Oregon Coast Alliance Newsletter
Cranberries and Ongoing News
Cranberries on the Chopping Block
Cranberries in a Massachusetts bog, ready for harvesting. Photo courtesy of Hal Brown/Wikimedia
The Legislature is in session in Salem, and that means bills good, bad and mediocre are flooding the hallways. House Bill 2573 is of particular concern to ORCA, and we are following its journey through the Legislature. This bill would remove cranberries from the definition of high-value farmland (HVF).  The term "high value farmland"  has several definitions  in Oregon law,  but one category  refers to  lands growing specified perennial crops, such as Christmas trees, vineyards, nuts and cranberries. The purpose of the added protection provided by the HVF designation is that perennials like these require significant investment by the farmer, which needs to be protected by additional restrictions against potential development. Removing cranberries from HVF would allow many more non-farm uses allowable on Exclusive Farm Use lands, including dwellings and golf courses. Most of the cranberries grown in Oregon are grown in Coos County, and it may be no accident that Coos County is also the home of Bandon Dunes golf resort. This bill was apparently introduced at the request of Coos County Commissioner Melissa Cribbins.

Oregon is the third-largest cranberry grower in the United States, and cranberries brought in $12.7 million in revenue in 2017. It is very bad policy to tinker with farm policy in a piecemeal manner like this, especially removing one crop from HVF because conditions are temporarily  difficult  for the growers. Some other year it would be Christmas trees or vineyards asking for a loosening of the HVF protections, which would affect tens of thousands of acres. HB 2573 has had an initial hearing in the House Agriculture and Land Use  Committee, and ORCA is tracking its progress.

Tillamook-Oceanside Transmission Line Process Continues
TPUD Proposed Oceanside Transmission Line Route. Courtesy TPUD
The proposed Tillamook-Oceanside Transmission Line  (TOTL) would  cross some eight miles of farm and forestland for a new and unnecessary 115 KV transmission line,  and would cost $7 million.Tillamook  People's Utility District (TPUD) continues to shepherd the proposal through the permitting  process, despite  ample testimony showing the line is costly and unnecessary - plus opposed by virtually all of the landowners whose properties the transmission line would cross. 

Tillamook County Board of Commissioners approved the line. Tilla-Bay Farms, a major farming operation whose lands the line would have to march across, appealed the decision to the Land Use Board of Appeals. ORCA intervened in support of Tilla-Bay. LUBA will render its decision the second week of March. Meanwhile, TPUD must also get a certificate of necessity from the Public Utility Commission in order to use eminent domain to acquire easements across the lands of unwilling owners. This process is ongoing, with briefs for both sides being filed in  the case  proceeding.

The best news for  the ratepayers in Tillamook County who understand that TOTL is a fiasco for TPUD, and the landowners  in the transmission line's pathway, is that two of the biggest supporters of the line on the TPUD Board were defeated in the November 2018 elections. Ed Jenkins and Ken Phillips, both longtime members of the Board,  lost their bids for re-election  largely because of their support for the line. Jenkins in December 2017 wrote an abrupt letter to the Oregon Dairy Farmers Association, in which he accused ODFA of an outright lie, and also said, "TPUD and I know far better than you do the value of the agricultural and forestry industry [sic] and its impact on the economy of Tillamook County."

ORCA hopes that the new Board members of TPUD will focus on listening to their ratepayers, and exercising responsible oversight  on  TPUD's projects and financial future. A hard look at the proposed Oceanside line shows it is not a good decision for the utility, the ratepayers or the residents of Oceanside, whose  service reliability  is supposed to be improved by its construction.

Bandon Beach Hotel: Next Steps
Revised Bandon Beach Hotel, View from the Southwest. Courtesy City of Bandon
Surprisingly, the Bandon Planning Commission approved the proposed Keiser Bandon Beach Hotel by a unanimous 7-0 vote. Not one of the planning commissioners was concerned enough about the proposed hotel's many problems to vote against it. Issues include geohazards (the head scarp of the landslide area bordering the hotel is moving rapidly), stormwater management, the large 60-space parking lot proposed across the street in the residential neighborhood, and most of all the myriad ways in which the hotel fails to meet Bandon's numerous ordinances and Comprehensive Plan policies that protect Coquille Point and its environs for wildlife purposes.

The planning commission did not grapple with or resolve any of these issues. If the decision is appealed to City Council, concerned residents, and ORCA, will have further opportunities to make the problems clear to the decision-makers. The desire of an important local employer for project approval should not be grounds for approval if the project does not meet the required standards. The ordinances governing development approvals protect the public health and safety,  as well as  make the community livable for all residents.

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