Oregon Coast Alliance Newsletter
Expired Permits and Eminent Domain
Knapp Ranch Golf Course Appeal Hearing Canceled   
Elk River Valley. Area Proposed for Knapp Ranch Golf Course Lower Right Center. Courtesy ORCA
The Curry County Planning Commission earlier in November denied Elk River Property Development's application for a pipeline and reservoir to use Port Orford effluent to irrigate the proposed golf course at Knapp Ranch. The fundamental reason the Planning Commission denied the application is that the ERPD permit for the golf course expired on January 15, 2016. As the original golf course permit required a time extension after one year and ERPD failed to apply for it, the permit is no longer valid. The Planning Commission could not approve a pipeline for a theoretical golf course; the statute (ORS 215.283) requires that land application of reclaimed water for irrigation be "in connection with a use allowed in an exclusive farm use zone." There has to be an actual, approved use - not a theoretical one that has not been applied for, much less approved. ERPD could re-apply to Curry County for a new golf course permit, but have not done so.

Instead, ERPD appealed the pipeline decision to the Board of Commissioners. The hearing was scheduled for December 6, 2017. But abruptly, a week before the hearing, the County canceled it, giving no reason and without rescheduling the date. Why? In a memo to the Board of Commissioners for the now-canceled appeal, County Counsel John Huttl argued strongly that the planning commission's final order denying the pipeline was valid, as there appears to have been some controversy about it. What has changed? All parties are looking for answers to this most unusual action by the County.

Tillamook PUD Files for Eminent Domain Use Against Landowners for Oceanside Line
TPUD Proposed Oceanside Transmission Line Route. Courtesy TPUD
Tillamook PUD, aware that all the private landowners on the route of its proposed Oceanside Transmission Line oppose it, applied to the Public Utility Commission (PUC) for permission to use eminent domain against the landowners. Oregon law requires a people's utility like TPUD to get permission before it can use eminent domain and condemn its customers' lands. PUC had a public hearing in Tillamook on November 14th. ORCA submitted testimony, as did many affected landowners. Attendance was high. Several testimonies pointed out, in detail, why the Oceanside Line is unnecessary, and showed how TPUD had manipulated relevant data to make it appear the line was needed. The utility has also never pursued alternatives that would make the line redundant, nor had a true dialogue with the community to explore options.

ORCA and many landowners have intervened in the PUC process. Now the legal timelines begin, with intervenor testimony due in mid-January, followed by briefs. PUD's single-minded pursuit of eminent domain for the Oceanside Line is pitting the local people's utility district, ironically, against its  own customers.  The political fallout  from  TPUD's  heartless and politically unwise decision has  not yet begun, but will undoubtedly ricochet through this very rural  county as the utility continues its efforts to build the Oceanside line.

Dunes City and Woahink Lake Water
Woahink Lake. Courtesy Del Riesenhuber
Dunes City is once again considering whether to share water with the South Coast Water District. Their customers whose water comes from Siltcoos Lake are having difficulty as the lake shallows. The matter will be on the Dunes City Council agenda for discussion and possible action at the December 13th meeting. This issue has been an on-again, off-again discussion for years now.

But there are major questions that have still not been satisfactorily addressed. The most important is the possible effect on Woahink Lake's water. There is concern both about the Lake's water quantity and quality and the possible repercussion on the City's shared domestic water supply permit. Dunes City has no water delivery infrastructure; residents pipe water directly from the lake. City Council needs to hold a public hearing, not only to discuss and vote among themselves. ORCA also recommends the City hire a water law attorney to look into the complexities of water law and ensure the City would not jeopardize its permit, and water for its own residents, as a result of an agreement with South Coast Water District.

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