Natural Resources 
6/16/2021
By Peggy Lynch, Natural Resources Coordinator and Natural Resources portfolio members

Budgets (Peggy Lynch & Team)

 

With many budgets still in need of adopting and many policy bills awaiting action, the League is concerned that there will be little to no time to provide input on Ways and Means proposals. 

   

The League provided testimony in support of the Dept. of Agriculture budget (SB 5502). A Work Session on this budget and the accompanying fee budget (SB 5503) will be held on June 14 as well as policy bills linked to this agency.  The League focused on water quality, pesticide issues, addressing climate change and public health and safety in this agency.  We highlighted our in-depth study on farmworkers done in 2000. The LFO recommendation represents a 6.5% increase in total funds from the 2019-21 legislatively approved budget. The budget includes funding for Japanese Beetle eradication efforts, the Hemp Program, and pesticide work around cannabis. Overall, the General Fund is 20.3% higher than the 2019-21 legislatively approved budget, with investments in wolf depredation grants, the State Meat Inspection Program, Klamath water quality, and the Food Safety Program.

Includes Package 320. a Worker Protection Position that the League supported. It provides $229,935 Other Funds expenditure limitation and makes permanent a Natural Resource Specialist 3 position (1.00 FTE) first provided in 2019-21 as limited duration. The position will provide compliance assistance and support the implementation of the Worker Protection Standard (WPS). The WPS is a federal regulation created to protect agricultural workers from exposure to pesticides. The revenue source for this package is pesticide license fees.

Package 360 Continues the Klamath Water Quality Improvement Work that includes a one-time $75,000 General Fund appropriation around the collection and testing of water samples from Klamath Lake to analyze for nutrients, including phosphorus, which can lead to harmful algae bloom. Funding for this collection and testing was first provided in HB 5050 (2019).

Package 365 Soil Health Position. This package includes $346,535 Federal Funds limitation and a limited duration Natural Resource Specialist 3 position (1.00 FTE) for work around soil health, inventory and assessments. The funding for this position comes from a cooperative agreement from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. However, POP 370 was not included in the budget, a disappointment to the League Climate Team.

Package 395 increases the Other Funds limitation by $1,817,833 and includes eight permanent positions within the Hemp Program due to exponential growth and workload increase, particularly in Southern Oregon. The positions include a Program Manager, Office Specialist, and six Natural Resource Specialist 3's, four of which phase-in January 2022. This package is funded with license fees from Hemp growers and handlers. This package is especially important to the Rogue Valley League as Jackson County is struggling to deal with the growth in this industry.

Also on June 14, HB 260 A will have a Work Session where the A11 amendment will be considered. The bill would regulate undersea cable projects. The measure also directs the Ocean Policy Advisory Council to review Part four of the Territorial Sea Plan and conduct a study relating to undersea cables.  DLCD anticipates hiring one full-time, limited duration Planner 3 position (0.88 FTE in 2021-23) at a total cost of $197,081 General Fund, including position-related Services and Supplies. Additionally, it is estimated that a study of the entire Oregon Coast to determine opportunities, limitations, and requirements for landing sites could cost up to $300,000 General Fund. The Department of State Lands (DSL) anticipates needing one full-time, limited duration Natural Resources Specialist 4 position (0.88 FTE in 2021-23) at a total cost of $196,176 Other Funds, including position-related Services and Supplies. See the LFO Recommendation for details. 

HB 2918 A has also been scheduled for a Work Session where the A3 amendment will add funding for DLCD. It requires local governments to compile and submit an inventory of surplus real property owned by the local government to the Department of Land Conservation and Development no later than January 1 of each even-numbered year. This estimate reflects the cost of contracting with the Oregon State University’s Institute for Natural Resources to create and maintain the online system. See the LFO Recommendation for details.

