Legislative Report - September Interim
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By Peggy Lynch, Natural Resources Coordinator, and Team
We hope you read the October 1st LWVOR All-Member Newsletter with the list of volunteers needed for the League’s Natural Resources Team. The League depends on YOU to help advocate—using our adopted positions. Our voice is respected because of our studies and nonpartisan volunteer voices.
A fun survey—Please take the 2023 Oregon Values and Beliefs Center Typology survey to help strengthen Oregon’s civic culture. Your voice can steer public policy.
HCR 38 (2023) sets the process for the February 2024 short session that runs Feb. 5 through March 10th. The legislative calendar is posted on the Oregon Legislature website. There were three days of legislative meetings Sept. 27-29 and more interim days in November and January.
By Peggy Lynch
On August 30th, a new quarterly Revenue Forecast was provided to the legislature. The total available resources for the current 2023-25 biennium was increased by $437 million after accounting for a bigger beginning balance which was the result of a larger ending balance in the previous 2021-23 biennium after it closed this summer. There will be another forecast Nov. 15 and one on February 7th which will determine potential revenue that can be spent during the 2024 session.
During these Sept. interim meetings, we understand that Tax Measures 5 & 50 which capped yearly property tax increases at 3% were discussed. Mayors from around Oregon testified in support of increasing the cap to improve local services funding. The League has often supported a review and possible changes to our property tax system, in particular because of these constraints on our local governments.
The League is hopeful there will be additional bonding capacity available as we advocate for spending on infrastructure for needed housing. The Legislative Fiscal Office shares that the State Debt Policy Advisory Commission (SDPAC) issues an annual report, so there will be a 2024 report that includes the most current revenue and interest rate projections. However, typically any additional debt capacity resulting from an increase in forecasted revenues is attributed to future biennia. Based on the 2023 SDPAC report and bonding authorizations approved in the 2023 session, there is $65.8 million in remaining general obligation bond capacity and $27.4 million in remaining lottery bond capacity for the 2023-25 biennium.
The final “kicker” amount of about $5.6 billion will be returned to taxpayers as a credit on their 2024 tax returns. The 1979 Oregon Legislature passed the "Two percent kicker" law, which requires the state to refund excess revenue to taxpayers when actual General Fund revenues exceed the previous odd-year May revenue forecast amount by more than two percent.
The Legislative Fiscal Office has published its 2023-25 Budget Highlights which provides summary information on the legislatively adopted budget from the 2023 session. You can look for the Natural Resource Program Area for specifics on the monies provided to our 14 state agencies.
The Emergency Board met right after Sine Die to adopt rules for their work during the interim. They were provided $50 million in the 2023 end-of-session bill, SB 5506, to spend on emergencies until the next session, as well as a number of “special purpose appropriations” for expected expenses such as additional wildfire funding and salary increases. Otherwise, agency budgets are only changed by an act of the entire legislature. At the time of this report, the League understands that the Emergency Board does not plan to meet before the 2024 session.
By Claudia Keith and Team
See the Climate Emergency section of this Legislative Report which overlaps with Natural Resources. We encourage you to read both sections.
By Christine Moffitt/Peggy Lynch
LWVOR continues to advocate for protection of wetlands and estuaries. Here is a PEW Research article on Oregon’s work to leverage coastal wetlands to help address climate change.
The Coos County League is preparing testimony on the Coos Bay Estuary Management Plan (CBEMP). The County file for this project is AM-22-005. The Coos League continues to watch with concern for a potential federal grant to help dredging deeper and wider the Port of Coos Bay. It is unclear if there is an official proposal to create a container ship proposal moving forward. The Coos League is having trouble getting information from the Port on these issues. (See the LWVOR 2023 Sine Die issue for more information.)
The Federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) is listening to comments related to proposed ocean energy sites offshore from Brookings and Coos Bay. Information is available on the BOEM Oregon state activities page. To comment on the draft WEAs please go to regulations.gov and search for docket number BOEM-2023-0033. BOEM will accept comments through 11:59 pm ET on October 16, 2023.
