OIA Alert: Congress eyes anti-landowner bills


[Oregonians In Action Press Release]
When Congress reconvenes this month, they will be considering a bill that could have tremendous impacts on Oregon property owners.

H.R. 2421 would amend the federal Clean Water Act by expanding the federal government’s jurisdiction to all waters of the United States, rather than simply those waters that are navigable. The Army Corps of Engineers would suddenly have authority to regulate land uses on virtually every acre of land in the United States. If you think state land controls are bad enough, wait until the feds take over.

H.R. 2421 would override recent decisions of the United States Supreme Court that imposed sensible limits on the Clean Water Act, ensuring that intent of Congress is respected without overriding the ability of state and local governments to monitor land use in their own states. The bill is sponsored by nearly every large environmental group, from the League of Conservation Voters to the Sierra Club.

Your representative in Congress needs to hear from you about this bill. If you aren’t sure who your Congressional representative is, you can look them up by entering your address at the following website:

http://www.leg.state.or.us/findlegsltr/

Please telephone, fax, and email immediately. This is an important bill that isn’t going to receive much press attention.

Dave Hunnicutt
President
Oregonians In Action
(503) 620-0258

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Posted by at 06:00 | Posted in Measure 37 | 21 Comments |Email This Post Email This Post |Print This Post Print This Post
  • Joanne Rigutto

    Bill’s right about this. The AntiNAISers have been talking this one up for months. I’ll pass the word along to them. That should re-mobilize a few thousand more people across the US.

    • Joanne Rigutto

      That should have been *DAVE*. Sheesh, me and names this week…..

  • dean

    From what I recall, the extended jurisdiction reflects what the Army Corps was already doing prior to a court case that scaled back their authority. in other words, nothing is new here, and the corps will certainly not have land use authority over ” virtually every acre” in the US, since wetlands do not occur on anywhere near every acre.

    Also, keep in mind that authority to regulate wetland development has never meant that wetlands can’t be developed. It just means that the impacts to them have to be accounted for and mitigated. Given the costs to the American taxpayers from increased flooding (think New Orleans) largely attributable to wetland loss, there is a good reason for this legislation.

  • Bob Clark

    I’ve seen too much abuse of the wetlands criteria as an excuse for government to restrict people in the use of their property, and this is what this court case also found. I’ve seen one developer ask local government to declare a neighboring property as wetlands eventhough there was no creek or river anywhere near the property in question, and this government was easily influenced by the developer’s financial standing in the community. The developer’s real purpose I suspect was to create a greenway next to the property he was developing so as to raise the resale value of his own development. Down went a family’s ability to use its property fully so a developer could get a windfall on its neighboring development.

    • dean

      Bob…wetlands are not always connected directly to streams. I just returned from a drive trip to Banff Park and back, and went through an area of “pothole” wetlands that are common in the northern plains. They may not be navigable, but are very important for storing water that would otherwise run off the land and into streams, thus exacerbating downstream floods. The family in question, if they developed their land, and if other famlies did the same, would end up costing the rest of us in increased flooding. I doubt that is what you or they would want.

    • Bo

      Landowners can abuse wetlands, but government can’t. Makes no sense. Govenrment finds it easy to say no.

  • Trevor

    This is good news. All evidence I have seen suggests that the Clean Water Act’s has- at best- helped slow the loss of wetlands and the environmental services they support (clean water, flood control, summer base flows). THese ecosystem services benefit other landowners and the public at large and have existed long-before any individual owned any particular piece of property. So no one should be able to eliminate or degrade these values “by right.” We all own and have a stake in maintaining the health of our water resources.

    Trevor

  • Rupert in Springfield

    Ok, so now we are blaming the extensive damage in New Orleans on wetlands BS. This is an absolutely perfect example of why people distrust this latest expansion of the law.

    Maybe its just me, but I thought New Orleans was hit by a hurricane, not a wetlands issue, especially considering the city was built long before we had “wetlands” designation. A corrupt political system that pocketed the money that should have gone to levies even when they had been advised repeatedly by the Army Corps that the levies would not withstand a hurricane the size of Katrina, oh, and also had an incompetent mayor, and a governor who held back national guard troops for two days.