The Full Ways and Means Committee moved the following budgets to the House chamber for a vote:

  • The Oregon Parks and Recreation Dept. (OPRD) (HB 5025). The League provided testimony on the budget. The W&Ms  recommendation included a permanent Diversity, Equity and Inclusion position; however, many of the issues we raised were not addressed in the recommendations. We can hope that some of the policy bills still in W&Ms  will be brought forward. 

  • The Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board budget (HB 5037/5038). The League provided testimony in support of a position related to the 100-year water vision and addressing climate change and were pleased to see that the W&Ms  recommendation includes: Package 110 Water Vision and Climate Change.

Below are bills assigned to the Ways and Means Natural Resources Subcommittee, so we expect they will be considered in some form this coming week:

HB 2018 A, related to groundwater management. The League provided comments. The preliminary fiscal statement indicates a $2.4 million cost and 5.75 FTE.

HB 2142, a bill that increases certain fees for water permitting, was sent to W&Ms without recommendation as to passage. The League supports this critical funding bill. It splits the cost of processing permit applications 50% General Fund and 50% to permittees and would return 2.5 FTE to the department for permit processing. 

HB 2143 A will update the annual fees for hydroelectric projects and provides shared revenue for the Water Resources Dept., Oregon Dept. of Fish and Wildlife and the Dept. of Environmental Quality. The League supports this critical funding bill. The Fiscal Impact Statement for the amended bill provides less than the agencies anticipated, leaving DEQ with about a $400k shortfall in this area. 

HB 2145 A addresses modernization of well construction and will establish a grant and loan program for repair or replacement of wells. The Fiscal Impact Statement does not include monies in the loan program so we hope there will be money added in W&Ms.  The League provided testimony in support. HB 3127 provides $500,000 for well repair in Lincoln County. The Water Resources Dept. recently launched the surface water and well water private drinking water survey and believe that a $2 million ask is appropriate this session. The damage includes anything from damage to the well, pump, pump house structure, water lines, electrical panels, etc.  As such, we will likely need to broaden HB 2145 to address more than just the well, at least as it pertains to wildfires, such as damage to the well pump, pump house structure, water lines, electrical panels, etc. We have asked for an amendment to address this concern.

Below are the other Natural Resource agency budgets and bills in Ways and Means that LWVOR is following:

The League provided testimony in support of increasing funding and in support of fee increases for the Dept. of Environmental Quality (DEQ) budget (SB 5516 and 5517-fees) including the following bills:

HB 2814 A addresses dangerous diesel hotspots that are not covered by 2019’s HB 2007 “Clean Diesel” bill. The bill would form a task force that will study policy options. The Fiscal Impact Statement indicates the need for $446,596 GF and 1 FTE. The League provided testimony on the original bill.

HB 3090 would again fund the onsite septic loan program. Although the request is for $2 million, we expect to see $4-5 million allocated this session as wildfire rebuilding begins.  The League and partners support and expect that grant funds might also be allocated. We also expect an amendment in HB 2842, Healthy Homes, to include septic repair/replacement as part of that program’s work.  HB 3127-4 contains $20 million for this program so it is clear that funding for this program has wide support. The League is working with others to consolidate and/or clarify the best location for funding both grants and loans to address this serious public health issue. We also want to be sure the on-going program continues beyond addressing the needs of wildfire victims.

HB 3269 directs DEQ to study and develop strategies to fund its Emergency Response Program. LWVOR submitted testimony in support. Here is the Fiscal Impact Statement.  

SB 286A creates a new Environmental Justice Council at the Dept. of Environmental Quality. The League supports. The fiscal statement notes $3 million for DEQ and 3 FTE. We understand that $1 million is one- time costs. 

SB 581 A removes the prohibition of deceptive labeling of recyclability and replaces it with a task force to study the issue and report to the 2022 Legislature. The fiscal impact of creating the task force is estimated to be $150,973.