The Ocean Policy Advisory Council (OPAC) has approved revisions to the Territorial Sea Plan Part 4. This plan now goes to the Land Conservation and Development Commission (LCDC) for adoption. OPAC was “disappointed” the Governor’s representative did not attend the meeting. OPAC sent a letter expressing concern that the Governor does not seem to understand the impact of our coastal industry, communities, its ecological value and the important role of OPAC as a voice for those communities. We do note that the Governor has added temporarily a staffer from the Oregon Dept. of Fish and Wildlife to her natural resources advisors and perhaps that will help with the myriad of natural resource issues on the Governor’s plate.
See the League’s 2012 Coastal Study to learn more about wave energy.
Columbia River Treaty
By Philip Thor
On August 14, 2023, a ”Media Note” was released by the “Office of the Spokesperson,” presumably, from the United States Department of State, which announced that “The United States and Canada conducted the 18th round of Columbia River Treaty regime negotiations on August 10-11 in Seattle, Washington.”
The note went on to state “As committed by President Biden and Prime Minister Trudeau at the
conclusion of the President’s March visit to Canada, the U.S. negotiation team has further accelerated negotiation efforts towards an agreement that meets the needs of the Columbia Basin with greater certainty and improved results.”
To that end, the United States recently put forward a range of options for Canada to consider
that the U.S. believes provides both countries with increased certainty in managing flood risks,
planning for Treaty hydropower operations, integrating Canada’s desire for greater
flexibility, establishing mechanisms for incorporating tribal and indigenous input, and taking
advantage of opportunities to strengthen Treaty ecosystem provisions and collaborate on
ongoing salmon reintroduction studies. During the session negotiation teams exchanged views
on this set of proposals.
The United States is focused on ensuring that resource planners, operators, and
others have time to make plans to implement a modernized Treaty regime or rely on
the current Treaty regime as it exists today.
And, finally, the note said that the U.S. government would hold a virtual listening session on
August 22, 2023 “to engage the public about treaty regime modernization…”
Below is some of what various representatives had to say about Treaty renegotiations in
U.S. Government negotiators opened the meeting with statements (State Department, Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Reclamation, and Bonneville Power Administration).
Many of the next speakers were from PNW Public Utility Districts (PUDs), Cooperatives (Co-Ops), and power-related associations. It appeared that they had prepared in advance since their key messages were very similar. Namely:
Flood control should be paid by taxpayers, as elsewhere in the US.
The Canadian Entitlement is unbalanced – Canada gets more hydropower returned to them which they then sell back to the U.S. at great profit.
Wildfires are occurring in both countries and Canada has a right to choose how they release water.
Climate change is affecting us.
“We share the fires, we share the floods, so we should share the water.”
The marketing of power (i.e., the imbalance) impacts many smaller communities, which are vulnerable. Electricity rates are increasing, as is overall electrical demand – both effects are especially hard on rural folks, served by the smaller PUDs and Co-Ops.
Renegotiation is taking too long – Canada is delaying the new treaty so they can continue to get more than their fair share of benefits.
Many other speakers commented that the renegotiations needed to speed up.
Most of the remaining speakers were from environmental groups, Native American Tribes and other like organizations. Their statements were like what had been presented before, namely:
Inclusion of Ecosystem Function is critical and should become the third leg of the CRT purposes.
The U.S. Entity should be expanded to include representatives from PNW Native American Tribes. They should be given a manager role in the CRT, not as a consultant.
Ecosystem Function should include:
A Spring freshet
A dry-year strategy
Salmon reintroduction is another critical piece of Ecosystem Function. Temperature has been higher than 70 degrees since mid-July at main stem dams, considered lethal to salmon.
BPA and COE have failed in managing the river as the U.S. Entity. Adding Ecosystem Function would improve this.
So, given what I have heard now and before this, and with my background, I would offer the
There appears to be some interest to resolve negotiations, largely so that flood
operations in 2024 can be managed, and to avoid “pay for flood control regime” then.
But, the perceived imbalance of hydroelectric power sharing between the two countries
is (in my opinion) a monumental hurdle that may not be easily overcome. This could
stall negotiations for a long time. Both countries currently think they are not getting
their fair share of the power benefits. This may be a negotiation tactic.
