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Natural Resources LR - November 29, 2021

The reports below include information on natural resource agencies and programs, opportunities to engage in the item of interest to you and possible legislation for 2022.

Agriculture: The Oregon Department of Agriculture has named a new deputy director from within its own ranks. The appointment of Lauren Henderson was effective on Sept. 29. He has worked for the agency for 22 years.

Budgets/Revenue: See the Revenue Report in this Legislative Report. With revenue increase, the League will be requesting funding in 2022 for continuing the Oregon Global Warming Commission work funding an Environmental Justice Council as requested in SB 286 (2021), funding the Private Forest Accord, possibly funding related to the Elliott State Forest and funding the 2021 fire season expenses, as well as issues in other portfolios. For more information, see the Oregon Economic Analysis.

Climate (Claudia Keith and Team): See Climate Report in this Legislative Report. See the Forestry section in this report for forest climate work, the Coastal section and the Land Use section related to other agency work. There are overlaps with this Natural Resources Report. We encourage you to read both sections.

Coastal Issues (Christine Moffitt): The League commented on the Rocky Habitat Management Site Designation Proposal Process (Section E and Appendix C). This matter will come before the Ocean Policy Advisory Council.

The League of Women Voters of Oregon is pleased to congratulate member Peggy Joyce on her appointment to Oregon's Ocean Policy Advisory Council (OPAC) and confirmation by the Oregon Senate on Nov. 17. Peggy followed coastal issues on behalf of the League so her knowledge of the issues that will come before OPAC will serve Oregonians well as they consider how to protect our Rocky Shores and issues around our coastal land use Goals.

On Oct. 12 the State Land Board (agenda —this item starts on page 18) received an Annual Report on the South Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve (SSNER), the first of many over the next few years. The League is proud to have been part of the groups that helped the Dept. of State Lands to recognize this very special first-in-the-nation estuarine reserve and its role today in research around the effects of climate change on our coastal areas.

Dept. of Environmenal Quality (DEQ) (Josie Koehne and Peggy Lynch): Both DEQ and the Oregon Dept. of Forestry have drafted a new Memorandum of Understanding related to the nexus between the federal Clean Water Act which DEQ is to implement in Oregon and forest practices under the purview of the Dept. of Forestry. This final plan, specifically outlines each agency’s role with a timeline, was posted recently. The League testified in support while making it clear that Oregon’s waters need to be protected. See additional information in the Forestry section.

Justin Green, Water Quality Division Administrator at DEQ, is leaving the agency as of Nov. 30. Justin, who worked to turn this division around and implement recommendations from the consultant work of a few years ago and advocated for the new staffing provided for this division the last two biennia, will be missed. Jennifer Wigal will be Acting WQ Administrator after Justin’s departure.

Spoiled food is costing Oregon households real money. In fact, every year the average household loses $1,600 by throwing away spoiled food. While many are already taking steps to reduce food waste, research funded by DEQ found that 85% of Oregon households agreed they could do more to reduce food spoilage. Resources are available at Don't Let Good Food Go Bad.

Dept. of Geology and Mineral Industries (DOGAMI) (Peggy Lynch): Bob Houston, Geological Survey and Services Program Manager/Legislative Coordinator, will leave the agency on Nov 24. The League has worked with Bob for many years, most especially during the 2021 session to assure DOGAMI’s science work continued on behalf of Oregonians. Sarah Lewis is the interim Agency Director. No new State Geologist has been appointed.

Elliott State Forest (Peggy Lynch): A new Elliott State Research Forest Advisory Committee workgroup has formed to discuss developing a legislative concept to establish an independent public entity for forest ownership. Here are the Oct. 1 meeting materials; however, much has changed since this initial draft. A new draft outline of a proposed legislative concept has been filed with Legislative Counsel with the expectation that the bill will be considered in the 2022 session. Meeting information, videos, notes, and other public outreach efforts are on the Elliott website.

The League has monitored this work and believes, for the most part, the legislation outline fits our positions to assure public ownership and environmental stewardship while also seeing some harvest. We look forward to seeing the actual proposed legislation. The bill should officially establish an Elliott State Research Forest (ESRF) under the direction of a new Board of Directors. The State Land Board will still have some oversight of the Forest as they would appoint this new Board. The new ESRF Board will hire an Executive Director for the Forest and will be expected to contract with Oregon State University to carry out the research mission listed in the proposed legislation.