    I thought that’s what caused the disaster there, now it was some sort of massive killer wetlands attack?

    This is why no one, and I mean no one trusts the government when it comes to wetlands anywhere near their property. This is a perfect example of it. Wetlands is no longer a term with any meaning, it is a catch all term that has been abused and applied for motivations of greed, control and power more than any environmental concern. Its an adjunct to the endangered species act. Both maybe good at inception, both abused to such an extent no one trusts their expansion.

    It has nothing to do, on either side, with wanting to ensure habitat, clean water or whatever, its about power pure and simple. Fighting this power grab does not mean one is in favour of flooding, it does mean one is against enhancing the abuse power of an already abusive law.

    • dean

      Rupert…yes it was a hurricane. And that hurricane brought a huge storm surge, and that storm surge washed over the levees in large part because south Louisiana has lost 1900 square miles of coastal wetlands over the past 70 years to development. Plus, much of the city itself is built on drained wetlands. (I’m sure some private swampland owners made a bundle on that a long time ago).
      Plus, those wetlands are sinking year by year because they are part of a delta that no longer gets replenished by silt because that silt washes way down the gulf due to channelization of the Mississippi River.

      So go ahead and distrust what you don’t want to hear. Wetland loss played a huge part in the destruction of New Orleans, and you and I are presently contributing to its rebuilding. And we just dodged a bullet or we would be paying more. New Orleans is a lost cause, and that is a geologic fact no one is going to be able to change. We can only delay it, because sea levels are rising and the city is sinking.

      Wetlands by the way, have agreed upon scientific criteria that defines them. So the term definitely has legal, technical, and scientific meaning. It is not like “sustainability,” or “green.”

      Sure, no one is in favor of flooding. But more floods more often and higher is demonstratably what we get if we keep destroying wetlands, even those disconnected from streams. Water has to go somewhere, and if it can’t rest and pause in former wetlands it is going downstream post haste.

      In order to conserve wetlands, which are also habitat, government has to set and enforce some rules….hence exercise its power. Writing as one with very direct experience in wetland rules and their application, more often than not government fails to enforce the rules it has. It allows filling of wetlands with inadequate mitigation. It rarely over steps its authority, and if it does we have courts.

      • Rupert in Springfield

        >and that storm surge washed over the levees in large part because south Louisiana has lost 1900 square miles of coastal wetlands over the past 70 years to development. Plus, much of the city itself is built on drained wetlands. (I’m sure some private swampland owners made a bundle on that a long time ago).
        Plus, those wetlands are sinking year by year because they are part of a delta that no longer gets replenished by silt because that silt washes way down the gulf due to channelization of the Mississippi River.

        I always love your little history lessons. Would that you were better traveled or at least familiar with the circles of those that do, perhaps then you would be more circumspect.

        Even with your well known preconceptions of the south, and aversion to it, I would highly suggest a trip to New Orleans. Within five minutes of landing you would realize that New Orleans from day one was built in a flood area. Whatever flooding propensity it may have is hardly new.

        Hint number one, on your way on from the airport, as you pass by the cemeteries, try and think about why they might have such a propensity for above ground crypts in the area.

        Wetlands loss as a contributing factor? Given the geography of the area, its contribution to Katrina would be as throwing a handful of salt into a sandstorm.

        >So go ahead and distrust what you don’t want to hear. Wetland loss played a huge part in the destruction of New Orleans, and you and I are presently contributing to its rebuilding.

        I don’t distrust it, I simply assert it is inane and a textbook example of how some will use wetlands as an excuse for anything.

        A hurricane played a huge part in New Orleans destruction not wetlands. They were neither the stimulus for the event, not a major exacerbating factor, as the levies ( which had not been built as advised due to a corrupt government ) were.

