Central Oregon's first-term legislators emerged on the opposite end of the spectrum on environmental issues, according to the legislative scorecard released this week by the environmental policy watchdog group Oregon League of Conservation Voters (OLCV). The non-profit has been tracking the votes of individual legislators on environmental policy issues for more than three decades and compiling the information into post-session scorecards for voters.
According to the most recent scorecard, newly elected state Rep. Judy Stiegler supported nearly three-quarters of the legislative items identified as being pro-environment by OLCV and other Oregon environmental organizations. First-term senator Chris Telfer, however, secured only a 15 percent pro-environmental voting record, according to OLCV, which singled her out for criticism in its news release.
"..new Senator Chris Telfer represents a dramatic downgrade compared to former Senator Ben Westlund," the release stated, noting that while occupying the same seat during the 2007 session Westlund had scored a perfect 100 from OLCV.
A former Bend city councilor, and one time Democrat, Telfer is well known to those who have followed Bend politics as an extreme pragmatist and un-abashed supporter of business. While Telfer's score was among the lowest in the legislature, she didn't nab the worst score. That dubious honor went to Sen. Larry George, a Sherwood republican who narrowly edged out another Central/East Oregonian Sen. Ted Ferrioli, who voted in favor of pro environmental bills a scant 10 percent of the time.
Rep. Gene Whisnant, R-Sunriver, rounded out the local scorecard with a 29 percent pro-environment rating. The score was better than Whisnant's 2005 tally, when OLCV bestowed just a 12 percent pro-environment record to Whisnant. However, it was slightly lower than his 2007 score when he amassed a 42 percent pro-environmental voting record.
This year OLCV looked at votes on roughly 20 House and Senate bills spanning everything from highway funding to invasive species to develop its scorecards. There were several issues related directly to Central Oregon, including the Metolius Resort ban (passed) and the larger destination resort law revamp (failed).
Cast Your Own Metolius Vote
On the subject of environmental votes, the Save The Metolius basin campaign which helped galvanize both grassroots and political support for the destination resort ban, has been nominated for a state-wide award by the Bus Project, a Portland-based progressive political action group whose mission is to engage younger voters in civic issues. The annual awards known as Wheelies will be handed out at the group's Oct. 5 gala at the Gerding Theater in Portland.
Save The Metolius was one of six legislative and grassroots initiatives nominated in the Campaign for the Public Good category. Other nominees included the Yes on Measure 49 campaign, a ballot initiative that superseded the Measure 37 property rights initiative/debacle, and the Farms to Schools local food purchasing program.
To vote for the Save The Metolius, or any other campaign, go to the Bus Project's awards website. www.thewheelies.org.
Water Bill Comes Due
Here's the good news: Come 2014 your drinking water in Bend will likely be cleaner and safer than it is today.
Here's the bad news: It could take as much as a 50 percent increase in the average water bill to pay for the improvements.
While the city council has yet to commit to a final alternative for the project - which would replace aging transmi sion pipes from the Bridge Creek watershed (the source of much of the city's drinking water), add a new multi-million dollar treatment facility and possibly a hydropower plant in between the two - it is facing a 2014 deadline to meet new EPA requirements for municipal drinking water systems.
The total bill for the project could be as high as $71 million, if it includes the hydro project that is expected to generate positive cash flow for the city. Nevertheless, to offset the cost of such a massive public works hit, the city would have to raise water rates anywhere between 4 percent and 10 percent annually for the next five years where they would remain indefinitely.
Bend isn't the the only one in Oregon facing the EPA deadline. Portland is also wrestling with how to pay for the EPA-required improvements. However, the issue has yet to become the political hot-button locally that it is in Portland where the city sued the EPA in an effort to exempt itself from the rules. (Portland gets a large portion of its drinking water from the Bull Run watershed, a tributary to the Sandy River). City councilors were divided over treatment alternatives and Stumptown's brewing community, led by industry heavy-hitters Widmer Brothers, revolted against the more costly filtration option - currently favored by Bend's city staff - over fears that it would impact the flavor of the water and in turn their beer.
Bend councilors have yet to decide which route to take with our system. The more costly filtration option would protect the water supply in the event of a fire by filtering out ash and other debris. The alternative is to use a UV treatment system, which Portland has embraced, that works well against parasites but doesn't guard against contamination from wildfire. However, the cost difference is significant. The filter treatment weighs in at just under $30 million. A UV system would run the city about $16.5 million, according to the city's own cost estimates.
Councilor Jim Clinton said he's skeptical that the city needs to go the extra mile with the filtration system. Worst case, he said the city could temporarily shut down the Bridge Creek pipe and ration water from its wells.
"I have a basic philosophical problem of filtering 100 percent of our water when there's basically nothing to filter out. Why are you doing that," Clinton asked.
Meantime, he said the city ought to be doing more to encourage conservation to reduce the overall demand for water.
"Do the conservation first, which is free. It will cost you nothing. You don't add more capacity and then think about conservation. That's a self-fulfilling prophecy," Clinton added.