibben said before his arrest.
While Republicans have been able to block comprehensive climate legislation in Congress, Obama holds the power on Keystone XL to himself.
“We want Obama to behave like the candidate Obama in 2008, to really stand up, and this time he can, because Congress isn’t in the way.”
The Keystone XL pipeline has been a source of division within the Obama administration and on Capitol Hill. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently criticized the State Department’s early environmental assessments of the pipeline’s impact as weak.
A final environmental impact assessment is expected as early as next week.
The Keystone XL issue “has really become symbolic about what the Obama administration is willing to do,” said Susan Casey-Lefkowitz, director of the international program at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “Are they willing to live up to their promises on climate change, or are they going to take us in the wrong direction, towards more tarsands dependence?”
Read more: http://www.canada.com/business/Pipeline+protesters+arrested+outside+White+House/5283758/story.html#ixzz1Vmq20aIf
Tuesday, August 9, 2011
August 1, 2011
John Kroger, Attorney General of Oregon
1162 Court Street, NE
Salem, OR 97301-4096
Re: Leslie Lewis Investigation, October 2010
Dear Mr. Kroger:
By now your offices in Salem have received our letter of June 14, 2011, in which we requested a reopening or reinvestigation into the Yamhill County Commissioner Leslie Lewis wiretapping investigation of October 2011. That letter was received in the Salem office on June 16, 2011 at 12:22 PM. They have also by now received the second raft of signatories of that letter. -
As of this date, we have not received any kind of a reply from you or your Department. We are copying this third letter of request to both your Salem and Portland offices, with the copies of the previous letter and signatories.
In light of the resignation and reassignment of Sean Riddell because of his unfortunate habitual pattern of mistakes made in the "Energy Department investigation and its 2010 contract with a company co-owned by Cylvia Hayes, Gov. John Kitzhaber's companion, as well as the criminal investigation of former Umatilla County District Attorney Dean Gushwa," (http://www.oregonlive.com/politics/index.ssf/2011/06/chief_counsel_sean_riddell_res.html) we again ask that you direct your Department to reopen or reinvestigate the Lewis Wiretapping Affair.
These developments now lend an aura of potential unreliability to all of his work which may reasonably be extended to all parts of his duties, including the Lewis investigation.
See also Attachments:
We, the concerned citizens of Yamhill County again respectfully and strongly request that you direct that the investigation of this matter be reviewed and reopened. Thank you for your personal attention to this matter.
Enclosed please find an addressed stamped envelope for the convenience of your reply. We will assume that if we do not hear from you within 10 working day of receipt of this letter, that you intend to take no further action to prosecute the Leslie Lewis Wiretapping Affair, and will then pursue whatever other options of Justice of which we may ethically and legally avail ourselves.
595 SW Ruby Court
McMinnville, OR 97128
Chair, Yamhill County Democrats
1525 NE 18th Street
McMinnville, OR 97128
Cc: Mr. John Kroger
Oregon Department of Justice
621 SW Morrison Street # 1100
Portland, OR 97205-3818
Oregon Senate President Peter Courtney 900 Court St. NE, S-201
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