The only area not resolved is how the Common School Fund would be reimbursed for the $120.8 million still owed from the last appraisal done in 2016. OSU is suggesting it needs $17 million in infrastructure to house staff on or near the Elliott and $10 million in operating expenses the first three years (before they can gain revenue from timber harvest) in their management plan. A new development has arisen whereby the Coos Bay area Shutter Creek Correctional Facility (which is closing) might be a good fit as headquarters for the ESRF staff and visiting researchers. The House Environment and Natural Resources Committee received an update on the Elliott at its Nov. 15 mtg.

While this discussion is on-going, progress is being made to consider a Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) for the Elliott. And another Work Group is developing a proposed Forest Management Plan. Again, all this information and more is on the Elliott website.

Forestry (Josie Koehne and Peggy Lynch): Since our last report on October 21, there have been several important Forestry developments. After a year and a half of negotiations, the Private Forest Accord agreement was signed on October 30 between representatives of 13 conservation groups and 13 timber industry organizations, with last-minute negotiated terms brokered by Governor Brown that ended at 1am on October 30. The agreement will serve as the basis for a Habitat Conservation Plan for the 10 million acres of privately-owned forestland, which will provide new protections for sensitive and endangered species as required by the EPA to meet Endangered Species Act standards. The plan would provide more regulatory protections from lawsuits and legal certainty for timber companies and small woodland owners when harvesting timber on their lands, while increasing wider “no cut” tree buffer zones in riparian zones to protect fish habitat. See agreement details in collected documents, with some more flexible options for small forest owners concerning riparian buffers, with incentives (reimbursements) for extending “no cut” zones when they harvest. Legislation based on the agreement will need to be drafted and approved by the Legislature, hopefully by the end of the short session, with rulemaking to follow. A presentation was provided to both House and Senate Committees during the November legislative days.

The agreement outlined a rather large price tag to implement the agreement which will need to be adjudicated. Requests include $11.75 million in start-up costs to implement the HCP requirements for private forestlands, and then $18-36 million each year from the General Fund depending on how extensive the details of monitoring, road mapping, etc. and $10 million for mitigation work (fixing logging roads, culverts and streams for fish passage, etc.). The timber industry has agreed to kick in $5 million each year for this mitigation work on their lands. The League expects some budget requests should the agreement be codified in legislation. News articles on the agreement can be found here: OPB, Oregonian, Portland Business Journal and Capital Press. This is welcome news, but other issues such as logging practices, drinking water protection and climate issues related to forestry remain to be addressed.

SB 1602 (2020 1st Special Session) continues to be implemented beyond the Private Forest Accord, including addressing some protections for drinking water sources and better notification around aerial spray on forests. Information is on the ODF website, including Helicopter pesticide spraying, Siskiyou stream buffers, neighbor notifications, and mediated discussions about possible changes to Oregon's Forest Practices Act, links to training videos and lists of fish streams. Effective Dec. 15, new procedures for helicopter pesticide applications and neighborly communications will start.

A final, stronger and much improved ODF Climate Change and Carbon Plan (CCCP) final draft was unanimously adopted by the Board of Forestry meeting on November 3. It included the Oregon Global Warming Commission (OGWC)'s Final Natural and Working Lands Proposal recommendations, with longer harvest rotations and climate smart forestry practices. Much public testimony supported the plan. See our LWV testimony of the CCCP.

There is a final draft of the Memo of Understanding (MOU) between ODF and DEQ that defines the roles and responsibilities of each agency in addressing the need to meet the water quality of the federal Clean Water Act. To do this, the two agencies will coordinate in the development of Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) for a number of pollutants that have been found in various state waters that have failed to pass federal standards. This final plan, which specifically outlines each agency’s role with a timeline, was posted recently. It defines a greater leadership role for the Environmental Quality Commission, with frequent consultations with ODF. ODF can provide alternative compliance options but DEQ and the EPA will have final say in whether the proposed compliance options will meet the federal water quality requirements. The MOU was reviewed in a joint session between the two agencies on November 17 (watch here) but is not yet available as of this writing. Public testimony was submitted. The LWV testified on a previous draft.


And finally, the big news is that a new State Forester, Cal Mukumoto, was unanimously approved at the October 29 Board of Forestry Special meeting. Cal Mukumoto is from Coos Bay and ran unsuccessfully in 2020 as the Democratic and Working Family Party candidate for that district’s state representative position now held by Republican Representative Boomer Wright. Mr. Mukumoto has had 30 years working in the forest industry and chaired the Oregon Parks and Recreation Commission. He has served on the Board of Forestry, been a business consultant with a master’s degree in business administration, and worked on the board for the Tribes’ Native American business community as a timber consultant.