SB 582 A directs the Department of Environmental Quality to approve and oversee producer responsibility organizations and initiate studies of many aspects of the recycling system. The fiscal impact is estimated to be 1.8 million in 2021-23 and 10.8 million in 2023-25 but it would be funded through the producer fee system once fully running. If SB 582-9 is ultimately passed, SB 581-1 becomes unnecessary as the truth in labeling task force is included in both.

The League provided testimony on the Oregon Dept. of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) budget (HB 5009 ) on May 3. The League supports specific programs around water and the establishment of a separate Habitat Division.

The League provided written and verbal testimony on the Dept. of Forestry budget (SB 5518 ) . The League is very engaged in this department’s work on forestry practices, the nexus between logging and drinking water sources and climate change work as well as assuring their fiscal management is working for Oregonians. The following bills are a part of that broad discussion:

SB 762A is the omnibus wildfire bill. The League is engaged with a wide group of organizations in support of this bill and has sent an Action Alert to members. See also this website for details and instructions on how you can advocate for this important bill. The League supports this bill because of the urgency of the work needed, but we expect intense evaluation of the fiscal so that we get the work done in a safe, effective and fiscally prudent manner. We understand that a new amendment is being proposed clarifying a number of issues and is now with the various agencies to provide a true fiscal for the bill. Included is a requirement that the agency develop a 20-year strategic plan and that the small woodlands grant program has clear criteria. As well, there is clarification around the wildfire risk mapping with ODF and DLCD. The Dept. of Forestry also needs to reconcile this bill with their budget requests. Currently there is a funding request among the various agencies of $150-200 million.

HB 3160 establishes an Oregon Wildfire Preparedness and Community Protection Fund and directs the State Fire Marshal, State Forestry Department and Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board to make expenditures from the fund for various activities related to restoration, protection and recovery from wildfires. House Revenue adopted the -4 amendment and the bill was sent to W&Ms with a $45 million price tag. We expect some of the monies may be part of SB 762.

HB 3367 A establishes two new Funds: Lost Revenue Stabilization Fund to provide monies to help local governments with loss of revenue due to the wildfires and the School Stabilization Fund to help school districts with loss of revenue due to the wildfires. The funds are needed in order to allow the legislature to provide funding for these purposes.

HB 2630, revised by amendment -3, provides that, for five school years, calculations of weighted average daily membership made for purposes of distributions of state monies to school districts may not be decreased for school districts impacted by wildfires in 2020. The -3 amendment prescribes the methods to provide funding stability to certain school districts impacted by wildfires in 2020. It establishes the School Stabilization Subaccount for Wildfire-Impacted Schools within the Statewide Education Initiatives Account to support such funding. Such funding is repealed on July 1, 2025.

Dept. of Geology and Mineral Industries: HB 3127 includes $1,250,000 GF for the agency to provide geotechnical analysis to assess risks of landslides and debris flows. This money might be included in the end-of-session bill.

The following policy bills are related to DLCD budget but were not included in the agency budget. We will need to wait to see if these bills are approved this session.

HB 2488 A now addresses inequities in Goal One, public involvement and has an $800k fiscal. That money was part of the Governor’s budget for the agency but without clear policy direction and is not now part of the LFO recommendation for the DLCD budget. Senator Taylor and Rep. Pham both expressed disappointment that the money for this effort was not included in the DLCD budget (see above) so we expect them to work to get this bill considered before end of session. 

HB 2520 A relates to the state land use system’s Energy Goal and requires LCDC to do a rulemaking to provide better clarity on how developers can site renewable projects on Goal 3, 4 or 5 lands (on acreages below the Energy Facility Siting Council requirements) that counties decide on under today's rules related to the exceptions process for those lands. The bill requests $300k for rulemaking and, due to the work deadlines in the bill, has an emergency clause so the bill would go into effect July 1, 2021. 

HB 3371 A was not included in the Dept. of State Lands budget presentation. It requires DSL to consider potential risks in entering into agreements for authorized use of submerged and submersible lands and allows the department to require risk mitigation or insurance. The Staff Measure Summary explains the amended bill. Here is the Fiscal Impact Statement “light”.

