"To protect the Oregon coast by working with coastal residents for sustainable communities; protection and restoration of coastal and marine natural resources; providing education and advocacy on land use development; and adaptation to climate change."

Oregon Coast Alliance is the coastal affiliate of 1000 Friends of Oregon
Oregon Coast Alliance Newsletter

The Legislature and the Coast

The Coast and the 2023 Legislature

Arizona Ranch Campground Proposal Upheld

The Coast and the 2023 Legislature
Oregon State Capitol. Image courtesy of M.O. Stevens (Wiki Commons)
The 2023 Legislature ended on June 25th, as constitutionally mandated, having completed an enormous amount of business in a short time. The coast fared with a higher profile this time than it usually does in the Legislature.

The Ports Bill

A very controversial bill was HB 3382, which as originally introduced would have allowed all five of Oregon’s deep water ports to dredge, and build docking and berthing facilities, in or near federal dredging lanes, without going through the requirements of the land use laws. The bill triggered massive opposition, and went through many amendments. As passed it will allow only the Port of Coos Bay or nearby entities to apply for an Exception for dredging or facilities — in other words, the criteria and restrictions of the land use laws will apply. It is still a bill that could cause much harm to the bay, but at least any future project will be subject to the framework of Oregon’s land use system. 

Coos Bay has big dreams, as it often does: a $2 billion plan for a major shipping terminal, despite being eighty miles from the nearest interstate system, and connected to the inland only by a single, fragile railroad line. Coos Bay is trying to find a niche in the shipping trade, despite having applied last year for a US Department of Transportation mega-grant, and been turned down. No applications in the local land use system have yet been filed, so ORCA is at the moment watching how this possible project unfolds.

Money for the Coast: the Good and the Bad

Apart from that bill, some money was focused towards coastal priorities, including $1.5 million to complete restoration of docks and pilings in Depoe Bay, and $2.2 million for industrial sewer connections in Waldport, as well as $3.8 million for Newport’s wastewater treatment systems improvement. The Legislature also created an opportunity for Newport’s reservoirs to be moved, which is generally prohibited in state law, but essential for the replacement of the city’s seismically vulnerable Big Creek Dams, which create the reservoirs holding the city’s water supply.

Unfortunately, the $750,000 requested by Sen. Brock Smith for a “Port Orford Water Recycling Project” ended up in the final budget reconciliation bill. This money is well known to be in aid of the unbuilt Knapp Ranch golf course just outside of Port Orford, which has proposed to use the city’s graywater for irrigation — which would require a multi-million dollar pipeline and secondary treatment plant. Elk River Development Corporation has proposed to build the City of Port Orford a second ocean outfall as well, though there is already a functional one.

Smith has been clear about what the funds are to be used for. On April 20, 2023, he told the Port Orford City Council, “The City is the recipient of the [$750,000] resources to assist with the construction of the pipeline” to the golf course. He was testifying during the hearing of an appeal of the approval of the fifth extension of conditional use permits for that pipeline project. “When it comes to this extension and these CUPs,” Smith said, “it’s very simple, colleagues, uh councilors, this will save the citizens of Port Orford millions of dollars, and the reason is that you have a public/private partnership where you have a private entity that is willing to put in a secondary outfall for the citizens of Port Orford.”

Note that the money will not go to ERPD, it will go to Port Orford, and (which Smith did not mention) it must be spent in accordance with legislative requirements for expenditure of state tax monies. If it is not, the Legislature can make amendments or put additional requirements in place. To the best of ORCA’s knowledge, Port Orford does not have a “Recycling Project” for which these monies would be used. The city needs help with its water delivery infrastructure, for which it has applied for major grants — not another ocean outfall.
Arizona Ranch Campground Proposal Upheld
Arizona Beach. Courtesy OPRD
The proposal to place a 31-slot RV park at the Arizona Ranch site, adjacent to a state park that already offers camping, was approved by the Curry County planning commission. Appealed by a local resident, the Board of Commissioners held a hearing on the project, but reaffirmed the approval. Both ORCA and local residents found this mystifying, as there was much testimony about how boggy and wet the meadow is, and the many years of trouble the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has had with previous owners over septic problems. 

There just are not sufficient resources for a major RV park, or other development, at this site: not enough water, not a good landscape for a septic system. It is also a remote location, and the state park’s nearby beach group camp is often lightly visited. Unfortunately, Curry County officials seem more interested in approving something — anything — for this derelict hotel and boggy meadow than working towards a plan that would protect the ecology and fit the site.
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