Cal has been working with others within ODF on an initiative “to realign components of ODF’s leadership and organizational structures to enable the department to be more strategic, proactive, efficient, and effective in its work. This effort will include a realignment of the agency’s core leadership and decision-making functions.” According to an ODF email from interim State Forester Nancy Hirsh, “To more effectively manage and address the department’s core work, emerging issues, strategic initiatives, and other key business, we are splitting out leadership-level roles and responsibilities into four groups. Each group has a distinct role, but they will work closely to ensure coordination and alignment in direction, expectations, and desired outcomes at all levels of the agency.” This seems like quite a new direction in the leadership structure and we look forward to seeing how this change will play out within the agency. The League, along with others, meets monthly to get updates on the department’s many responsibilities.


The Senate also confirmed the last Board of Forestry member, Liz Agpaoa, retired USDA Forest Service Southern Regional Forester, to complete the 7-member Board which will continue to adopt rules under SB 762, any legislation around the Private Forest Accord, and any other policies that come to the Board.


ODF’s Forest Management Plan and Habitat Conservation Plan will be shared on December 7 from 1 – 4 p.m. in a virtual public meeting; RSVP is requested. This meeting will provide an update on the Western Oregon State Forest Management Plan (FMP) and Implementation Plan (IP) Project, the Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP), and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process. A proposed agenda and additional details will be provided closer to the meeting date. More information is available online at the Western Oregon State Forest Management Plan Website and the Western Oregon State Forest Habitat Conservation Plan Website.


The agency’s suppression costs for the 2021 season are currently estimated at $127.8 million in gross costs and $67.5 million in net costs (following reimbursements from FEMA and other federal agencies). ODF and Department of Administrative Services have been coordinating closely with the state’s Catastrophic Wildfire Insurance Policy brokers, as net suppression costs exceeded the $50 million insurance deductible. Based on today’s net cost estimate, the state is positioned to make an estimated $17.5 million claim against the $25 million policy.

Another issue that may appear in the 2022 session is reconsideration of a harvest tax or severance tax on forest harvests. See 2021 legislative reports for more on this issue. The current harvest tax collection ends Dec. 31 so renewing some form of harvest tax is reasonable considering the amount of General Funds needed by this agency for its many responsibilities.

See the Wildfire section for more information and progress on implementing the comprehensive wildfire bill, SB 762, which will provide for wildfire risk reduction, response and recovery that include programs related to defensible space, prescribed fire, landscape resiliency and community emergency preparedness.

Hanford Cleanup Board (Marylou Schnoes): The Oregon Hanford Cleanup Board held a virtual meeting on October 4. The agenda included an update on Hanford Site tank waste; updates from the U.S. Department of Energy and the Washington State Department of Ecology; and a presentation from ODOE’s summer intern regarding the Natural Resources Damage Assessment process. Information is available on ODOE's website.

Jordan Cove News: The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has asked Pembina, the the Jordan Cove project developer, and others to provide briefs by Dec. 15 to “clarify” how it intends to move forward since it lacks essential state permits and, at this point, has not submitted new applications to DEQ and DLCD. To learn more, read here.

Land Use/Housing (Debbie Aiona, Nancy Donovan, Peggy Lynch and the Climate Team): The Dept. of Land Conservation and Development (DLCD) is continuing to shepherd implementation of HB 2001 and 2003 (2019). The Land Conservation and Development Commission (LCDC) has had presentations by local governments at each of its meetings. The League of Oregon Cities has provided this report as well. Budget Notes were included in HB 5006 related to continued work on the Regional Housing Needs Analysis--Budget Note #4 and #8: OHCS and DLCD are to provide an initial legislative report no later than February 1, 2022 and a final legislative report no later than December 31, 2022 on efforts to develop a legislative proposal for incorporation of a Regional Housing Needs Analysis into future state and local planning processes.


LCDC approved their Policy Agenda (department work plan for 2021-23) at the meeting on Nov. 18. This document might have some minor edits not yet been captured on the web document.


The Senate confirmed Barbara Boyer to LCDC. Ms. Boyer, a farmer near McMinnville, also serves on the Board of Agriculture. DLCD Director Jim Rue announced his retirement in the near future, a major announcement. A conversation around the search for a new Director also occurred during the November LCDC meeting. with a target for filling the position by May 2022.

Another program the League supports, the Climate Friendly and Equitable Communities rulemaking, is on-going. See more about this in the Climate Report. Interesting facts from that rulemaking: In Oregon, 50% of people’s income is under $60k; 25% are disabled; 24% are people of color; 38% are renters. And they expect 40% of electric vehicle charging to happen away from home.

The League continues as a member of the Oregon Housing Alliance. Members attend regular meetings to discuss past and future legislation and programs.