The League provided testimony on the budget (SB 5545) for the Water Resources Dept. (WRD). 

We also provided testimony on multiple policy bills related to this department’s work, including:

HB 3105 A would fund continuation of the four place-based planning water programs and provide staffing for the same. The bill requests $200k for the planning efforts. The League provided verbal testimony in support.

Bills with multiple agency budget implications:

HB 2251 A would fund regional water planning efforts and perhaps move the “water vision’ forward. The League has been supportive of the Governor’s 100-year water vision and also supportive of place-based planning and provided verbal testimony expressing both support for portions of the bill as well as concerns about the lack of discussion on the policy included in the -1 amendment. Here is the Fiscal Impact Statement. The House Water Committee heard a presentation on April 29 from a group called “Oregon Water Justice” that addresses the needs of vulnerable communities.

HB 3093 A directs the Oregon Health Authority, in coordination with DEQ, to develop and implement a strategy for monitoring and responding to freshwater harmful algal blooms and to establish a technical advisory committee. The Fiscal Impact Statement requests $260,189 for DEQ and $232,645 for OHA and 1 position each.  The League supplied testimony in support of the -8 amendment and would support the -10 which was adopted.  

HB 3127-4, a bill that now includes assistance to the victims of the eight major wildfires from last fall was approved by the House Wildfire Recovery Committee and sent to W&Ms. The amendment includes a list of funding requests with the accompanying state agency where such funding might be budgeted. We expect that W&Ms might well place these requests into those budget bills or the end of session bill. There was an additional list of items that are more long-term needs and may or may not be funded OR may go into other bills.

Bills outside of the 14 Natural Resource Agencies:

The League supports POP 417 of the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) budget (HB 5024). There are other areas of the OHA budget the League also supports. See other League reports for that information.  

SB 29 would return the area around the State Capitol to the Dept. of Administrative Services from State Parks with funding for maintenance and has a $3.5 million fiscal. The League supports.

HB 2218 A directs the Oregon Business Development Department to study the impact of laws related to wetlands and economic activity. The League provided testimony. The Fiscal Impact Statement is estimated to be $250-500k for OBDD. The League would have preferred to invest directly into work by the Oregon Cascades West Council of Governments.

HB 2928 A would regulate the use of tear gas and pepper spray by police against crowds. The Fiscal Impact Statement indicates a cost of about $1.5 million to the Oregon State Police. 

HB 2386 creates the Oregon Independent Science Review Board within the Institute for Natural Resources at Oregon State University. The League provided testimony in support. The estimated cost this biennium is $272,780 General Funds.

HB 3114 will provide approximately $2 million in funding for the Oregon Ocean Science Trust and for others doing research on ocean acidification. The League sent testimony in support to the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee members and has reached out to W&Ms to encourage this funding.  

HB 3040 A requires the Oregon Housing and Community Services Department (OHCS) to conduct a comprehensive study of system development charges (SDCs) in consultation with DLCD, DEQ, the Department of Revenue, and the Oregon Business Development Department per the Staff Measure Summary. The League sent our concerns  to committee members on the original bill. A Fiscal Impact Statement was issued sending the bill to W&Ms.

See the Climate Report for bills supported by the League’s Climate Team.

Air Quality (Susan Mates)

DEQ fined one of Oregon’s worst polluters, Owens-Brockway, over $1 million for air quality violations and required a plan for immediate emissions reductions. It’s strictly based on permit violations revealed by the normal Title V air risk assessments, but we are also glad that the Cleaner Air Oregon program will begin to help catch these issues in the future.

The DEQ’s Regional Haze Program aims to improve visibility in wilderness areas and national parks to attain natural visibility conditions by 2064. The program will regulate 32 large facilities. A public hearing about proposed rule amendments will be held on June 28, and public comments will be accepted until June. 30.

