Hopeful that bids go to locals
By Jennifer Jenks
Biomass will soon be available due to fuels management projects the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is currently working on. BLM District Forester John Reponen and District Wildlife Technician Nick Miller were in attendance at the May 2 Harney County Court meeting to update the court on the projects.
The BLM is currently working on several projects encompassing more than 50,000 acres in areas around Silver Creek, Emigrant, Silvies, Otis Mountain, Moffit, Slickear and Claw Creek.
Treatment of the areas will include prescribed burns, thinning, cut and pile and burn piles. Biomass will be available on a case by case basis, Miller explained. Reponen added that all biomass will be put up for contract, but some may not be easily accessible and will go unused. “It’s a waste to not try to use it,” Reponen said, “but the contractor has to be able to make money, too.” He added that he would prefer the bids go to local contractors.
Reponen told the court the BLM was working closely with landowners and permittees in the areas because of the prescribed burns and that none of the areas are in sage grouse habitat, although one of the units has leks just on the outside edge of the project area.
The court received a request from the Department of State Lands (DSL) and landowner Tim Clemens to improve what is now a seasonally accessible road off Crane-Buchanan Road, called Lane 9, to be accessible year round.
Judge Steve Grasty explained the DSL partnered with Clemens to install several pivots on land Clemens owns to do sharecropping approximately two miles off Crane-Buchanan Road on Lane 9. Clemens and DSL stated in their respective letters that if the county would do the road improvements, Clemens and DSL would help with the costs and maintenance. The improvements would include building up the road and installing culverts.
“If Rye Grass Lane [which is what Lane 9 would run into if it kept going to Highway 78] was improved, it could open up quite a bit of land for development,” Grasty said. “There would be 60,000 to 70,000 acres opened up that we couldn’t otherwise get to most of the year.”
DSL and Clemens are only requesting for 2.8 miles of the road to be improved, and the county owns the right of way. Commissioner Dan Nichols noted that Penny Road is only four miles off Crane-Buchanan Road and suggested if they agreed to the road improvements, they should consider just extending it all the way to Penny Road to make it even more practical and accessible to landowners.
Grasty suggested the court take a trip out to look at the road and then make their decision, and the court agreed.
Forest Supervisor Teresa Raaf and Emigrant Creek District Ranger Doug Jones were in attendance to update the court on the Forest Management Plan and the Travel Management Plan.
Raaf announced the Forest Service would be investing money on projects in Emigrant Creek Ranger District because of some Title II funding they received and that they would do their best to use local contractors for the projects.
Raaf said they would be creating a map to show open and closed roads in the forest, and Judge Grasty expressed concern that roads keep closing and the community can’t keep up with it. He said he hoped the Forest Service would involve the public more on decisions for future road closures.
In addition, Grasty told Raaf and Jones that he would like to see an ATV trail starting in Harney County and going through the BLM and Forest Service to connect with other trails. The trail could be maintained by ATV groups.
In other court news:
• Representative Cliff Bentz was in attendance with a legislative update. Bentz spoke about everything accomplished in this year’s session and goals for next year. When asked if the court had any comments or suggestions for him, Judge Grasty told Bentz the county would like to buy the archive center for $1. “Let’s make use of that thing,” he urged. “It’s been sitting there unused for two decades.” Nichols said he would like to get the Department of Environmental Quality back here to reanalyze stream temperatures as the year they came and took this data was an abnormally warm year.
The court expressed other concerns, as well, including cuts to programs, regulations and better communication;
• Randall Lewis was appointed to the Harney County Mental Health Advisory Board on a recommendation from Symmetry Care;
• After much discussion, the court agreed to award the bid for the replacement phone system to CenturyLink for $44,338.74. Judge Grasty explained this was the highest bid they received, but he made the recommendation to accept this based on the entire package offered. CenturyLink was also the only bidder that was willing to remove and dispose of the old system. He said they have a good track record of local response to county problems and also will offer savings on their phone bill that will be significant over time;
The next Harney County Court meeting will be held today, May 16, at 10 a.m. in Judge Grasty’s office at the Harney County Courthouse, 420 N. Buena Vista Ave. in Burns.