plans to be targeted
planning process may change if draft bills succeed
By Michael Lancaster
Jan. 6, 2001 - SALEM - The
2001 Oregon Legislature could change the Oregon Department
of Agriculture's water quality management area planning
process if any of six draft bills introduced last month
At the close of his term as
District 24 senator, Veral Tarno, R-Coquille, introduced
draft legislation that seeks to change ODA's agricultural
water quality management planning program. The management
plans commonly are referred to as "1010 plans."
The legislative concepts
were introduced to and approved by the Joint Interim
Committee on Stream Restoration and Species Recovery at its
last meeting Dec. 11, but not without some opposition. The
2001 session begins Jan. 8.
"I got involved because
(the current plans are) really an imposition," Tarno
said. The 1010 process " imposes all kinds of sanctions
against people that to me are just totally wrong. It tells
people how to operate and imposes sanctions on them that
once approved are locked in as law and private property has
no voice at all."
Some of Tarno's concerns
echo those voiced in the Umpqua River subbasin last year as
ODA tried to adopt a water quality management area plan
there. Some of the Umpqua basin falls into what was Tarno's
Upon introduction last
month, some of the draft bills met opposition from other
committee members. Outgoing Rep. Terry Thompson, D-Newport,
said they're "going in the wrong direction of water
quality" at a time when the federal government suggests
tightening water quality regulations.
But Ken Messerle, the newly
elected Republican senator from Coos Bay and chairman of the
Senate committee on Natural Resources, Agriculture, Salmon
and Water, said he sees a need for some changes.
Tarno's draft bills aim to:
n Require the person
alleging a violation of the plans to post proof of ability
to pay the legal expenses of the defending landowner if the
complaint is found by ODA to be "frivolous."
n Reduce civil penalties for
violations. The maximum civil penalty for the first
violation would drop from the current $2,500 to $500.
Subsequent violations would be limited to $1,000 fines,
compared with the current $10,000 maximum.
Penalties could only be
imposed after ODA notified the landowner of a problem,
provided scientific proof of a problem, offered assistance
to the landowner and determined that the landowner will
continue to refuse to comply with the plan.
n Repeal the requirement
that landowners subject to the agricultural water quality
management area plans pay a fee to ODA. Current statute
allows the agency to collect up to $200 a year from each
landowner, though ODA hasn't pursued the fee to date.
n Require ODA to offer
certain assistance to landowners to help them comply with
the plans prior to enforcement action. In addition to
contacting and working with local soil and water
conservation districts, ODA would also obtain and file grant
applications with the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board.
n Require ODA to obtain
permission from landowners before entering lands for
inspections related to the plans, unless search warrants are
n Require ODA to develop
scientific basis for concluding that conditions on land hurt
water quality prior to designating lands subject to water
quality management plans. "So far they've failed to
show where the science is on water temperature and all water
pollutants," Tarno said.
Messerle agreed that water
quality plans without scientific support lead to
"policies based on theories." He went a step
further and suggested more data is needed for salmon
recovery "to identify problems so we know if we're
moving in the right direction."
Messerle also sees merit in
requiring complainants to pay landowners' legal expenses if
ODA finds the complaint frivolous.
"It might go too far,
but I do very well see the need," he said.
Pete Test, associate
director for governmental affairs for the Oregon Farm Bureau
Federation, said he hasn't studied the draft bills enough to
evaluate and comment about them, but that the farm bureau is
"willing to work with people to make 1010 work smoother
Tarno said he realizes his
drafts may not provide all the answers, but it at least
opens the door for the Legislature to right some wrongs it
made in 1993, when it first approved the plans in the form
of Senate Bill 1010.
"They've got time to
take a real hard look at 1010 and determine its effect on
private property owners," he said. "I think
primarily small farmers and ranchers are impacted
"weren't even considered back in '93; 1010 was intended
to support large farmers and ranchers in our state. ... It
has serious consequences to it and it needs to be
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