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Ban on Cascade Locks water bottling moves closer to ballot

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Opponents of Nestlé’s proposed water bottling plant in the Columbia River Gorge have turned in three times the number of signatures required to qualify a local ballot measure blocking the deal.

The citizen measure is being watched around the country, as other communities ponder whether publicly owned water should be given or sold to for-profit corporations, said Julia DeGraw, Northwest organizer for Food & Water Watch.

The measure would prohibit any bottled water exports from Hood River County. The Local Water Alliance, which is leading the campaign, believes it’s the first measure of its kind nationwide.

The deal to build a bottling plant in economically depressed Cascade Locks has been in the works for more than six years. It centers on state-owned water rights at nearby Oxbow Springs.

Cascade Locks had proposed trading its city well water gallon-for-gallon with the state’s Oxbow Springs water, then planned to sell the spring water to Nestlé. The plan faced an extensive review to determine whether it served the public interest.

In April 2015, the city and state decided to pursue a new agreement that would permanently trade water rights instead of just water, eliminating the need for a public interest review.

The decision drew complaints, protests and a formal letter from nine legislators urging Gov. Kate Brown to intervene.

Last month, Brown ordered the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to withdraw its cross transfer application and return to the original water exchange process, which will require a public-interest review.

Nestlé officials said they were disappointed with the decision.

“This will likely further delay much needed economic development in Cascade Locks that our project would bring,” said Dave Palais, natural resource manager for Nestlé Waters North America.

The plant is expected to provide about 50 jobs. The company also is asking for tax breaks.

The plant’s opponents say it doesn’t make sense to send 200 million gallons a year out of a county that has been in a serious drought.

“This project would set a dangerous precedent that Hood River County is a county willing to give away the future of our water security,” said Aurora del Val, campaign director for the Local Water Alliance. “That precedent puts at risk our entire economy, which heavily relies on water, and it is not worth the small number of jobs Nestlé could create at a highly automated bottling plant.”

Nestlé sells 64 brands of water in 43 countries. It taps 50 springs across the United States, but doesn’t have a source of spring water in the Pacific Northwest. Instead, it trucks bottled water here from Sacramento.

High school students learn to grow

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

RAINIER, Ore. (AP) — Skyla Ade dug her hands deep into the earth, scraping a mound of wet dirt toward her to make a planting hole. She plopped a red cabbage into the dirt and patted it down.

It was a dreary day at Rainier High School last week when Ade, 15, and several students worked vigorously to plant onion and cabbage in the school’s raised garden beds. The students are part of Discovery Club, an after-school group focused on gardening and healthy eating.

Under the direction of Dustin Vinson from Greg’s Gardens & Gifts in Longview, the students plucked weeds from several raised beds before replacing them with onion bulbs and budding cabbage plants. The students crouched beneath hooded sweatshirts and coats to shield themselves from a downpour as they planted.

“I love the rain,” 15-year-old Annie Tygret said, lifting her muddy hands from the garden to reach for another plant.

Discovery Club meets once a week and teaches high school kids to garden and cook quick but healthy meals. Julie Crape, the high school’s agriculture teacher, said the students have learned to make smoothies, healthy carrot cake cookies and apple “nachos” (applies drizzled with warm peanut butter and topped with dried fruit).

This year is the first full year for the club, which is funded by multiple grants. A $400,000 Career Technical Education grant paid for the garden, while $300 from a Fuel Up to Play 60 grant helps pay for other club necessities. Money from a PEP grant pays for supplies.

“The reason we called it Discovery Club is we wanted it to be open to student interpretation for what they want to do,” Crape explained.

On days the kids garden, they plant herbs and vegetables that later are incorporated in cafeteria meals. Students grow oregano, thyme, mint, chives, grapes, strawberries and kale, among other foods. The purpose, Crape said, is to teach healthy habits early on.

“People in this community have a hard time eating healthy,” she said. “They have a hard time coming up with ideas for foods that are healthy and quick. I think it’s important for kids to learn how to cook things that are healthy for them and healthy for their family.”

Ade, who is in Crape’s agriculture class, said the club is an extension of what students learn during school hours.

“It’s something different than our regular routine,” she said, without shifting her gaze from the garden. She studied her work, scanning for space to place another cabbage plant.

“I think I pretty much filled up this bed,” she said to Annie Tygret, who was planting nearby. The two girls continued scanning the dirt for open space.

Annie said she enjoys the gardening aspect of Discovery Club, but cooking is her favorite part.

“We’ve had competitions with making smoothies before,” she said.

Ryan Cash, 15, said he’s interested in both gardening and cooking.

“Ever since I was little I’ve had an interest in farming and cooking,” he said. “In my family, I was always the one that wanted to cook.”

