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Don’t Push the Reset Button - Pull the Plug Out of the Wall - Part I
The Lane County Board of Commissioners...
and the Water Quality Canard.

By Scott Rohter - Republished from time to time as necessary

Private property rights come under attack in Oregon over unsubstantiated water quality concerns.
Dateline: Eugene Oregon, October 2010

The Lane County Board of Commissioners was considering a proposed ordinance change that affected mostly rural Lane County property owners whose land has water on it. The proposed ordinance change was supposed to protect the water quality of the McKenzie River upstream of the intake for the Eugene municipal water supply. The McKenzie River already enjoys strict Federal protection. Sections of it are even designated as a "Wild and Scenic River" under Federal law.

The people in Eugene who are questioning the quality of the water in the river have offered no proof that there is actually anything wrong with the water. Today 500 angry property owners have assembled in front of their Board of County Commissioners to be heard from and the board meeting was promptly adjourned. A subsequent meeting was also cancelled without any public comments ever being heard. However some of our County Commissioners notably Peter Sorenson and members of the Lane County Land Planning Commission intend to push the "reset button" and start the whole process of proposing this ordinance change all over again. No date has been given for the proposed "re-set". My guess is that it depends on the results of local elections. If they think they can get away with it again then they will push the reset button. You better watch out wherever you live...

In the enduring words of Ronald Reagan “There you go again”... You are trying to take something that doesn’t belong to you through the over-reaching hand of big government, and under the pretext of a false argument... The false argument or the canard here is that the quality of the water in the McKenzie River is being threatened.  I am referring to the Lane County Water Quality Overlay Map and the proposed ordinance that requires a 200 foot setback from any water course. It's as if we didn't actually have a Constitution and a Bill of Rights to protect us and there was no such thing as the 5th Amendment.

Our private property is off limits. Our private property rights are unalienable.  Our private property rights can’t be taken away without just compensation, even if there was a good cause, which there isn't. That is they can’t be taken away if we still are a country that follows the rule of law and the Constitution.  Do we?

It appeared that the Planning Commission and the Board of Commissioners’ had previously been trying to take away our right to put a manufactured home on rural property in Lane County.  They claimed that they were only trying to clean up some old language in the code, but they actually deleted the words “manufactured home” everywhere they appeared in the code, and it is my belief that this was deliberate and that they were actually trying to stop any more manufactured homes from being placed on any lots anywhere in Lane county.

I contacted a representative of the Manufactured Home Association of Oregon and they contacted one of our County Commissioners and the so-called "clean up" of the language was stopped and the words manufactured home were reinserted back into the codes thus protecting our right to put a manufactured home on land in Lane County.

Now they’re trying to take away something even more important than our right to put a manufactured home on our own property. They are literally trying to steal 200 feet of valuable waterfront land from anyone who is fortunate enough to live along a river, creek, lake, pond, or even a seasonal drainage ditch in Lane County.  If the idea of taking away someone's property isn’t repugnant enough, they are also considering doing it without even compensating anyone for the illegal confiscation, and under a canard that the quality of Eugene's municipal drinking water is somehow being threatened.  This is absolutely preposterous.  Show me the proof that there is actually a problem with the quality of the drinking water in Eugene.  All of this is happening right here in Lane County at the very same time that it is going on in Multnomah and Clackamas Counties too.  That is because these assaults on our private property rights are being directed and co-ordinated from above by the Land Conservation and Development Commission (LCDC) and by the United Nations Agenda 21 through our local city councils, county commissions, and land use planning boards.

In Lane County we have some of the cleanest rivers in the whole State and even in the entire United States. This is especially true of the McKenzie River. There is absolutely no cause for this illegal land grab.  Show us the proof. Otherwise this is a fix for a problem that doesn’t exist.

I am reminded of what the city of Eugene tried to do in the 1990’s in the River Road – Santa Clara areas by declaring that the ground water there was unsafe. They said the ground water was being contaminated by individual septic tanks when it really was not. The allegation was unfounded, and it was never proven. The City of Eugene forced homeowners to abandon their perfectly good, operating septic tanks and hook up to the Eugene Municipal Sewer System.  It was all a ruse for higher density urban development.  There was never any process to prove that anybody’s septic system was polluting the groundwater.  Test wells were selectively dug in areas in or near the city limits where there had been individual sewage leaks in the past, and as a result the data was manipulated and the results were skewed to arrive at a false conclusion.  One aspect of what the City of Eugene tried to do in order to force all residents to hook up to the sewer system was later declared to be illegal by the Oregon Court of Appeals in a case known as the City of Eugene vs. Kashin/Nalven.