Coastal Issues

Oregon State University has been selected to host the Cooperative Institute for Marine Ecosystem and Resources Studies, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration institute focused on four research themes: conservation, protection and restoration of marine resources; marine ecosystems; ocean acoustics; and ocean, coastal and seafloor processes. The institute will be eligible for up to $37 million in funding over the next five years, with potential for renewal for five more.

Elliott State Forest

 

A working draft of the Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) for the Elliott State Research Forest is now available.

Forestry (James Cannon/Josie Koehne)

The Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Wildfire Recovery and the House Committee On Agriculture and Natural Resources held a joint Informational Meeting to receive a Forestry Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) Mediation Update on June 8. The update was required by SB 1602, enacted in July 2020 to finance and direct a mediation process launched by Governor Brown in February 2020 with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) by 13 timber industry organizations and 13 environmental organizations. 

The MOU process, financed with $175,000 in state funds, hired a mediator in November 2020 and private and separate negotiating sessions during the next few months with timber industry and environmental subgroups. Several private joint zoom meetings were subsequently held and four private in-person meetings will be conducted by the end of this summer. The goal is to finalize a Private Forest Accord that defines forest practices management guidelines approvable by the federal government under the Endangered Species Act. A focus is on riparian buffers, steep slopes and roads. This Accord will be incorporated into a bill during the 2022 legislative session. The bill will define a process by which the State of Oregon will be able to receive permits from the Federal Government that will allow private companies to implement forest management plans consistent with the Accord. Expected outcomes include a Habitat Conservation Plan process for Oregon’s private forests (at least those properties under the Accord) and proposed updates to Oregon’s Forest Practices Act specifically around endangered salmon. 

Four people testified at the meeting—the mediator, plus representatives from the Governor’s office, the timber industry, and the environmental community—all stating that the mediation is moving forward on schedule with commitments by all parties to act in good faith to fulfill its mission in the months ahead.

Separately, the Dept. of Forestry is working on improvements to their public notification system (FERNS) related to forestry work including aerial spraying. This work is linked to SB 1602 as well. Expect the new system, including information from the Water Resources Dept. on water points of diversion that will be mapped to help those who use aerial spray to kill weeds to avoid those areas per the requirements under the bill , to be up and running by Dec. 15. The public will be able to sign up to receive notices of these actions—more targeted than today’s system. A report was provided at the June 9 Board of Forestry.

ODF is working on their own Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) for state-managed forest lands that is designed to protect endangered species on public lands. The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) Review Process will begin in a few months to allow the public to provide comments on the proposed HCP.  

The House of Representatives passed HB 2357 by a 32-27 vote. The bill shifts the voting authority for setting Oregon Forest Resources Institute (OFRI) rates from the OFRI Board to the Dept. of Forestry and directs half of OFRI Harvest Tax income to go the Sound Forestry Management Acct., directs 17% to landowner initiatives, adds 2 new members to the OFRI board, and prohibit generalized advertising for public education.  The bill now goes to the Senate.  You can read press coverage from OPB here.

HB 2070, the standard Harvest Tax bill which is submitted by the Governor for the Oregon Dept. of Forestry (ODF) is key to the agency’s budget passage. Unlike other taxes, the rates must be set and approved by a 3/5ths majority vote by the Legislature every biennium. These rates are calculated by complex procedures and formulas based on the number of board feet harvested and predicted for the following biennium after the ODF and other budgets are set. A public hearing was held on two new amendments in House Revenue on June 2. These amendments make for a far simpler and transparent process that the LWVOR supported in testimony here. Without passage of this bill, ODF could see a shortfall of about $15 million. 

The Board of Forestry met June 9.  The Agenda and board packet provide a wealth of information. 

The new interim State Forester Nancy Hirsch stated that her top priority topics are the ODF budget and addressing capacity issues, the Harvest Tax bill (HB 2070) and SB 762 that are all pending decisions in the legislature.

