Newly discovered road could eliminate need for EIS

By Lauren Brown
Burns Times-Herald

While Columbia Energy, the company that has proposed a wind farm near Steens Mountain, goes through all the necessary channels of working with the Bureau of Land Management on an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the transmission line that will have to be installed to connect the wind projects to the power grid, the county has found another possible route thanks to a road historian.

At the Sept. 1 Harney County Court meeting, Judge Steve Grasty said the road historian found a right of way deed for Diamond Lane dating back to 1933. In that year, Eastern Oregon Livestock Co. deeded a right of way for about six miles of the road to the county. The road crosses refuge land and privately owned land, which would make it so that the transmission line would only have to cross less than a mile of federal land, and the BLM could implement a categorical exclusion, eliminating the need for an EIS.

Judge Grasty and commissioners Dan Nichols and Jack Drinkwater were in the process of setting up a meeting with BLM Burns District Manager Kenny McDaniel and Malheur National Wildlife Refuge Director Tim Bodeen to further discuss this road as a potential option for the transmission line.

In other business:

• Public Health Deputy Administrator Cheryl Keniston gave the court an update on the flu shots that will be offered by the county. She noted that this year the H1N1 vaccine is included in the flu shot. Flu shots are currently available, and everyone is encouraged to get them as soon as possible. Keniston said that the health department will have a booth at the fair and will administer shots there. They will also host a flu vaccine clinic at the Harney County Senior Center on Sept. 20;

• the court discussed the Oregon Geographic Names Board’s proposed changes to replace derogatory names for geographic features, specifically the renaming of Squaw Creek, Squaw Creek Reservoir and Squaw Creek Spring in the Cottonwood Reservoir area. The proposed new names would replace the word “Squaw” with “Hey’úuxcpel’uu,” which means “Paiute people.”

While the court did not have an issue with renaming the bodies of water, Judge Grasty was concerned with the pronunciation of the new proposed name. “I do think the ability to pronounce these names is important,” he said. He also had concerns regarding how the 14 character word would fit on signs. Commissioners Nichols and Drinkwater concurred.

Grasty said he would write a letter to the Oregon Geographic Names Board outlining the court’s concerns;

• Judge Grasty announced that the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife will host a meeting to accept public comment on a five-year update to the greater sage-grouse conservation plan from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 14, at the Harney County Community Center. He hopes there will be a large turnout;

• the county received official permission to proceed with the Oregon Jobs and Transportation Act of 2009 projects slated to reconstruct and widen Double O Road and East Steens Road and reconstruct, widen and realign Narrows-Princeton Road. The county will receive $4.1 million from the state of Oregon to complete these projects;

• Harney County Economic Development Coordinator Randy Fulton gave an update on his department and said that he has been working on the Elevate America campaign to provide locals with Microsoft vouchers to improve their computer skills. He has also talked with some businesses about possible expansion in Harney County, and is currently in talks with a California business that is interested in moving its operation to Burns. He recently attended an economic development course in Ellensburg, Wash., that he found to be very helpful;

• the court approved the application from Otley Brothers Inc. to install an approach off Ham Brown Lane;

• the county opened two bids for a passenger car and approved the bid from Burns Garage for a 2011 Crown Victoria priced at $24,393. County Road Supervisor Eric Drushella said the vehicle met all the county specifications;

• the county approved an intergovernmental agreement between Harney and Lake counties for Lake County Mental Health Services;

• resident Pauline Braymen, who is also on The Aspens Assisted Living Facility  board of directors, spoke up during the public comment portion of the meeting regarding the county’s recent discussion on job sharing the Home Health and Hospice Department. “Job sharing is a common thing in this day and age,” she said. She said that burnout can be a problem for nurses working at The Aspens. However, they have had luck in the past two years with allowing nurses to job share in order to avoid burnout. In fact, she believes the quality of care has improved since they started job sharing. Judge Grasty thanked Braymen for her input.

The next Harney County Court meeting will be at 10 a.m. Sept. 15 in Judge Grasty’s office at the courthouse.

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