        Anyone who would say a huge part of the disaster in New Orleans was due to wetlands loss has shown in clear and concise terms just how far this legislation can be abused and why it needs to be curtailed, not expanded.

        • dean

          Rupert…as it turns out I have been to southern Louisiana though not New Orleans. It also turns out my short visit has little to do with my scholarship on this issue, which comes from reading about it. Try this from National Geographic as just a small example:

          http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2005/02/0209_050209_wetlands.html

          Loss of coastal wetlands to the south of New Orleans has been significant. An area the size of Rhode Island is hardly a handful of salt. The wetland loss is largely atributable to “drill baby drill” and dredge baby dredge activities. Unfortunatley no one asked the oil companies to post a bond for future damage resulting from their work, so we got the bill and they get to keep record profits. Corporate socialism at its finest.

          Yes…the Frenchies picked a lousy place for a city. But they were smart enough to build the first part on a natural levee that was the highest point in the area. The lower 9th ward, the poorest part of town, is also geographically the lowest in elevation, well below sea level. Levees are not going to ever do the trick, because the place is sinking and sea levels are rising. Plus that Atchafalaya (sp?) is poinsed to capture the flow of the Mississippi and shift the whole sheebang some 75 miles to the west. Rivers change course periodically due to sediment buildup, and that is where things are headed down there.

          • Rupert in Springfield

            Damn, did I call that or what?

            I knew you had never actually been to New Orleans.

            Anyone who had would know aint no wetlands gonna save your etouffee when a hurricane hits that’s above the standards your levies were built to.

            Tell you what, you just go there and take a quick visit, about five seconds should do it, get back to me.

            Oh, oh, ……and, I gotta love your last stab at telling me about a place you have never been to.

            “Lawsy me Miss Scarlett, I thought they built all those crypts above ground because they looked so pretty.”

            Oh, please tell me the lay out of New Orleans, I have only been their a zillion times but I guess I come from stupid Southern crackers aint no way I would know nothing about nothing.

            I’m beginning to think you are one of those ethanol Yankees. You know, one of those guys who somehow thought it made sense to water down gasoline with bourbon. Stands to reason, if that makes sense to you then you would think a wetland is going to protect you if you build below sea level.

            Damn, talk about having to take a laugh break, this is funny and I spell that with a capitol PH, Phunny.

            Busted, trying to use the old catch all wetlands thing and proving the whole point of the original article in one fell swoop. I am loving it.

            L-U-V-I-N-G I-T

          • dean

            Rupert….a question for you. What is the highest (above sea level) mountain in the world?

  • Martha

    I don’t know why we spend so much time debating these things. The Federal government shouldn’t have the authority to regulate wetlands or unnavigable waterways. I believe the Federal government has the constitutional authority to regulate the SEA, which may extend to navigable waterways I suppose. States can manipulate our lives just fine without adding the extra confusion and huge cost of the Federal to it. Why can’t our state (which is no more or less competent than the federal government), local communities, and private owners manage our precious natural resources? I suspect each project taken on by the government has a guy at the top who sees it mainly as just one more source of revenue for his branch. A few extra thousand dollars that can be skimmed to be used elsewhere. Or possibly some guy WAY at the top thinks its a good idea to establish, or reestablish in this case, some veneer of legality to the Federal government’s jurisdiction over every little thing just in case they need to start implementing some of those laws in the patriot and military commissions act.

    • Joanne Rigutto

      I think it has to do with some peoples’ belief that top down management is is the most effictient way of managing things for the good of the whole, a whole that includes not just the people in the immediate area of the resource that is being managed, but the whole being all of the people in the state, country, or world.

      Then there is another set of people who like top down management because it’s easier to deal with/influence one relatively small set of people at the top of the managerial food chain than it would be to deal with hundreds or thousands of little managers, which is what you would have with more local control.

      I’m seeing this approach with 1000 Friends of Oregon and the recent activities of the Big Look Taskforce. The BLT recently released a report in which they said that more local control of land use would be good. 1000 Friends of Oregon is dead set against this according to a newsletter I got from them in the last month or so.