The Board considered qualifications needed for a new State Forester with financial management, leadership and communication skills among the top.  The Board would like to see the search go beyond Oregon and also focus on diversity.  So much has changed since the last recruitment in 2016: Climate change and large wildfires every year among the changes. The state Dept. of Administrative Services will lead the recruitment effort.

We have three times the number of human-caused fires compared to ten years ago.  This year we have seen twice as many fires and four times as many acres burned already in 2021. 

The report from the financial firm MGO was discussed as the department provided a preliminary implementation plan. The League has urged a focus on this effort so as to regain trust with legislators, the Governor and agency stakeholders on all sides.

The Oregon Department of Forestry is inviting public comment on planned projects, timber sales and other management activities in state-owned forests for fiscal year 2022. These plans lay out the on-the-ground activities expected to take place in the coming fiscal year, such as timber harvests, reforestation, and trail improvements. Starting May 7 through Monday, June 21, Oregonians can weigh in on the draft annual operations plans for state forests in the Astoria, Forest Grove, Klamath-Lake, Tillamook, West Oregon, and Western Lane Districts, which includes the Tillamook, Clatsop, Sun Pass and Gilchrist state forests. Draft plans are available at: https://www.oregon.gov/ODF/Working/Pages/StateForests.aspx.  ODF is offering several convenient avenues for those who want to provide input on the draft plans:

 

See more information on Wildfire Recovery below.

Land Use/Housing (Peggy Lynch)

The League urges a NO vote on SB 16, a bill that would allow up to 200 acres of ranchland in Malheur County to be converted to “ranchettes”. The League provided testimony in opposition in House Rules on June 10 and sent an Action Alert to members to ask the House to defeat the bill.  House Rules will hold a Work Session on June 14. The League will continue to oppose and focus on both taking agricultural lands from production and our concern that these 100 homes would need to drill domestic “exempt wells”—using up to 15,000 gallons of water a day. The homes would also need septic systems. In Eastern Oregon water quantity and quality are both of grave concern. There are critical groundwater and groundwater management areas designated in Malheur County.

HB 3318 will have a public hearing in House Rules on June 14 only to consider the -5 amendment.  The amendment would circumvent the normal land use process to allow a section of land near Bend, known as the Stevens Road Tract now owned by Oregon’s Common School Fund, to be added to Bend’s Urban Growth Boundary under certain circumstances. Although LWVOR worked on this issue in 2019, we have not engaged this session. Should this amended bill pass, the positive part is the requirement for not only market rate housing, but for those at 80% and even 60% of area median income. The amendment also requires alternate transportation choices and public involvement opportunities. 

We expect to see funding in the end-of-session bill or the Housing and Community Services agency budget for a continuation of the Regional Housing Needs Analysis that was part of HB 2003 (2019).  An informational hearing was held on June 1 in the House Housing Committee on HB 2003 (2019) with a great slide show on this project. Stakeholders provided a memo as well. 

  

HB 3072 A allows the governing body of a city, upon petition from a landowner, to amend city’s urban growth boundary (UGB) to allow inclusion of land to be solely used for workforce housing or both workforce housing and workforce commercial development, which is subject to an affordable housing covenant of no less than 60 years. Here is the full Staff Measure Summary. The bill was sent to Rules without recommendation where the League hopes it will die.

See also the Housing Report in other sections of this Legislative Report.

State Land Board Meeting

On June 8, the State Land Board met to decide on a number of state land actions. It was noted that the state is still waiting for 1,400 acres of lands due to the Common School Fund and the state since statehood. There are on-going discussions with the federal Bureau of Land Management. The agenda provides further information on these actions. Starting on page 44 you can see a report on the Territorial Sea Plan’s Rocky Habitat recommendations from the Ocean Policy Advisory Council (OPAC) to add two sites as protections. OPAC’s recommendations will go to the Land Conservation and Development Commission for approval and rulemaking. The next State Land Board meeting is tentatively set for Aug. 10, then Oct. 12 and Dec. 14, 2021.

