Judge Grasty meets with USFWS about wind project

By Randy Parks
Burns Times-Herald

Tom Andrade of the Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) attended the Harney County Court meeting on Wednesday, May 16, to talk about the state’s Forestland-Urban Interface Fire Protection Act of 1997 or SB 360.

Andrade said that he had looked at maps of the county and planned to visit properties north of Burns to talk with residents about the program. He explained that it’s not a government program, but rather a voluntary effort by landowners to protect their property from wildfires. “It could be moving a woodpile that’s next to a house, clearing leaves from under a deck, or removing organic material on the roof,” Andrade said.

The court was asked to sign a cooperative agreement to appoint three residents to a classification committee, one of which is subject to the interface rules. The committee inspects and classifies properties and the landowner then mails the certification card to ODF. A property must be certified every five years.

Andrade added that it is a $100,000 liability program.

“There have been significant fire events in this county,” Andrade said. “And this is a fire prevention program, pure and simple.”

The court voted to sign the agreement.
Judge Steve Grasty reported that he had gone to Portland on May 3 to meet with Paul Henson of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regarding the Echanis Wind Farm project and the North Steens transmission line.

Grasty said they met for about seven hours and the outcome was the drafting of a letter by the Fish and Wildlife Service stating that they concur with the county on the Habitat Mitigation Plan (HMP) approved by the county court.

Grasty said the agreement allows the projects to move ahead. He added that two environmental groups responded by saying the projects can’t move ahead, but the letter trumps those responses. “It was a great meeting and it was an important outcome,” Grasty said.

The court discussed the work being done on Blue Mountain Forest Plan and their concerns. Grasty said the U.S. Forest Service had continued working on the plan for the past year without having met with the affected counties for their input.

Grasty said there were several alternatives included in the plan, but they all included a greatly reduced amount of logging. He pointed out that the proposed logging levels wouldn’t support the seven existing mills.

The affected counties have spent $100,000 collectively toward the plan, but are now being left out of the process, Grasty said.

It was suggested that maybe the whole plan be scrapped and everyone start over from scratch.

Grasty said a public meeting to discuss the plan is being held on June 15, and it’s important that the public be there to give their input.

Judge Grasty asked Barb Cannady, who was in attendance, to address some misinformation she had posted on her blog.

Cannady had written, “Members of the Harney County Court have taken it upon themselves to identify all roads within the County, ‘whether two track trail or boulevard.’They began this process with the employment of Howard Palmer and former Judge Dale White to extract records from former Commissioner Journals. They are now reviewing all deeds of record for any justification of access roads.”

Grasty explained that it wasn’t the court that initiated the process, but rather the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association that had asked them to identify the road system. “And the court didn’t hire White or Palmer to do this,” Grasty said.

The court has asked people to take county maps, mark on them where roads are located and return them to the court to get an inventory of the county’s road system.

Grasty asked Cannady to post a clarification on her blog. Cannady asked Grasty if he wanted to write the clarification himself, and he said he would do so.

In other business:

• the court voted to sign the Oregon Department of Transportation grant agreement that provides the funding for the Dial-A-Ride program;

• Teri Cain, director of the Harney County Commission on Children and Families, asked the court to sign contract renewals to continue state funding for ESD, CASA, Kids Club of Harney County and Training and Employment Consortium (TEC). The court agreed to sign the renewals;

• regarding the Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program, Judge Grasty said that several Eastern Oregon counties had agreed to hire a lobbyist, and five of the six counties had contributed $15,000 while one, Harney County, contributed $10,000. Grasty said the county would be getting $1 million this year from PILT and suggested the county match the other counties’ contributions. Grasty said he would be in favor of putting in the extra $5,000 this year, but he doesn’t see any need to continue funding a lobbyist. “We’ve got NACo (National Association of Counties) and AOC (Association of Oregon Counties) working on this, so I don’t see a need to spend any money on it,” Grasty said. The court voted to give the additional $5,000 this year to match the other counties’ contributions;

• Tom Sharp, county emergency preparedness coordinator, presented the court with the final draft of the county’s Emergency Operations Plan for review. Sharp said the plan does meet state and federal requirements. He added that county emergency exercises were completed May 10-11 and an emergency management performance grant application had been submitted to Oregon Emergency Management (OEM). The court agreed to set June 25 as the date for National Incident Management and Incident Command System training;

• the court appointed Debra Raymond to the Harney County Library Advisory Board.

The next county court meeting is scheduled for 10 a.m. Wednesday, June 6, at the courthouse.

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