Most of the residents of River Road and Santa Clara believed that there was nothing wrong with the groundwater in their neighborhood just like we believe that there is nothing wrong with the quality of the water in the McKenzie River today. Just as the city never proved their case in the 1990s that any septic system in River Road or Santa Clara was actually contributing to a ground water pollution problem, no one today can offer any proof that the quality of Eugene’s municipal water is being threatened in any way.  It was and it still is a pretext to prepare the way for higher density urban development which the majority of the residents of Lane County didn’t want then, and they still don’t want today.

You can’t put a septic tank and a drain field on a 4000 sq ft lot.  There just isn't enough room.  The Planning Commission with the help of your Board of Commissioners are planning on carving up not just River Road and Santa Cara, but anything within the Eugene-Springfield Urban Growth Boundary into very tiny lots and multi story dwellings in order to accommodate more and more growth and thousands if not hundreds of thousands of more people living here.  This is too high a price to pay for more jobs. Over-development is not the answer to unemployment. We need to find other jobs for Oregonians besides new construction jobs.

The connection between the confiscation of people’s property rights in River Road and Santa Clara in the 1990’s and the attempted taking of 200 feet of rural water front property in Lane County today are all those hundreds of thousands of new people that will be coming here if the forces behind big development have their way.  Consider the facts: They built a new Federal Court House. They built a brand new hospital in Springfield at Riverbend. They built the new FLYOVER I-5 interchange at Beltline. They built the EMX route in Springfield and they are proposing that it be extended into West Eugene in spite of all the unwilling property owners along its route. They built the brand new Goshen Exit along Interstate 5.

All of these projects are very nice, but none of them are necessary for a city of our current size and population.  They all being built to accommodate the higher urban density that is being planned for Eugene and Springfield. Our Board of Commissioners with the help of the Land Planning Commission, land use planners, soil and water districts, and watershed councils, not to mention all the private developers, bankers and realtors who are behind this aggressive push for development are planning on big population increases in our community that some of you are not going to like. Some of you will loose your land, but all of us will loose the quality of life that we love.  However it isn’t too late to stop this.

Please listen to me. I have seen this happen before in other places where I have lived. In San Diego this same thing happened. Formerly quiet little places like Oceanside, Poway, Escondido, Romona, Lakeside, El Cajon, Santee, and LaMesa were forever changed beyond recognition.  It has also happened much closer to home in Bend and in countless other communities across our country.  It is going to happen here too unless we put a stop to it.  There is no where else to go. We need to unite to protect our little community from the clutches of big development. Liberals and conservatives who love our community need to stop squabbling long enough to protect our community from over development.

Let me make this clear. THERE IS NO DRINKING WATER QUALITY PROBLEM FOR THE RESIDENTS OF EUGENE AND SPRINGFIELD OR THE URBAN GROWTH BOUNDARY. The people promoting this scare tactic are the same people behind the push for big development. They need an emotional, hot button issue and an excuse to gin up interest and to manipulate people into supporting their agenda for big growth so they can build all the infrastructure for the high density urban development that they want. It doesn't matter if it is a phony excuse. Water quality is an effective tool to do this.

Let’s think about this.  They are never going to be able to use that 200 feet of land that they were planning on confiscating from rural Lane County property owners. They just don’t want you to use it, but why not?  Once again, because they plan on such big increases in population in Eugene and Springfield, and in the sheer volume of traffic, and in the demand for increased public services like water and sewer, that they believe they need to push you away from the River and its tributaries, and even out of your home and off of your land in some cases. They want to decommission some of your septic tanks and bring you back into the urban growth boundary. Then they’d like to stuff you into a high rise apartment building or into a little house on a small lot back in town and convince you to eat pasta and vegetables without meat, and ride the bus back and forth to work every day in order to protect the environment for everyone else.

My question is this. What or whom are they trying to protect the environment from...? They are trying to protect it from all the repercussions that will be caused by the over development that they are planning, and from the hundreds of thousands of new Oregonians that will be moving here.  If you don’t want your community to experience this kind of population growth then you need to let your elected officials know that you are not in favor of this. It doesn’t matter whether they are liberal or conservative, Republican or Democrat.  This issue crosses party lines.  There is more to life than money.  The quality of life matters too.  As for me, I don’t want to live in a condo in the sky, ride the EMX back and forth to work, and eat pasta and vegetables without meat. How about the rest of you?  After all, you do have something to say about this. Other Photos
"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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Selected Related Articles
The Lane County Planning Commission and the Water Quality Canard
Prospecting for Water on the McKenzie River - Speculating on Big Development
Don’t Push the Reset Button, Pull the Plug - Part 2