Adding Ecosystem Function as an important component of a new Treaty is likely to
occur, but the “devil is in the details.” What is included in Ecosystem Function and how
will it be provided? This listening session was the first one that identified what some of
the specifics are, namely – reintroduction of salmon into Canada (a rather tough
objective since Grand Coulee Dam is very high and Lake Roosevelt is quite long), a spring
freshet (already largely have increased flows in the spring now), flow augmentation
(more water will not likely cool the river much, if at all), and a dry-year strategy (useful
concept but defining it is a challenge; also its implementation could impact other river
users, such as recreation – deeper drawdowns in storage reservoirs during the summer
period causing lower reservoir refill probabilities in subsequent years, particularly if
another dry-year occurs).
The other important note is that the negotiators are being very closed lipped about details,
which is fully understandable. So, there is no telling when an agreement will come together
since the public has no method for judging how close the talks may be. We will continue to
stand by and watch for announcements.
Dept. of Geology and Mineral Industries (DOGAMI)
By Peggy Lynch
Dept. of State Lands (DSL)
By Peggy Lynch
As part of the discussions on housing, the Governor’s Housing Production Advisory Council (HPAC), shared a proposal to significantly change our wetlands protections laws and rules. The League provided testimony in opposition with comments explaining our prior actions to support more assets for wetlands permitting and data. The Governor has recently said this HPAC proposal will not be part of her housing proposals for 2024, but we may well see a bill from an individual legislator. If you want to receive notices of HPAC meetings, click here.
HB 2238 passed in 2023 and allows for rulemaking to increase fees related to removal or fill permit applications, wetland delineation reports and general authorizations. We will work with the agency to increase processes for clearly identifying wetlands in urban growth boundaries to be sure lands that should be developed can be and those that can’t should be are removed from the buildable lands inventory.
Elliott State Research Forest (ESRF)
By Peggy Lynch
The League continues to engage in the ESRF, including attending their prospective Board meetings. The prospective ESRF Board met September 22 (agenda). Visit DSL's Elliott webpage to learn more. They plan to meet again October 16, Noon to 4 p.m. in Corvallis and December 4, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Meeting videos are posted to the Department of State Lands YouTube channel and meeting notes are posted to DSL's Elliott website. Work is continuing on eventual adoption of a Habitat Conservation Plan and a Forest Management Plan for the forest. Of concern to the League is how their plan can be financially viable without excessive timber harvest. See also the OSU College of Forestry website here as they work on the proposed Forest Management Plan.
The Shutter Creek facility has been transferred to the Dept. of State Lands and federal monies awarded to upgrade the facility to be used as the headquarters for the ESRF as well as potential opportunities for local tribes. Here is an OPB article with the latest on the Elliott. We may see an ask for additional General Funds to pay for starting up this new agency in 2024 since any timber harvest will not occur for a few years. They were allocated $4.1 million in 2023 but will need to hire an Executive Director and limited staff while working on all future plans for research, for recreation and for limited harvest in the forest.
The OSU Board of Trustees will receive an update at their Oct. 20 meeting. There will be a special OSU Board meeting in December when the OSU Board will consider final approval of OSU’s engagement with the ESRF. The State Land Board will meet Dec. 12 to provide a final decision on the ESRF going forward.
Oregonians can help shape the future of Oregon’s forests: Oregon’s Kitchen Table posted a survey, available through October 9.
Oregon’s forests provide a variety of social, economic, and ecological benefits to Oregonians. The Oregon Board of Forestry and ODF are responsible for developing and implementing policies and strategies that promote forest health and resilience to preserve those benefits for future generations.
They are in the process of updating their shared strategic plan that will guide the policy and operational work for the next several years. They’ve partnered with Oregon Kitchen Table—a program of Portland State University—to hear from as many Oregonians as possible to ensure the plan covers what matters most to people when it comes to our forests.
As the Board of Forestry makes decisions on our state forests, including potential adoption of a Habitat Conservation Plan, future harvest plans, and their strategic plan, we remind you that Oregon’s forests are managed for the greatest permanent value: “healthy, productive, and sustainable forest ecosystems that over time and across the landscape provide a full range of social, economic, and environmental benefits to the people of Oregon.”
