Open house will be one of several held around the state

By Randy Parks
Burns Times-Herald

An open house to discuss Oregon’s Integrated Water Resources Strategy will be held Tuesday, May 25, from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Community Center in Burns.

The open house is one in a series being held around the state this spring to receive public input on water quality, water quantity and other water-related topics.

Ivan Gall with the Water Resources Department told the county court at their meeting on Wednesday, March 17, “This is a big deal. There hasn’t been anything like this in recent decades.”

Gall said it was critical to get local involvement in the strategy process and people shouldn’t be shy about stepping forward with their concerns. “In Baker County, some people are scared of this. It’s being sold as a grab on water rights, and it’s not our intention to gut Oregon water laws,” Gall said. “There are those who are scared or skeptical of the process, and I don’t want that to happen. We want to know what people see as issues and what are the solutions. What it could turn into, I don’t know. Depends on the input we receive.”

Judge Steve Grasty said he would like to see things stay flexible, but it seems that rules and regulations keep getting tighter.
Grasty added that he had concerns about the “anti’s” having better strategies to present their side of the discussion. “How do you integrate those that make less of a presentation to be heard?” Grasty asked. “How do we tell our story better?”

Commissioner Jack Drinkwater said some people he had talked to were concerned with measuring water. “If it’s measured off to what their water right says, they’re afraid they won’t get what they need,” he said.

Gall explained the measuring might actually allow people to receive more water. “Some aren’t getting what they deserve,” Gall said.
Commissioner Dan Nichols felt the state should be working on some sort of statewide water storage.

Gall and Tony Rutherford, Harney County Watermaster, discussed the Silvies River-Foley Slough issues, and said they are moving toward a solution. “Our goal is to take a limited resource and spread it as far as it will go,” Gall said.

Rutherford also reported on the snow pack for this yea. There is about 91 percent of average for the Harney basin. “We should have more water than last year,” he said.

State Representative Cliff Bentz was in attendance to visit with the court about the state legislature as well as county issues.
Bentz told the court he would like them to come up with a list of issues they would like him to work on in the legislature.
Grasty wondered why the state isn’t on board with some of the issues the county has to deal with.

Nichols stated the legislation continues to raise the angst of citizens over and over again. “When is the legislature going to look at the business of running the state?” Nichols asked. “There are always more fees, increased taxation and more regulations. Every six months or so, something else comes up.”

As for the state’s economy, Bentz said at this time it looks like the state will face a $2.5 to $3 billion shortfall in the next biennium.

In other business:

• Economic Development Coordinator Mark Maliwauki told the court he had submitted his resignation, effective May 31.
Maliwauki also presented a proposal from World Economic Development Alliance (WEDA) and discussed how WEDA had benefitted the county in the past.

The court agreed to a 12-month proposal from WEDA at a cost of $4,950 and directed Maliwauki to pursue it further;

• Joan Suther and Christi Courtemanche of the BLM were in attendance to give an update on the Steens Mountain Advisory Council (SMAC). They discussed the current vacancy on the council and the upcoming nominations. The court would like to stay involved with SMAC and asked to be kept informed;

• the court passed a motion to keep moving forward with a new computer system for the clerk’s and tax assessor’s offices.

• the court opened two bids received for a new pick-up truck to be used for community corrections. Burns Ford submitted a bid for $26,237.65 and Teague Motor Co. a bid of $28,450. The bids were turned over to the sheriff to see if they met specifications, and a decision would be made later;

• the court opened five bids received for the window and door replacement project at the Harney County Library. Bid amounts are: 2L Construction  $77,952, Cole Wensenk $77,375. Philip Sitz Construction $84,535, Lyle Stratton $49,973 and Rise & Run Construction $89,158. The court instructed the bids to be turned over to Anderson-Perry & Associates to make sure they met specifications, and the court would award the bid at their next meeting on April 7.

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