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

Oregon Dept. of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW): There have been management changes at ODFW: the deputy director for administration, Erica Kleiner left at the end of October. Shannon Hurn is currently the deputy director for fish and wildlife programs but transfered into the administrative deputy position effective November 1. Also effective November 1, Debbie Colbert returned to ODFW as the deputy director for fish and wildlife programs. The League supported the reestablishment of a Habitat Division and Sarah Reif has been named Administrator for the newly created Habitat Division as of Dec. 15.

Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board (OWEB): Lisa Charpilloz Hanson, formerly Deputy Director of the Dept. of Agriculture since 2005, has become Director of OWEB. Stephanie Page has also moved to the Oregon Water Enhancement Board from the Dept. of Agriculture as Deputy Director.

Radioactive Waste (Shirley Weathers): The League will be participating in rulemaking to implement SB 246 (2021), Radioactive Waste Disposal Definitions and Enforcement. There are tentatively six meetings scheduled with the last meeting held on Nov. 2.

Transportation: See Land Use/Housing Report on Climate Friendly Communities work. DLCD is doing rulemaking on that and on Every Mile Counts along with the Oregon Dept. of Transportation, DLCD and Oregon Housing and Community Services. The Directors and representatives of these agencies provided testimony at the Nov. 18/19 LCDC meeting.

Toxic Free Kids Act Update (Amelia Nestler): Adding just 5 new chemicals to the list every three years is not enough. Since the Toxic Free Kids Act Program was enacted 6 years ago, more than 4,000 reports have been filed, disclosing harmful substances like arsenic, lead, and formaldehyde in children’s products.

See our new Pesticides and Other Biocides study. Local Leagues have been considering the study and the League is analyzing consensus results to adopt advocacy positions based on this important educational work. Watch for a new position, anticipated by February.

Water (Peggy Lynch and Amelia Nestler): The Water Resources Dept. (WRD) received a huge infusion of staff positions and program changes with the 2021 session. Director Tom Byler announced a major reorganization in an email to stakeholders on Oct. 15.

Jan Lee, a League of Women Voters of Clackamas County member, has been appointed and confirmed to the Oregon Water Resources Commission for the Northwest Region. She is the current Executive Director of the Oregon Association of Conservation Districts and has a wide range of experience in water issues. A volunteer extraordinaire, she is currently also a member of the City of Sandy Planning Commission. Her first Commission meeting will be Dec. 3rd.


The House Interim Committee on Water received a Drought Report at its Nov. 17 meeting, among other important information. The House Interim Agriculture and Land Use Committee heard from a variety of water users about the effect of Oregon’s megadrought on their businesses and need for water. Of note is that State Rep. Brian Clem, long the Chair of land use committees, is resigning as of Dec. 1.

With the on-going drought throughout Oregon, League members may want to check the U.S. Drought Monitor, a map updated every Thursday. And here’s the counties in Oregon for which a drought declaration has been approved.

WRD received Budget Note #9 in HB 5006 (2021): WRD is directed to use provided funding to contract with Oregon Consensus to convene a workgroup comprised of a balanced membership including, but not limited to, conservation groups, agricultural water users, municipal water users, environmental justice organizations, tribal interests and state agencies including WRD and ODFW to consider regional water management opportunities that build on the 100-Year Water Vision and further the goals of the Integrated Water Resources Strategy. Oregon Consensus has begun to interview a wide variety of water interests, including LWVOR, to ascertain next steps, including establishment of a Work Group to consider how some form of regional water planning might work. We expect that group to begin early next year. The League continues to remind everyone that water in Oregon belongs to all of us.

The onsite septic program advocated by LWVOR has started again with the $2 million attained in the 2021 legislative session. A separate $15 million was allocated to DEQ but that is a separate pot of money and will need rules and criteria before allocating—hopefully mostly to our 2020 wildfire victims and businesses.

The federal bipartisan infrastructure bill passed by Congress and signed by President Biden includes, for Oregon, over $500 million. Among the bill’s funding is money for tribal infrastructure. We can only hope that our Warm Springs Tribe will receive the help needed for drinking water and sewer repair/replacement.

On Nov. 18 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Department of the Army (the agencies) announced a proposed rule to re-establish the pre-2015 definition of “waters of the United States” (WOTUS) which had been in place for decades, updated to reflect consideration of Supreme Court decisions. This action advances the agencies’ goal of establishing a durable definition of WOTUS that protects public health, the environment, and downstream communities while supporting economic opportunity, agriculture, and other industries that depend on clean water. This proposed rule would support a stable implementation of “waters of the United States” while the agencies continue to consult with states, Tribes, local governments, and a broad array of stakeholders in both the implementation of WOTUS and future regulatory action.