The state has received more than $58 million in federal funds aimed at increasing tree canopy in community spaces and neighborhoods that most need to reduce impacts of extreme heat.
Register for The Great Oregon ShakeOut, a self-led earthquake drill, at 10:19 a.m. on Oct. 19th.
Also consider signing up for the ShakeAlert earthquake early warning system for earthquakes in the area with a magnitude of 4.5 or greater. This can provide critical seconds of advance warning to seek cover from falling objects and brace ourselves. ShakeAlert uses science and technology to detect significant earthquakes quickly, to send an alert to people on cell phones.
Hanford Cleanup Board
By Marylou Schnoes
The Oregon Hanford Cleanup Board will hold a meeting on October 10, both online and in person in Richland, WA. The meeting will begin at 2:00 pm and conclude after the public comment period that will take place at approximately 5:00 pm. Public participation is welcomed and encouraged. A full meeting agenda, information on how to participate, and other meeting materials are available online. Learn more about Hanford and Oregon’s role. New public Board members are needed. We are grateful for the time Marylou has spent serving on this Board.
Land Use/Dept. of Land Conservation and Development (DLCD) & Housing
By Peggy Lynch
The League has been feverishly engaged with the Governor’s Housing Production Advisory Council as it now meets bi-weekly and has five less-than-public work groups making recommendations to the Governor. Some ideas have merit but many attack our environmental protections and our public involvement opportunities at local levels. The League has always supported our statewide land use planning program with local implementation. We are seeing local elements eroded by some of the recommendations. See the League’s website where the plethora of our testimony is posted. If you want to receive notices of HPAC meetings, click here.
We are working with partners, with the Governor’s Office and legislators, as we expect bills in the 2024 session that we may want to support or oppose. This is the latest article on challenges. Look for additional articles AND look for the League’s voice as we work to support affordable housing for ALL while also protecting other Oregon values.
See also the Housing Report in the Social Policy section of this Legislative Report.
Oregon Marine Board
The League has supported Oregon’s boat inspection program. We are alarmed that Quagga mussels have been spotted in the Snake River near Twin Falls, Idaho. We support the boat permits under the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Dept. with monies transferred to the Marine Board to enforce protections.
By Shirley Weathers
The Oregon Department of Energy (ODOE) continues its work to protect Oregon from the acceptance, accumulation, and storage of hazardous levels of radioactive waste. Since the 2023 Sine Die issue of the Legislative Report (see for background, scroll down to Radioactive Waste), LWVOR and other members of the Rulemaking Advisory Committee (RAC) submitted informal input on the third draft of revised rules for OAR 345-050. Oregon Department of Energy (ODOE) Staff presented a final proposed draft to the Energy Facility Siting Council (EFSC) on September 22, 2023. After some discussion, the Council voted to put the draft out for public comment.
There are several issues of concern, most pertaining to the League’s priority for rules that will best safeguard the public health and safety over short and long terms. On some elements of the rules, tension exists between that and costs of detection/identification and management to Oregon entities that generate and otherwise manage wastes containing radioactivity would incur. There has been an unfortunate shortage of participation in RAC activities by those sharing the League’s focus, but we are working to inform and bring in others for public comment.
The deadline for comment is Friday, October 27 at 5 p.m. Materials can be found on the ODOE website (scroll down to Radioactive Waste Materials).
The League supported the 2023 Right to Repair bill, SB 542, that required the original equipment manufacturer to make repair information available to owners of consumer electronic equipment or independent repair providers. The bill did not pass, but we expect a version to return in 2024 or 2025. Sen. Sollman’s staff attended the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) Annual Meeting in Indianapolis. The Right to Repair movement was in full swing at this year's event which featured a Repair booth helping attendees with free phone screen replacements on their cell phones. One of NCSL's live-streamed seminars, titled "Will You Let Me Fix This Thing?", also focused on Right to Repair and how states across the country are leaning into this policy. The panel included Representative Lew Jones from Montana who spoke about challenges for his constituents in repairing agricultural equipment and also Representative Scott Nishimoto from Hawaii with information on his right to repair bill that he has been working on since 2018. Included on the panel were Gay Gordon-Byrne from the Repair Association and Walter Alcorn, representing Consumer Technology Association. You can watch the panel discussion here. Look for a new version of this bill in 2024 or 2025.