Water (Peggy Lynch/Amelia Nestler)

On June 9, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of the Army announced their intent to revise the definition of “waters of the United States” (WOTUS) to better protect our nation’s vital water resources that support public health, environmental protection, agricultural activity, and economic growth. As described in an EPA declaration requesting remand of the 2020 Navigable Waters Protection Rule, a broad array of stakeholders—including states, Tribes, local governments, scientists, and non-governmental organizations—are seeing destructive impacts to critical water bodies under the 2020 rule.

“After reviewing the Navigable Waters Protection Rule as directed by President Biden, the EPA and Department of the Army have determined that this rule is leading to significant environmental degradation,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan.“We are committed to establishing a durable definition of ‘waters of the United States’ based on Supreme Court precedent and drawing from the lessons learned from the current and previous regulations, as well as input from a wide array of stakeholders, so we can better protect our nation’s waters, foster economic growth, and support thriving communities.”

The State of Oregon and the League had objected to the 2020 Rule and may engage in the revision effort. 

SB 859 would increase the amount that the State Marine Board can hold in its Salvaged Vessel Subaccount to $1 million. The League provided testimony in support in order to provide additional funding for responding to the 200+abandoned vessels in Oregon’s waters. The bill is now in House Rules.

Sixteen counties have now requested drought emergency declarations this year with ten receiving the Governor’s drought declaration, now including Jefferson and Deschutes County. What is drought? “Simply put, drought is a water shortage. It’s typically the result of long periods with insufficient precipitation.” The US Drought Monitor indicates 100% of the state is experiencing some form of drought conditions.

As summer approaches, and more communities and recreational areas around the state begin reopening amid the COVID-19 outbreak, the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) reminds people heading outdoors to be on the look-out for cyanobacteria blooms that can produce toxins when recreating in Oregon lakes, rivers and reservoirs. To learn if an advisory has been issued or lifted for a specific water body, visit the Harmful Algae Bloom website or call the Oregon Public Health Division toll-free information line at 877-290-6767.

Wildfires (James Cannon/Josie Koehne/Peggy Lynch)

The Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Wildfire Recovery held an Informational Meeting concerning House Bill 3127 A: Wildfire Recovery Funding Package on 6/10/21. The bill appropriates monies from the General Fund ($400 million over 8 years) and authorizes payments from lottery bonds and the State Highway Fund ($500 million) to state agencies for distribution to a wide range of entities to pay for needs related to the 2020 wildfires. HB 3127 A was developed over 6 months by the House Special Committee on Wildfire Recovery, which conducted 15 hours at 3 public hearings to gain public input. Housing and water and sewage systems are big ticket items. Some items, like replacing destroyed alert system towers, were eliminated because these costs are included in other bills. We expect that many of this bill’s list of requests will appear in other bills and this bill may then die in W&Ms.

The Senate passed HB 2341 by a 29-1 vote. The bill allows county tax collectors to prorate property taxes during a year that qualifying fire damage occurs. The bill, first effective for the July 2020 tax year, now goes to the Governor for her signature.

HB 3126, has adopted a -2 amendment to address an issue of allowing a quick process for a small water district that was destroyed by the Labor Day fires to connect to the Medford Water District passed the House. The bill is now awaiting action by the Senate.

HB 2272, has adopted -4 amendment to provide a building site for wildfire victims in Lane County for the development of a permanent recreational vehicle park or campground, with fast zoning and permitting approvals under specified conditions passed the House and is awaiting action in the Senate.

A new online tool, released by the Oregon Department of Forestry, allows Oregon residents to track current wildfire risk to their exact location anywhere in the state. The tool, part of the Oregon Explorer website, uses a variety of data to calculate how high that risk is for any given location.