Amelia Nestler serves as the League’s statutory member of OHA’s Drinking Water Advisory Committee (DWAC). The committee meets quarterly to consider issues around drinking water systems serving Oregonians. Among the issues being considered are systems affected by wildfires, including possible benzene contamination and new rules for very small water systems where staff is needed to manage drinking water requirements. Also being addressed are the drinking water systems that could be contaminated with PFAS, or per- and poly-fluorinated substances.

Oregon plans to test about 150 drinking water systems across the state that could be contaminated. The systems were chosen because of their proximity to known or suspected PFAS use or contamination sites. PFAS are a family of chemicals used since the 1940s for their non-stick, heat-, moisture-, grease- and stain-resistant qualities. They’re found in everyday items like non-stick pans, waterproof outerwear, food packaging and firefighting foam. PFAS are referred to as “forever chemicals,” meaning they don’t break down in the environment or human body, and can accumulate over time.

Growing evidence points to their adverse health effects including increased cholesterol levels, changes in liver enzymes, small decreases in infant birth weights, decreased vaccine response in children, increased risk of high blood pressure or pre-eclampsia in pregnant women, and increased risk of kidney or testicular cancer. DEQ’s laboratory will test the drinking water samples for 25 PFAS compounds, in partnership with the Oregon Health Authority. Results of the testing will be provided online at https://yourwater.oregon.gov/.

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. We have also seen beach closures this late summer, many of which may be related to failing septic systems along the coast.

Wildfire (Josie Koehne and Peggy Lynch): SB 762 (2021), the omnibus wildfire bill that requires a multitude of rulemaking by various agencies has begun and some grant programs are being opened. See the Dept. of Forestry website for their work and progress. The League is monitoring this work and has provided testimony as necessary. Other agencies that will be required to do rulemaking include the Oregon Fire Marshal’s Office, Dept. of Land Conservation and Development (as maps are created to recognize which properties are in the Wildland Urban Interface (“that geographical area where structures and other human development meets or intermingles with wildland or vegetative fuels.”) and what level of risk they might have related to wildfire, the Dept. of Consumer and Business Services and the Public Utility Commission. An appeals process will be included in the final rules for property owners since these maps will guide future rules on action needed around the defensible space for the most at-risk properties. Those rules will be determined by the State Fire Marshal. The current Oregon Wildfire Risk Explorer tool lets homeowners and potential buyers put in an address and receive a general summary of what’s called the “home ignition zone,” along with recommendations to dampen the potential of wind-whipped flames. This website does NOT reflect the upcoming rules.

Videos of ODF’s rulemaking deliberations can be found here. All meetings are open to the public and have opportunities for public comment. To access the meetings, visit the RAC webpage for the Zoom links. You can also sign up to receive meeting reminders and agendas. Written comment or questions about any aspect of implementation of SB 762 may be submitted by email to sb762.rulemaking@oregon.gov.

The House Interim Special Committee on Wildfire Recovery received information on both the 2021 investments for Wildfire Impacted Communities and then heard the status of Housing for the 2020 wildfire victims. At the Nov. 19 LCDC mtg., reports were received about the hardest hit of these 2020 fire areas. We encourage people still in need to call the Oregon Department of Human Services' wildfire survivor toll-free number at 1-833-669-0554 for support and to access resources at https://wildfire.oregon.gov. Those eligible for wildfire survivor support will be referred and assigned to a disaster case manager, who will help them navigate recovery. The outreach campaign includes a flyer; ads in print, social media, and other digital spaces; and, where available, transit and billboard ads.

Here are ODOT's tree removal articles and an Almeda fire rebuild update in Jackson County.

New funding may come to Oregon: The recently passed and signed federal infrastructure bill includes $1.5 billion for improving resilience to wildfires, including funds to restore forests after fires. The measure will also raise wildland firefighter pay and requires Interior to transition at least 1,000 seasonal firefighters to full-time workers. A portion of $5 billion is available from the federal government for states to better safeguard power transmission systems

See the Forestry section for information about SB 762 and forestry actions.

Volunteers Needed: You can see the names of League volunteers who covered one or more issues in these reports. Volunteers are needed to participate in rulemaking to implement the bills passed in the 2021 session and to consider following legislation in 2022, a short 5-week session starting Feb. 1st. If not actually serving on a rules advisory committee (RAC), you could simply monitor and report back on their work. Natural Resource Agency Boards and Commissions meet regularly and need monitoring. If any area of natural resources interests you, please contact Peggy Lynch, Natural Resources Coordinator, at peggylynchor@gmail.com. Training will be offered.

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