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When The Levee Breaks…Us

Water is Portland’s secret problem.

Not the Bull Run Reservoir water that runs out of your tap nor the contentious May ballot measure that will determine who controls it.

No, the next big whack to taxpayers will, in fact, come in the fight against floodwaters, the kind that have inundated the city every few decades and will do so again.

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When The Levee Breaks…Us Upgrading Portland’s levees could cost $100 million—money no one seems to have.. Willamette Week. April 2, 2014.

Oregon’s juniper team nabs big victory

Oregon’s juniper advocates chalked up a sizable win that validates efforts to cultivate hardwoods from the invasive Eastern Oregon plants.

The Oregon State Weed Board has crafted a policy backing “efforts to thin juniper to levels that are historically more in balance with protecting and restoring watershed function.”…

Read more Sustainable Business Oregon. March 11, 2014.

Signing marks new stage for community forest

Representatives of a wide range of local, state and federal government agencies, private organizations and local businesses and residents gathered at the Jim Riggs Community Center Monday, March 10, to send the South Santiam Community Forest project forward to its next chapter.

They signed a declaration of cooperation on the project, which essentially states the goals of the project and the role each intends to play in achieving those goals… (see attached PDF for full article)

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Signing marks new stage for community forest . The New Era- Sweet Home news. March 12, 2014.

South Santiam Community Forest Corridor members formalize land deal

SWEET HOME — Speaking in Chinuk wawa, the native language of the Grand Ronde tribe, Michael Karnosh said Monday afternoon that “his heart was very happy to be standing here today.”

Karnosh was one of several dozen stakeholders who formalized their commitment to the South Santiam Community Forest Corridor concept by signing a declaration of cooperation at the Jim Riggs Community Center.

The Grand Ronde, Siletz and Warm Springs tribes have all participated in and support the process…

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South Santiam Community Forest Corridor members formalize land deal. Albany Democrat-Herald. March 11, 2014.

Commissioners OK support for All Lands Collaborative project

The Linn County Board of Commissioners will sign a letter supporting the Sweet Home All Lands Collaborative project underway in east Linn County, but not without reservations by chairman Roger Nyquist.

Nyquist and Will Tucker were present at Wednesday’s board meeting, but commissioner John Lindsey was not.

On March 10, representatives of more than 40 stakeholder organizations will gather from 4 to 6 p.m. at the Jim Riggs Community Center in Sweet Home to sign a Declaration of Cooperation, indicating their commitment to support the South Santiam Community Forest Corridor project…

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Commissioners OK support for All Lands Collaborative project. Albany Democrat-Herald. January 30, 2014.

Signing Day– Local leaders step up to support Poverty to Prosperity

Leaders from around Malheur County formally committed to support the establishment of a career technical education program to provide students opportunities for good local jobs.

A formal ceremonial signing of a Declaration of Cooperation document was held Wednesday morning at the Four Rivers Cultural Center…

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Signing Day-- Local leaders step up to support Poverty to Prosperity. The Argus Observer. January 23, 2014.

How collaboration is helping fire-prone forests: Guest opinion

The recent annual Oregon Business Plan Summit brought business and community leaders, the governor, and Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley together in support of the three primary goals of the 2014 plan: job creation, raising Oregon’s personal income level and reducing Oregon’s poverty rate from 17 percent to 10 percent. A significant focus was devoted towards the current momentum and opportunities associated with “Unlocking Oregon’s Natural Wealth to Restore Rural Prosperity.”

In the past few years, community-based forest collaborative groups have multiplied across the state. These groups, composed of environmentalists, loggers, mill owners, county government and local citizens, are finding common ground to restore forest health and provide jobs in rural communities…

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How collaboration is helping fire-prone forests: Guest opinion. The Oregonian. January 12, 2014.

Milton-Freewater celebrates removal of flood zone designation

Earlier this month, residents of Milton-Freewater watched as flames destroyed paper, maps and photos.

The town had gathered at the Lazy MF BBQ for a bonfire — a flood insurance paper-burning bonfire.

Three years ago the Federal Emergency Management Agency declared virtually all of the city a flood zone. That designation was repealed in May after repairs to the levee system were made with a $2.85 million bond from 2010.

And as of Sept. 20, Milton-Freewater no longer had to pay high flood insurance rates.