      I’m sure that organizations like the Sierra Club, Nature Conservancy, etc. would much rather deal with one large agencies in DC than deal with many state, county or other local agencies.

      Local control is possible and easily done, especially if the people in the area are engaged in the process. The big problem is that there are great forces at work against this approach.

    • Martha

      Big tard moment on my part. I don’t know what made me say the Feds have authority over the sea, they don’t. Constitutionally, they just have DC, Guam, and some territories. The waterways and oceans belong to their respective states to regulate. *crazy* woman wandering around these halls here. Thanks Joanne for the much more classy post than my own:)

  • JessseO

    Dang, OIA fighting clean water. That’s a winner of an issue.

  • Big K

    OIA for water? Floating homes have property rights too!

  • Lee

    “Wetlands” is a very loose word. Especially for government officials. List of cases is long. I like the one on a sloping site off Skyline Blvd. in Portland. A small segment of the property had a few plants of one type that sometimes grow in areas that have near surface ground water. But as most Oregonians know, much of western Oregon has surface water sometime during our raining seasons- nine months. Portland’s careful survey using aerial photography determined that it a small segment of the parcel was a “potential wetland” and classified all the parcel in this category because the one suspect part needed the other to provide its’ slope drainage surface water. It became all “wetland”.

    Then there is the “wetland” right in central Portland off Barbur Blvd. The diich that the city had buiilt over 100 years ago on the uphill side of the street, without property under street culverts, backs up the rain water in the ditch in downpours. There’s a 45% hillside slope that contributes to the runoff. City environmental staff found rushes growing in the ditch in the spring and declared the whole hillside and the ditch an environmental zone-a “wetland”.

    These are not exaggerations but reality. Imprecise definitions, regulations can lead to misuse of governmental intent-even when the intent is meritorious. If these examples were very few, and could be more easily challenged successfully, then it might make sense. That’s not the case,and why federal and state expansion of control is very questionable.

    • dean

      Lee…wetlands are scientifically determined by a combination of 3 characteristics.

      Fist is fully saturated soil for 15 days DURING THE GROWING SEASON, which I believe starts around March 15 in Western Oregon. This is AFTER our wettest part of the year, which is November through February.

      Second is the presence of vegetation that is strongly associated with wetlands. Some plants can’t grow anywhere BUT wetlands, while other plants can grow in wetlands or in wet areas that are not wetlands. If you find the former, you have a wetland. If you find the latter, you MIGHT have a wetland.

      Third is the type of soil. Hydric soils are those that form under wetland conditions. Many areas in our valley have hydric soils that are now farmed because they have been cleared and drain tiled or ditched. These are no longer classified as wetlands, but they once were wetlands.

      Sometimes “ditches” are simply straightened out stream channels. So yes, these can be wetlands, as the one on Barbur probably is. Other times they are simply ditches and not wetlands.

      “Environmental zones” in Portland include wetlands, but also include forested uplands. I think you are confusing the two in your example.

      The definition of a wetland is precise and is legally and technically sound. But at times the characteristics that make it a wetland are overwhelming, and at other times they are on the margins. Your examples are anecdotal. What might not seem like a wetland to you may in fact actually be a wetland. I have about 1/2 acre on my farm that is right at the edge of being or not being a wetland. Some years it has saturated soil for 15 days in March-April, other years not. It has some plants growing on it that are associated with, but not dependent on wetlands. It does not have hydric soils. 9 out of 10 wetland scientists would probably conclude it is not a wetland, but one might conclude that it is, especially if it is tested in a very wet year.

      What is your alternative to the wetland protections we have?

      Sometimes nature is less precise that our laws are.

  • Delia Lopez

    What happened to the federal government is to have land not exceeding 10 miles square? These federal land and power grabs are BAD. We the people need to take back our country. Our state should have control of our lands and water and the people of the state should benefit from them. Please check out my positions on the issues. I support your right to freedom, and our constitution.
    Delia Lopez
    US Congressional Candidate Oregon #3

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