Ryan, who’s been coming to the club for three months, said he hopes to start a farm one day. The work can be tough, he said, but it’s nothing he didn’t expect.

“I sort of thought it would be like this,” he said as he reached for another plant. “I’ve grown up with a big family, so I sort of have a lot of stuff to do.”

Bird flu tests inconclusive on Oregon duck

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

A wild duck harvested last month in Morrow County in Eastern Oregon had Eurasian bird flu, but tests were unable to determine whether the strain was a danger to poultry, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

A sample from the hunter-shot mallard was collected Nov. 7 by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

ODFW state veterinarian Colin Gillin said Friday that preliminary test results caused concern.

The duck would have been the first confirmed case of highly pathogenic bird flu in the U.S. since July. The USDA declared Nov. 18 to the World Organization for Animal Health that the U.S. was free of bird flu, which had prompted trade bans on U.S. poultry products.

The Morrow County duck had Eurasian H5 bird flu, but tests to further define the type and pinpoint the strength of the virus were inconclusive, according to USDA.

“The testing was unable to determine the exact strain of the viruses or whether they were high pathogenic or low pathogenic,” the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service announced Friday.

There are dozens of bird flu strains. The strains that killed millions of birds last winter and spring were H5N8, a highly pathogenic Eurasian virus, and H5N2, a highly pathogenic mix of Eurasian and North American strains. Migratory waterfowl carry the virus and spread the disease to poultry flocks.

Highly pathogenic bird flu struck poultry farms in British Columbia, Canada, in early December 2014.

The virus was then detected in a wild duck across the border in Washington in mid-December, the first U.S. case of highly pathogenic bird flu in a decade.

The virus eventually spread to 15 states and claimed 48 million birds, the largest animal health emergency in U.S. history, according to USDA.

To be on-guard for bird flu’s return, federal and state agencies have tested more than 24,000 wild birds in the U.S. since July 1.

The only bird to test positive for highly pathogenic bird flu was a mallard duck collected in Utah on July 31.

The virus was apparently fairly common in Morrow County last year. ODFW collected samples from fewer than 100 wild birds at the Umatilla National Wildlife Refuge on one day in January and six tested positive for highly pathogenic bird flu.

The last case in a U.S. poultry flock was confirmed June 17.

Deal reached in lawsuit over Oregon county’s GMO law

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A proposed settlement has been reached in a federal lawsuit challenging Jackson County’s ban on genetically engineered crops.

Under the deal, the alfalfa farmers who sued agree to not appeal an earlier court ruling that upheld the voter-approved ban.

In exchange, the southwest Oregon county won’t force growers who already planted genetically engineered alfalfa to remove their crops.

Those farmers have agreed not to plant any more genetically engineered crops and to switch their fields out of that alfalfa after no more than eight years.

Jackson County commissioners and a federal court magistrate must approve Monday’s settlement.

The Legislature approved a bill two years ago that prohibits local governments from regulating genetically engineered crops. An exception was made for Jackson County because its measure had already qualified for the ballot.

Voters approved the measure by a wide margin in May 2014.

In-N-Out ‘enthusiastic’ about moving into Grants Pass

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

GRANTS PASS, Ore. (AP) — Eat your heart out, Portland and practically everywhere else in Oregon — In-N-Out Burger is coming to Grants Pass.

Soon. Probably.

Rumored for months to be eyeing a location in Grants Pass, the wildly popular California fast-food chain known for its simple but juicy burgers and fries now officially owns the property to do it.

And it’s exactly where everyone thought it was going to be, a former Shell gas station near Interstate 5 on the north end of town.

The company has an appeal before the City Council on Dec. 16 to keep the supports and brackets for the former Shell sign that was supposed to be removed within 90 days of when the property was razed.

But exactly when you’ll be able to order a Double-Double and Animal Style fries is anyone’s guess.

The first In-N-Out in Oregon was opened in Medford in September, drawing a crush of customers, and at that time In-N-Out said it was interested in opening others in Oregon.

By then, rumors had been swirling for months, even before a teenage prankster swiped a “Coming Soon” sign from the new In-N-Out location in Medford and hung it at a shuttered Carl’s Jr. a few blocks from the old Shell station.

In a statement to the Daily Courier, Carl Van Fleet, In-N-Out’s vice president of planning and development, confirmed the acquisition of the Shell site and said the company is “enthusiastic” about opening a restaurant in Grants Pass.

“That said, we are still in the very early stages of the development process so it’s not yet possible to even speculate on timing.

“For a typical restaurant, once we begin construction it usually takes us about five months to open. At this point, we can’t yet project when we might be able to begin construction.”