City planner Gina Hartzeim called the flood zone designation of 2010 the “perfect storm.”

The last major repairs to the four levee segments through town — built in 1951 — were made in 1967. In 2007, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers stopped certifying the levee system, stretching along nine miles of the Walla Walla River, because of erosion and overgrown vegetation.

The flood district received $24,000 per year at the time, not enough to do even full weed maintenance. Two bond measures failed in 2007 and 2008 to repair the system.

Then, FEMA decided it needed to do a nationwide flood remapping.

“I think FEMA, too, quickly realized (the levee) was woefully underfunded,” Hartzeim said.

Without the resources to do full engineering studies throughout the nation, FEMA saw that Corps decertification and redrew its maps as if no levee existed.

Forced between paying for flood insurance and paying for repairs, residents passed the 2010 bond with over 80 percent approval. In the meantime, City Manager Linda Hall got a reduced insurance rate for the town. The deal would have expired by next year, tripling and quadrupling people’s rates.

With the late Manford Anliker as chair, the water control board set out to fix the levee system.

Satisfying all the stakeholders in the repair was its own gigantic task. The Tribes, fish advocates, the Corps of Engineers and local, state and federal governments all had their own opinion on how the levee system should work.

“That process seemed easier in the beginning than what it turned out to be,” said city councilor and former water control board member Sam Hopkins-Hubbard, who hosted the bonfire. “All these different agencies were arguing their point, and they all thought their agenda was most important.”

Oregon Solutions, a group tasked by the governor to help solve complex community problems, entered into the picture and helped move repairs forward.

One disagreement was that fish advocates wanted vegetation along the levy, while the Corps policy was to have none. The Corps and environmentalists worked out a compromise where limited vegetation could grow within 15 feet from the bottom of the levee.

Residents chatted about their late water control board chair often during the bonfire earlier this month. Getting off the FEMA flood zone had become Anliker’s passion. He died in August, three months after FEMA changed its designation.

There’s still a sliver of properties along the river that have the flood zone distinction. Most, like Hopkins-Hubbard, are happily outside that shaded area on FEMA’s maps.

“My rates were about to jump to over $1,000 (per year),” he said. “We’re all pretty happy over here.”


Contact Natalie Wheeler at or 541-966-0836.

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Milton-Freewater celebrates removal of flood zone designation. East Oregonian. November 1, 2013.

Sweet Home to begin 2-year livability initiative

SWEET HOME — Three representatives from The Conservation Fund and the Federal Highway Administration will arrive in Sweet Home Sunday to begin a three-day look at the community’s strengths and weaknesses as a gateway community to public lands.

In September, Sweet Home was named one of four communities in the United States — one in the Midwest and two on the East Coast — to participate in a two-year Federal Lands Livability Initiative…

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Sweet Home to begin 2-year livability initiative. Albany Democrat-Herald. December 14, 2013.


Solutions Team’s role in community forest coming to end

The South Santiam Community Forest Corridor Oregon Solutions Team is ready to call it quits – in a manner of speaking – after holding its final planning meeting Monday evening, Dec. 16, at the Sweet Home Community Center.

What that actually means is that although the Solutions Team’s days are numbered – specifically by a target date of Feb. 4, the project will continue in another format, leaders of the team said last week.

According to plan, at that time the team will cease to exist and will be replaced by Declaration of Cooperation between the multiple participating state, local and federal agencies and the private entities represented on the team, which was formed last year to work on establishing a community forest extending from Sweet Home to Cascadia.

Steve Bryant, Oregon Solutions project manager, said things are on pace to proceed according to plan.

“We’re shooting to get it pretty well wrapped up by Feb. 4, when we have planned a Declaration of Cooperation Signing Ceremony,” he said.

The team was desginated in November of 2012 by Gov. John Kitzhaber to bring together interested and affected parties representing local, state and federal interests, to work to cut through red tape and other hindrances to the establishment of a forest of public and private lands between Sweet Home and Cascadia – and possibly beyond.

Goals to be addressed included improved access to the South Santiam River, improved forest health and recreation, and creation of local forest-related jobs. Also on the list of to-do’s was the transfer of Cascadia Cave, a site currently on land managed by Cascade Timber Consulting, to public ownership or management, probably by a federal agency.

