Oregon Coast Alliance Newsletter
Coastal Protection in the Year Ahead
Oceanside Transmission Line Up For Review Soon   
TPUD Proposed Oceanside Transmission Line Route. Courtesy TPUD
Tillamook People's Utility District has long wanted to build a new 115 kv transmission line between Tillamook and Oceanside. Strong opposition to the Oceanside Transmission Line (OTL) slowed the process down for several years, especially when Tillamook City Council turned down the permit request for the city portion in 2013, and the District lost a subsequent court case at the Land Use Board of Appeals. But the District has persevered in their attempts to get OTL approved and built.

This month, after a long local public process including workshops, one-on-one conversations with landowners and a "citizens' committee," the District made a final decision about the revised route. The full report, with maps, is found 
here .

The District has not yet submitted an application to Tillamook County for a conditional use permit, but that is the likely next step. ORCA opposes the Oceanside Transmission Line for many reasons, especially the lack of need for expanded electrical capacity, the effect on landowners and their property, and the effects on farm and forest lands. When hearings are scheduled, ORCA will provide testimony in opposition to the project. This long-proposed line serves no valid public purpose that could justify taking people's private property and cutting a swath through farms and forests.

Finding a Way to Keep the Elliott State Forest Public  
Elliott State Forest. Courtesy DSL      
At its December meeting, the State Land Board (the Governor, Treasurer and Secretary of State) focused on the plight of the Elliott State Forest. The Department of State Lands had received only one offer under its "transfer opportunity" protocol, from Lone Rock Timber and its partners. ORCA, and many other conservation groups, are strongly opposed to selling the Elliott into private hands, regardless of the largely meaningless sideboards meant to protect riparian zones, old growth forests and public access.

Governor Brown simultaneously asked DSL to continue looking into the details of the Lone Rock proposal, but also announced the possibility of up to $100 million in state bonding capacity to help forge an alternative that would keep the Elliott public. Conservation groups and legislators will be researching the best means of decoupling the Elliott from the requirement to make money for the Common School Fund, and to keeping the Elliott in public hands. Oregon probably needs to pass a trustland transfer bill modeled on the law Washington uses to protect trustlands with high environmental values.

We commend Governor Brown for her willingness to open the door to an alternative outcome for the Elliott. In the months to come, the Governor needs to provide the leadership and commitment to make sure a good bill is drafted and passed by the Legislature that will free the Elliott from being a money-maker, and retain it as a public forest for future generations of Oregonians.

Protecting North Coast Dunes and Wetlands
Elk in the Cannon Beach Dunes. Courtesy ORCA  
There are many long-standing issues on the north coast, but here are two which we hope will progress in this next year: protection of dunes and wetlands. Cannon Beach has been, and continues to be, the site of conflict over grading the dunes to enhance views by nearby homeowners. An ongoing study, scheduled for probable completion in 2017, of the sand movement in the littoral cell that includes Cannon Beach, will aid the city in making decisions based on accurate and recent data. Following the study, Cannon Beach will adopt new language in its ordinances and comprehensive plan.

Gearhart is also beginning conversations about dunes, due to concerns about vegetation management: can nearby landowners remove shore pines, or invasive Scotch broom, tansy or thistles? Currently Gearhart does not have any comprehensive ordinances on this topic, and is holding a public forum on January 5th to begin discussions on dune management. The forum will be at 6:30 PM at the Gearhart Fire Station.

Last, Clatsop County is still moving slowly through a Wetlands Advisory Committee, trying to decide how best to protect wetlands but minimize effects on landowners. The County is proposing an enhanced program to find out exactly where wetlands are, both in urban and rural areas. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's National Wetland Inventory is often quite imprecise at local levels. Of course, more accurate local inventories is a good beginning. But after that, the Advisory Committee's main proposal is to "guide development away from wetlands while still achieving development objectives," by working to create a "Transfer of Development Rights" (TDR) program. The County has a very small TDR program in the Clatsop Plains, but the Task Force proposes to expand it countywide. It remains to be seen whether expansion of the TDR program would make it more effective.

It is important to remember that both dunes and wetlands are part of the ecosystem. It is not merely a question of grading dunes to enhance views for landowners or permitting a developer to fill in a wetland and build a house on it. The ultimate focus must be to protect the ecosystem and its components, because the resilience of an ecosystem is what makes dunes and wetlands able to absorb flood waters, or provide protection against storms and high tides, among many other benefits.

Quick Links...

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Contact Information
Contact Executive Director Cameron La Follette by  email
or phone: 503-391-0210
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