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"If we don't restore trust to the political process by which we govern ourselves,
people soon won't even obey a common traffic light."
- Scott Rohter


The Lane County Planning Commission & the Water Quality Canard

By Scott Rohter,  November 2010

Private property rights come under attack in Oregon over alleged water quality concerns:

If the members of the Lane County Planning Commission had ever read the 4th amendment or the 5th amendment to the U.S. Constitution or the Declaration of Independence then they would be familiar with the "Takings Clause" and they would have heard of “unalienable rights” and that “private property shall not be taken without just compensation.”

If anyone can show me proof that an individual homeowner is polluting the McKenzie River then I would support a specific remedy for that individual circumstance and I dare say that almost everyone else would too, but not a blanket seizure of 200 ft of everyone's waterfront property. That’s just crazy. And these allegations of a threat to the water in the McKenzie River are just crazy too. They are unfounded. The fact that this proposed ordinance got this far shows just how close we are to loosing all of our rights.

Let me offer a few helpful suggestions if there ever really is a pollution problem in the river. Inspections and maintenance of older septic tanks would be a good idea.  Limiting the use of pesticide applications along the river or repeated applications of fertilizers would be appropriate too. Limiting or banning altogether the storage of hazardous materials within 100 ft of the water would be in order. And educational outreach programs would be a helpful.  I'm sure we would all agree with common sense measures like those that respect the rights of private property owners, but not what the Planning Commission was proposing to do and the Board of Commissioners is considering.

The current regulations for septic tanks and drain fields are 50 ft for tanks and 100 ft for drain fields.  With that being said, what possible good can come from requiring that a house be setback 200 ft from the water 's edge, other than the rather questionable goal of preventing a homeowner from enjoying the view.  We all want clean water and I can safely say that rural property owners value their land and the water that flows through it.  As a rule, private ownership promotes responsibility and good stewardship of the land, and that is our best protection and the best safeguard for the water quality in the river now and in the future... well informed individual landowners who love their land and the water that flows through it.  Most rural property owners are good stewards and we don't need a lot of fear mongering by government bureaucrats down in the city and paranoid members of urban watershed councils looking over our shoulders to see if we are illegally dumping things in the river or urinating in the creek.

What possible harm can come from a homeowner sitting out on their deck and enjoying their view of the river? It is a view that we all worked very hard for and saved our money in order to enjoy. We probably paid through the nose for it too.  If you folks in the city want the right to do gaze out at the McKenzie River as it meanders past your house in the country then I suggest that you work very hard and start saving your money because they are not making anymore of this kind of property and it probably isn't going to get any cheaper.

The McKenzie river is one of the cleanest rivers in North America.  I know this personally because I live along several small tributaries of it which run through my land. For many years I used to drink the water straight out of the creek, untreated and while I don't recommend that for anyone else, the biggest problem with the water in the McKenzie River and its tributaries is the Giardia or Cryptosporidium that comes from the animals that poop nearby, not from human activities. Show me the human component of any problem with the water quality in the river or if you can’t, then please get the heck off our backs and out of our back yards.

You want to make it so we can’t mow our lawn, cut the blackberries, pull a single thistle weed out of the ground or dig up some unwanted Scotch Broom.  You don't want a horse, cow, or sheep to graze within 200 ft of any water course in the entire McKenzie River Valley.  I guess you're afraid they might… to be polite, take a dump near the water. Well I’d hate to tell you how many deer, elk, fox, bear, skunk, possum, beaver and other pesky little rodents will ignore your regulations and poop or pee wherever they want, including in or near the water.  You'd probably have a heart attack if you knew. And they're not going to stop just because the Lane County Board of Commissioners pass an ordinance and draw up an overlay map with a 200 ft setback. Yet in spite of all the furry little critters that won't follow your ordinances the McKenzie River is still one of the purest rivers in North America.

I suggest that you all relax a little bit and swallow a chill pill with some of that good,clean water from the McKenzie River, but keep working very hard and saving all of your money.  That way you can buy some of this land in the beautiful McKenzie River Valley and own some of this beautiful Oregon real estate. Then YOU can try to keep the deer from pooping near the creek... that is if there is any real estate left for sale around here by the time you're done implementing all of your land use restrictions that you hope to impose on all the rest of us. We know these restrictions are part of the overall agenda of Oregon's statewide land use planning goals and the United Nations Agenda 21.

You asked us to trust you at the last meeting. "That’s the problem," someone at the meeting said. "We don't trust you."  We know where all of these ideas are coming from. I'm here to tell you that this is our country, and Oregon is our State.  It doesn't belong to United Nations. It belongs to the citizens of the United States, and you work for us not for the U.N. By the way Oregon doesn't belong to the rest of the world. It belongs to Oregonians and if you don't like that idea or if you don't like working for us then you should get the heck out of Oregon.

Did you know that people in St Louis drink the dirty water that comes from the Mississippi River?  It has diesel oil, gasoline, and all kinds of other nasty ingredients in it. They filter it, treat it, and they drink it.  By comparison you are complaining about the nearly pristine water in the beautiful McKenzie River.  The people in Chicago would kill to have a drinking water source as clean as the McKenzie River. They drink the water out of Lake Michigan. Aren't all the rivers of Oregon a thousand times better than the water out of Lake Michigan?

What is your problem?  We are all very fortunate to live in Lane County.  We have clean air, clean land, and clean water, and we all want to keep it that way too. But any problem regarding water quality should be identified first, and any solution should be specific to the individual circumstances and to the individual property owner or resident who is causing the problem.  You don't need to take a sledgehammer to beat all of us.  We aren't all at fault and there really isn't any problem.

Finally, if you're going to take someone’s private property for the public good then you need to compensate them for the loss of their property under the 4th and 5th Amendments to the United States Constitution, or did you also throw that out too along with your common sense?

If you're thinking of taking 200 ft of everyone’s property, you don't have the money nor the support of this community to do that.  I'm appalled at the lack of good judgment on the Planning Commission and on the Board of Commissioners that allowed this proposal to get this far. Perhaps we should recall all of you. We actually have better things to do with our time than to come down here and defend our property rights every time you have a mind to threaten them.


"The truth, the political truth, and nothing but the political truth.
A journalist has no better friend than the truth."
- Scott Rohter

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