The goal was to create a forest that would be more attractive to visitors for recreation purposes and that would boost forest products industry commerce in Sweet Home and east Linn County.

The team has met several times since last January and has crafted a vision statement and, now, an advanced draft declaration of cooperation intended to ensure that the project continues after the team no longer exists in its current form.

On Dec. 16, various participants reported on progress in establishing a county regional park on former Western States Land Reliance Trust property that was foreclosed by the county in 2010. Other topics were Cascadia Cave, and the possibility of a local cooperative assuming leadership of the community forest establishment process.

The participants at the meeting also made changes to the vision statement, which describes in detail what is intended by a “community forest, and what the long-term vision and goals are for that effort.

“We added emphasis to economic development as an objective of the (community forest corridor) project,” Bryant said, “recognizing that timber harvest continues to be an important activity in the corridor. We want to assure all parties that we value timber harvest and wood products as an important part of Sweet Home’s economy. Those things need to continue. Everyone is in agreement on that point.”

He said the next step is obtaining statements of support and commitment from “all of the parties,” making sure that each entity “takes steps within their area of interest and responsiblity to achieve that vision of the corridor” – providing “in-kind support.”

Also to be addressed, he said, are strategies for applying for funding to clean up the former WSLRT property and work with ODOT to continue improvements to Highway 20 east of Sweet Home.

Specific issues addressed at the meeting included:

Former WSLRT Property

Rick Partipilo of the Linn County Health Department reported on progress of cleanup work at the former Western States Land Reliance Trust property foreclosed by the county in 2010 and planned as a future park site.

He said the land, which would anchor the west end of the community forest project, includes a former quarry site that is envisioned as a future outdoor concert venue and parkland, and mill property that could be sold.

Partipilo said the approximately 140-acre mill site portion of the property, which County Commissioner Will Tucker said the county will likely eventually sell off, still has arsenic and diesel contamination, which will require further money and work. He said the county is seeking grant funding to assist in the clean-up effort, which will cost $350,000 for assessment.

Tucker said the county will continue to make sure that polluters and others help with the cleanup.

“The quarry site is cleaned up,” he said.

Proposed County Park

Tucker and county Parks Director Brian Carroll said the county is continuing to work with Oregon Jamboree staff members to develop a permanent outdoor music festival venue in the area of the quarry, which would be large enough to support “25,000 to 30,000” visitors and host other events as well.

The proposed park facility may also include a campground, sports fields, expanded parking, access to the river and the ponds that line the river, and more.

All-Lands Collaborative

U.S. Forest Service District Ranger Cindy Glick reported on the possibility that the All Lands Collaborative, which started as a joint effort between the USFS and Cascade Timber Consultants to work together to manage forestland in a way that benefits the public, may take on the coordination of the community forest project.

Glick expressed concerns that some residents appear to believe the collaborative exists primarily to benefit Sweet Home which, she said, is not the case, noting that its first project has been 10,000 acres of forestland 30 miles east of Sweet Home in the Cool Soda area.

“We are bigger than Sweet Home,” she said. “Lebanon, Brownsville, Crawfordsville – we’re all in this together.”

Bryant told participants in the meeting that the Oregon Solutions team will soon be disbanded and that the coordination and maintenance of the momentum achieved by the team will need to come under the umbrella of some other organization – possibly, the collaborative.

“This is going away,” he said. “This organization will no longer exist.”

“I think we have work to do,” Glick said.

She said that although the collaborative’s first project was the Cool Soda area, “we see this as a continuance of our purpose.

“Even though (the name) says Sweet Home, this is much larger in scope.”

By Scott Swanson
Of The New Era
Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Photo by Scott Swanson RICK PARTIPILO of the Linn County Health Department, right, reports to members of the govenror’s South Santiam Community Forest Corridor Oregon Solutions Team Monday night, Dec. 16, on progress of cleanup work at the former Western States Land Reliance Trust property foreclosed by the county in 2010 and planned as a future park site.

Photo by Scott Swanson
RICK PARTIPILO of the Linn County Health Department, right, reports to members of the govenror’s South Santiam Community Forest Corridor Oregon Solutions Team Monday night, Dec. 16, on progress of cleanup work at the former Western States Land Reliance Trust property foreclosed by the county in 2010 and planned as a future park site.