A Steens Mountain area doesn’t have any designation

By Debbie Raney
Burns Times-Herald

During the regular meeting of the county court on June 15, Judge Steve Grasty gave an update on the sage grouse initiative, and commented that he had asked for minutes of the last Local Implementation Team (LIT) meeting, which was held in Burns.

Grasty said he had been told there were no minutes available, but he knew changes were recorded and those need to be documented.

During the discussion of the sage grouse plan, the court commented on the core area maps. Commissioner Dan Nichols said he was concerned about a “blank” area on the Steens Mountain without any designation, the private property and crested wheat fields included in the core areas. Turning everything into a protected area, said Nichols, will result in the area going back to sagebrush land.

A technical team meeting will be held in Bend this week, and Grasty and Nichols will be attending.

In other business, Harney County Surveyor Chris Palmer, presented a letter of resignation effective July 1 to the Harney County Court.

Although Palmer was an elected official, the position will now be appointed as allowed by ORS 204.005 (2) which states “unless an adopted county charter or a county ordinance provides otherwise, the governing body of a county shall appoint a surveyor.”

This statute was revised in 2009.

The court will review its options in filling the appointment of county surveyor, including possibly contracting the surveying jobs when needed. Judge Steve Grasty commented that he “expects there to be an interest by local residents who can do the surveying.” The budgeted amount of $700 per month can be available for contract services.

Following a budget hearing, the court signed Resolution #2011-09 In The Matter of Imposing and Categorizing 2011/2012 Taxes in the County of Harney State of Oregon at a rate of 4.5016 per $1,000 of assessed value.
Judge Grasty presented an overview regarding the Initial Damage Assessment the county provided the state on the May  flooding in Harney County. A lengthy discussion regarding this issue ensued. It was the consensus of the court to ask that an assessment be done of the Silvies River course by the Corps of Engineers, DSL and Water Resources Department.

Renee Buermann thanked the court for their contribution of $3,500 for the Wisdom in Nature (WIN) project. She was asked if they had heard from Malheur and Grant counties in regards to them contributing as well, they had not.
Tony Svejcar and Dave Bohnert from Eastern Oregon Agriculture Research Center were in attendance to update the court on the programs at the research center. The two presented a power point presentation on the current major areas of study through the Oregon State University and USDA programs.

Brandon McMullen, Harney County planning director, informed the court he had attended a FEMA meeting, where they were in discussion regarding re-mapping the Burns Flood plain area.  He stated the meeting went very well and was well attended. He also informed the court that  the Oregon Natural Desert Association has appealed the planning department’s decision for approval of a farm dwelling proposed by Charlie Otley of Diamond. This appeal will be heard by the planning commission in July.

The court reviewed the BLM’s Finding of No Significant Impact on the Cottonwood Creek Allotment Management Plan Environmental Assessment, the Environmental Assessment on the Wildland Juniper Management Area Interpretive Trail and the Environmental Assessment on the Stonehouse Seeding #2 Pipeline Extension.

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