Approved Approved 12/14/99
November 12, 1999
BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS' MEETING
WITH SENATOR GORDON SMITH
4:00 p.m. - Commissioners' Conference Room
Commissioner Bobby Green, Sr. presided with Commissioners Bill Dwyer, Anna Morrison, Peter Sorenson and Cindy Weeldreyer. County Administrator Bill Van Vactor, County Counsel Teresa Wilson, Sheriff Jan Clements, Public Works Director John Goodson and Recording Secretary Zoe Gilstrap were also present.
DISCUSSION Timber Receipts.
Green introduced Senator Gordon Smith. He thanked Smith for the hard work he has done on behalf of Lane County.
Green stated that they are here today to discuss Senate Bill 1608 and House Bill 2389 regarding timber receipts. He said the House has passed House Bill 2389 with Senator Wyden and Senator Craig from Idaho playing key roles.
Smith stated that the timber receipts issue would pass in the Senate but that they need to get the President to sign it, which isnt likely since the Administration is opposed to it. He said this is a prelude to difficult battles down the road because payments made separate to counties from use of land will be the first budget attacked in any downturn of the economy. Smith remarked that there are those in Congress who would be willing to make that tradeoff because they would like to see timber harvests of any kind ended.
Dwyer said it was his understanding then that the bill will go through the House and probably the Senate but that even if they find funding, the President will veto it. Smith stated that that is his view. He said Senators Wyden and Craig have reached a compromise where roughly three-fourths of this proposal has no tie to the use of natural resources. Smith noted, however, that it is the Administrations position that there be a complete severance from any incentive to harvest timber. Sorenson asked where the 75% funding would come from if this were passed. Smith said from the general fund and revenues from surplus, noting that they are running huge surpluses. Smith said he is not telling them today that it is impossible and said that they will fight the fight. He commented that every area in the country will be looking with some jealousy at such a deal.
Morrison stated that House Bill 1608 has set aside allowable acres which is going to have impacts on the payments if they ever go back to actually managing the resources. Smith said the Presidents initiative of 40 million acres of roadless area is highly controversial. He noted that it is popular but is more than they currently have in wildness and, if fact, will be more in one year than what has taken two centuries to do prior. Smith stated that the President is going to have trouble getting the funding for such an endeavor. He said, on the other hand, the President may begin to look for other ways to help and may begin to favor the Craig/Wyden bill. Smith stated that although the Craig/Wyden bill currently looks dead, it may get new life. He explained that as the wildness initiative hits the wall and it grows closer towards the end of a congressional session, everyone wants to go home having done something, so this may be something that can go through that window. Morrison said in looking at the draft regulations that came in October, it is a completely new way of doing business as far as the forest service is concerned. She said that she could see that as a leverage point. Smith said it is clear that the executive branch has the authority to administer a roadless policy but when it becomes a wilderness policy it may not work. Morrison stated that she has a list of all of the acres in Oregon and Washington that will be impacted and that the majority of that 40 million acres are in the Pacific Northwest with Oregon being hit the hardest and Washington next.
Sorenson said he would also like to discuss the issue of the transfer of the Oregon National Guard facility near Autzen Stadium. He asked what could be done to push this along. Smith said that shouldnt be difficult and has been done in numerous communities. Green asked how to get it to the top of the list so that it gets funded. Smith replied that when they know that it is a priority, they will fight for whatever the local folks want.
They also discussed the federal courthouse issue. Green said Lane Countys role is to be responsive to the Government Services Agency (GSA). He noted that there is resentment that the GSA has allowed the City of Eugene to come up with a financing package even though it wasnt the site that was chosen. Sorenson said the Eugene community is concerned about the design and would like to be informed about the plans because opposition to the site is due to the fear that it would be a large monolith building. Sorenson noted that Judge Hogan and the GSA regional director has given them a degree of confidence that the community would be involved and taken seriously. Smith said he would want them to be happy with the building and has seen many new courthouses that are stunning.
Weeldreyer discussed fiber optics, noting that the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) has informed communities that they are installing fiber optics and are overbuilding their capacity. She said that BPA has said that they will make some of the extra capacity available for public benefit. Weeldreyer stated that there are different thoughts on how to do that. She said one is to lease dark fiber at market rates to the private sector; the other is to connect out of the way places and work in partnership with consortiums to serve small communities that wont have the service by the private sector. She said that it looks like BPA is going to take the same business approach that they are taking with the private sector which is more heavily capitalized resulting in rural service that is dependent upon a contract. Weeldreyer stated that most of the small rural communities are not going to be able to afford to use it.
Smith stated that BPA is under marching orders of the current administration to generate cash reserves for dam removal, which has resulted in them selling power to California at very high rates to create big reserves in order to tear out the whole purpose behind the HUD electric system. He noted that Eugene and Portland would then have problems along with the rural communities. Smith said this is being done to the detriment of rural communities, the Pacific Northwest and thousands of metal workers and various companies on both sides of the river. He stated that if things continue as they are, it will be of great significance to companies like Reynolds and Northwest Aluminum who will not be able to survive. Smith remarked that the rivers are not producing the power they are capable of producing because they are just spilling the water. He said we could produce much more energy than we are but we are trying to figure out if we can keep our dams and have our fish too. Smith stated that current priorities are not to produce energy but rather to create cash and tear out infrastructure. He said this does not have the support of Congress.
Weeldreyer stressed that they need the infrastructure of the future to be able to maintain and create new jobs in rural communities.
Morrison discussed the airport bill. She noted that it is dead for this session but emphasized that if it comes back on line, the need for rural airports is important. Morrison asked if there was any activity around the transfer of federal lands to the confederated tribes, noting that the tribe has filed a lawsuit against the Bureau of Indian Affairs. She said the community is adamantly opposed to this transfer.
John Goodson, Public Works Director, asked if there were other states that might be pivotal with their efforts on SB1608. He said they could enlist their friends and relatives in other areas for help. Smith replied that Mississippi is impacted and said southern forests would be worth focusing on.
Sheriff Clements discussed the need to fund the Sheriffs Office for their activities on federal forestlands. He stated they are understaffed to respond to calls for service. Clements commented that they have half the deputies they had 20 years ago, stating that the geography hasnt changed and that crime has gone up, noting that homicides have occurred on federal lands.
Doug Harcleroad, District Attorney, concurred with Clements. He stated that there is a need for a new revenue source. Harcleroad said local people should not have to support federal government land not being used as a resource. He commented that Oregon is a one-source state for money now. He said the trickle down is bad today but if a change in the economy results in a recession, Lane County will be in serious trouble.
Smith stated that the Federal Government doesnt see that Lane County is serving them and what it is costing. He said that he knows how important it is and is very supportive of what Wyden and Craig are trying to do with timber receipts and noted that it is the only thing that has a chance.
Smith also discussed work that he is involved with in an effort to broker a more comprehensive federal approach to school funding with fewer mandates and more discretion. He said it is more of a block grant approach. Smith stated that these efforts on education would be a help to local government.
Green thanked Smith for spending time with them today. Smith said it is helpful to hear Lane Countys needs.
There being no further business, this meeting adjourned at 4:45 p.m.
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