The first In-N-Out opened in 1948 in a Los Angeles suburb, and the chain has grown to more than 300 locations on the West Coast and in Texas.

In-N-Out remains privately held by the Snyder family, refuses to franchise and ties its growth strategy to a requirement that all new locations must be within one day’s drive from company processing plants to ensure fresh ingredients.

The plant serving the new In-N-Out location in Medford is 350 miles away in Lathrop, Calif. Grants Pass is another 30 miles away.

Lora Glover, director of parks and community development for the city, said In-N-Out is appealing the sign code because the code has changed since the sign was originally built years ago.

“In-N-Out is asking to be able to retain the sign for three years,” Glover said.

The existing sign is 89 feet tall with 160 square feet of sign space. Today the maximum height allowed is 20 feet with no more than 100 square feet of sign space.

Organic food companies interested in East Oregon farmers

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

ONTARIO, Ore. — Organic food companies are turning an eye toward East Oregon farmers to help them meet increasing demand in the fast-growing sector.

Oregon State University Extension agents are trying to match them with local farmers.

Twenty people, including representatives of organic production and seed companies, attended the 2nd Annual Organic Production Workshop Dec. 3 at OSU’s Malheur County Extension office.

About half the participants were farmers, said OSU Cropping Systems Extension Agent Bill Buhrig, who organized the event.

“I’ve been contacted by purchasers that are interested in organic crops that could be produced in this area and I have a lot of growers that are always looking for new ways they can diversify in this area,” he said. “The hope is to bring them together....”

James Henderson, farm liaison for Hummingbird Wholesale, a Eugene company that delivers organic products to Natural Foods stores and restaurant chains, said the company contracted 231 acres of organic crops with farmers in 2010 but that number will reach at least 4,800 in 2016.

Crops that farmers in this area could produce for the company include wheat, barley and dry beans, he said.

Organic teff, an African grain, is difficult to grow in the western part of the state, but “I think you could do it on this side, easily,” he said.

He said the company is paying growers 80 cents a pound for conventional teff but would pay significantly more than that for organic teff.

“There’s a lot of market opportunity,” he told Capital Press. “We’re just trying to assess the interest here because I know there are a lot of competent farmers here.”

Quenten Wahler, a production specialist with Albany-based Wild West Seed, said growers in this area could produce organic vegetable, flower, corn, bean and cover crop seed.

“If there is something you’re interested in growing, I can probably find a market and we can figure something out,” he said.

Because Eastern Oregon is a long way from large population centers in the western part of the state and Boise’s organic demand is being served by Southwestern Idaho farmers, agriculture in this region has been slow to catch on to organic production, Buhrig said.

“We weren’t positioned necessarily to be on the front of this wave demand-wise,” he said. “But now we’re seeing a large demand organically for things like wheat and dry beans. Well, those are things we can raise here. That’s what’s bringing in outside purchasers who are saying, ‘You guys can do this.’”

During the workshop, two Idaho organic growers discussed their foray into organic production and offered advise.

“Financially, it’s been a good move,” said Castleford, Idaho, grower Tim Cornie. But, he added, “there’s a learning curve and ... you’re going to have less yields.”

Nate Jones, who began growing organic crops in Glenns Ferry, Idaho, in 1987, said it’s critical for new organic farmers to find someone to mentor them in the beginning.

JEM Raw Chocolate recalling nut butter spreads

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

BEND, Ore. (AP) — JEM Raw Chocolate of Bend, Oregon, announced a voluntary recall of its nut butter spreads because they have the potential to be contaminated with salmonella.

There have been 11 illnesses connected to those who ate nut spreads, but no one has been hospitalized.

Salmonella can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems.

The recalled products were distributed in retail stores and through mail order between June and November.

JEM Raw is working with distributors and retailers to remove the products from shelves. Consumers should discard any product and its container. The company says it will work directly with each customer to replace product.

Those with questions can call JEM Raw Chocolate at 541-728-3844 or visit www.jemraw.com .

Oregon ag’s economic impact yields jobs, sales

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

Farmers might be tempted to say they told you so, but a new report from Oregon State University economists says food, fiber and other aspects of state agriculture are linked to $50 billion in Oregon sales and account for 326,617 full- and part-time jobs.

Agriculture held its own when the rest of Oregon’s economy staggered during the recession, and it continues to grow, Extension Economist Bruce Sorte said.

In that sense, farming is like the “good, steady worker” that doesn’t get noticed when other sectors of the economy are doing well, he said.

“It’s kind of like the foundation of your house,” Sorte said. “You don’t think about it much but you’re glad it’s there.”

Ag’s economic impact extends from the farm or ranch into warehousing, transportation, wholesale and retail sales and processing operations, among others. “It’s not just relegated to the soil,” Sorte said.