The Regional Solutions Team is working hard across the state. See the latest report on their work.
By Paula Grisafi
The League engaged in three bills in 2023. Here is an updated report from our volunteer:
SB 546 (Toxics Free Cosmetics Bill) is a first step to protect both children and adults
from the adverse effects of chemicals listed in the bill. The chemical compounds
included in the bill like formaldehyde and phthalates are known to have cumulative toxic
effects through exposures from multiple sources. While some of these chemicals are
used ubiquitously in many industries, beginning to free ourselves and the environment of
them by their removal from products that are applied directly to our bodies seems the
most intelligent place to start. This bill was passed in the 2023 legislative session.
HB 3043 (Toxics Free Kids Bill) is important because it allows more than 5 chemicals to
be added to the list of high priority chemicals concerning known impacts to children’s
health per year. It also requires consideration of chemical classes instead of individual
chemicals, so that small chemical changes that may not improve safety
are not sheltered from addition to the list. The bill passed in the 2023 legislative
SB 426 (Toxics Free Schools Bill) provides a much-needed update to the original
Toxic Free Schools legislation that includes structured plans to help implement the bill’s
intent. It included systems that will improve expert and stakeholder oversight over the
use of pesticides on school grounds, standardize the use of Integrated Pest
Management at Oregon schools, develop even-handed school funding for managing
pesticide use, and increase transparency of IPM in schools throughout the state. This
bill did not pass in the 2023.
By Peggy Lynch
The Oregon Water Resources Dept. (OWRD) presented an update on new groundwater rules being considered by the Water Resources Commission. As with all water issues, this is a contentious proposed policy as explained in this OPB article. If we don’t do a better job of regulating groundwater, more and more people and farms will be in water crisis. The League has been watching but not engaging directly in this rulemaking.
We learned that the legislature has created a Joint Water Caucus with members from both the House and Senate, with both major parties as leaders. These caucuses can often be powerful voices for the issues they support.
Here’s the latest Integrated Water Resources Strategy 2023 public engagement.
The League is very concerned by the report that quagga mussels were detected on Sept. 18 in the Snake River at Twin Falls, Idaho. That is approximately 60 miles from the Oregon border. Quagga mussels can seriously damage lakes, streams, irrigation, and water delivery systems. This is why the League supports boat permits and a robust boat inspection system at our borders.
EPA Statement on Waters of the U.S. rule: “EPA and Army statement regarding intent to amend WOTUS rule in wake of U.S. Supreme Court’s Sackett decision – On June 26, EPA and Army released the following statement regarding next steps for the agencies’ WOTUS rule: “The Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of the Army (agencies) are in receipt of the U.S. Supreme Court's May 25, 2023, decision in the case of Sackett v. Environmental Protection Agency. In light of this decision, the agencies are interpreting the phrase “waters of the United States” consistent with the Supreme Court’s decision in Sackett.” Oregon has our own wetlands rules and laws, so wetlands in the jurisdiction of Oregon will continue to be protected unless the legislature changes those laws. (See Land Use above.)
We all need to pay attention to the potential for harmful algal blooms. “When in doubt, stay out.” Visit the Harmful Algae Bloom website or call the Oregon Public Health Division toll-free information line at 877-290-6767 to learn if an advisory has been issued or lifted for a specific water body. .
League members may want to check the U. S. Drought Monitor, a map that is updated every Thursday. Governor Kotek has signed drought declarations under ORS 536 for these counties of Crook, Jefferson, Grant, Deschutes, Wasco, Harney, Sherman, Lake and Jackson counties. On Sept. 6, the Governor declared a drought in Gilliam, Douglas and Lincoln Counties through Executive Order 23-20 and Executive Order 23-22, This is concerning since the forecast El Nino weather pattern may well mean a reduced snowpack this winter.
By Carolyn Mayers
Senate Interim Natural Resources and Wildfire met on September 27. Senator Elizabeth Steiner, Co-Chair of Full W&Ms and candidate for State Treasurer, and Doug Grafe, Governor Kotek’s Wildfire and Military Advisor, gave an update on the work of the Wildfire and Forestry Workgroup. Senator Steiner, who serves as “convener”, listed the group’s stakeholder groups and described the complexities of various funding mechanisms, which the group seeks to “decomplexify”, and then outlined the group’s “Guiding Principles”. See details of her presentation. Senator Girod raised concerns about the role of federal lands in wildfires on the Oregon landscape. Senator Golden expressed his concern that the severity of cuts to funding as a result of the last legislative session will dramatically impact Fire Adapted Communities’ efforts, geared at community level wildfire mitigation plans and actions. He also felt that monies from the General Fund would likely never be adequate. Senator Steiner proposed that it may be helpful to try and persuade legislators that investments in mitigation, prevention and suppression would, by reducing the need for expenditures as the RESULT of wildfires, actually end up saving enough money to enable the General Fund to cover the cost of these programs. She urged a focus on how spending more on these activities and programs would end up, ultimately, costing the State less.
Later in the meeting, Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) reviewed their Final Report on the Landscape Resiliency Program and 20-Year Strategy (LRP). The LRP was established through SB 762 (2021) to improve forest restoration and resiliency. It appropriated $20 million General Fund to be spent by the end of the 2021—2023 biennium by ODF. This program was set up to fund landscape-scale projects that reduce wildfire risk on public and private forestlands, rangelands, in communities near homes, and around critical infrastructure through restoration of landscape resiliency and reduction of hazardous fuels.
On September 28, Senate Interim Veterans, Emergency Management, Federal and World Affairs met and received an update on the 2023 wildfire season so far. Mike Shaw, ODF Chief of Fire Protection, gave an update, highlighting how well ODF and the Oregon State Fire Marshal’s (OFSM) new department have worked together, extremely well to “catch” and quickly suppress several wildfires around the state. He highlighted the wildfire events in the northwestern part of the state, calling it “unusual timing”, as those events most often do not happen before September. He also pointed out that the dry lightning event with over 1,000 strikes, igniting hundreds of wildfires in western Oregon on August 24 and 25, was extremely unusual. He stated that the “effectiveness of the lightning was very high, and not in a good way”, and that he was proud of their response, in partnership with OSFM. Prepositioning OSFM assets and Regional Mobilization, programs begun with funding from SB 762, also played a large role in keeping fires small. Under the Emergency Mutual Aid System, as relayed by Travis Medema, Chief Deputy State Fire Marshal, OFSM assets were deployed to assist in structure protection efforts. In these cases, as highlighted by Chief Mariana Ruiz-Temple of OFSM, not a single structure was lost. Find more information here.
Also in her report, Chief Ruiz-Temple pointed out the alarming trend of declining interest in firefighting, both as a career and for volunteer firefighters. She said: “The pipeline is not keeping up.” Underlining the potential problem, she shared that in the past decade there has been a 246% increase in structures lost to wildfire. Finally, she serves on the Federal Wildland Fire Mitigation and Management Commission. In closing she shared the Commission’s report, aptly titled On Fire, published the day before, September 27. It described how.“The face of wildfire is changing.” While there have been many successes in Oregon this wildfire season, there was a distinct air of caution, if not outright pessimism, about the future we face both as a state and as a nation.
SB 80 was one of the important wildfire bills passed in 2023. The Dept. of Forestry has been meeting with counties as ODF and OSU work on developing a new Wildfire Hazard Map. Watch for upcoming public meetings to consider the new map when a new draft is proposed. OFSM has launched a Defensible Space website, which provides a multitude of resources to help Oregonians make their home more resilient in the face of increasing wildfire risk, including the ability to schedule a home assessment based on entering your home address.
Here is a review of the 2020 wildfires and the status of our friends who suffered from tragic loss.
What is your passion related to Natural Resources? You can help. The short 2024 legislative session is Feb. 5-March 10. There are interim committee meetings in November and January. Natural Resource Agency Boards and Commissions meet regularly year-round and need monitoring. If any area of natural resources interests you, please contact Peggy Lynch, Natural Resources Coordinator, at email@example.com. Training is offered.