Sorte said Oregon producers have become much more efficient in the way they use water and other inputs and increased production over the decades even though the number of farms declined: From 40,033 in 2002 to 35,439 in 2012.

“The recent recession seemed to have taken its toll on many of the smaller farms that did not have the reserves or assets to weather the hard times,” the report concluded.

The report, chiefly written by Sorte and OSU Extension Community Economist Mallory Rahe, noted opportunities for continued industry growth. For example, Oregon grows and processes the ingredients for 31 percent of the food and beverages created and served in the state. Increasing that to 50 percent would add $350 million to annual ag sales, according to the report.

Rahe cautioned, however, that the figure is a rough estimate and doesn’t account for opportunity costs or what such growth might mean to existing businesses and to resources such as water. There could be significant reasons for not striving to reach the 50 percent figure, such as a loss of quality, Rahe said.

OSU economists Larry Lev and Bruce Weber, head of the Rural Studies Program, reviewed the work. Oregon Department of Agriculture chipped in $14,525 to help pay for the work, provided statistics and wrote descriptive passages in the first part of the report, Sorte said.

“It’s a good partnership,” he said of the OSU-ODA collaboration.

Draft bill on Klamath water doesn’t include dam removal

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

With deep chasms remaining in Congress over a proposal to remove four dams from the Klamath River, U.S. Rep. Greg Walden unveiled a bill Dec. 3 to address other aspects of the Klamath Basin’s water agreements.

The Oregon Republican’s draft proposal would implement water-sharing agreements in the upper basin and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s Klamath Project worked out in 2010 while transfering federal lands and economic development funds to the Klamath Tribes in exchange for waiving senior water rights.

The bill punts on the issue of dam removal, which has been a sticking point in Congress since 2011, by putting its approval in the lap of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Tribal leaders have made dam removal a condition for their participating in the Klamath pact.

The bill’s unveiling comes after what Walden spokesman Andrew Malcolm described as a “frank” meeting Dec. 3 involving West Coast lawmakers on both sides of the issue. The meeting included Oregon’s Democratic Sens. Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden as well as California Republican Reps. Tom McClintock and Doug LaMalfa, two staunch opponents of removing the dams.

“I think it was a good discussion,” Malcolm said. “It was helpful to have everyone from both chambers and both parties in the same room. They had a frank exchange of views about what is possible in both chambers, and discussions are ongoing.”

Walden’s bill got a cool reception from proponents of the Klamath agreements, who have warned that water-sharing components of the pacts could crumble if Congress doesn’t authorize the package before the end of the year.

In a joint statement after the meeting, Wyden and Merkley called Walden’s bill “a step forward” but lamented that it omits a dam removal provision “that is central to the bargain worked out over years with blood, sweat and tears.”

They also said Walden’s proposal to give 100,000 acres of U.S. Forest Service land each to Klamath and Siskiyou counties for economic development is “a known non-starter” in the Senate, where Wyden’s bill to authorize the Klamath agreements has languished since early this year.

“Congressman Walden told us all that he understood that dam removal had to be part of the bill or else irrigators would face water uncertainty,” Karuk Tribe councilman Josh Saxon said in a statement. “The draft bill he released ... leaves out dam removal and instead replaces it with a giveaway of public lands. Communities in the basin left partisanship at the door to hammer out a solution. Mr. Walden must do the same.”

Don Gentry, the Klamath Tribes’ chairman, said Walden’s draft proposal is “encouraging” but that the tribes can’t support it without dam removal, which he has said is necessary to ensure that fisheries key to their economy and culture will be preserved into the future.

Gentry said he is aware of instances when willing owners took out dams without needing congressional approval, but it’s not clear how a process before FERC would work.

“We don’t really understand fully how that would occur or how long that would take,” he told the Capital Press. “We do know our members voted for the whole package, including dam removal, so this puts us in a situation that if legislation were to move forward without dam removal, our members would be getting together at the start of next year to determine what that means.”

FERC officials did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

The 42 signatories of the 2010 pacts that included the dam removals as well as water-sharing and numerous conservation efforts in the basin already renewed the agreements once, in late 2012. However, looming deadlines lend more of a sense of urgency this time, proponents say.

Already, regulatory agencies are resuming the task of reviewing PacifiCorp’s dam relicensing application, and the Yurok Tribe — a key water right holder on the Klamath River -- has withdrawn from the agreements because of Congress’ inaction, the advocates say. The Klamath Tribes have given notice that they, too, would likely withdraw if the agreements aren’t authorized this year.

Proponents say PacifiCorp’s pledge of $200 million and funding from California’s Proposition 1 water bond will cover the cost of dam removal, although the federal government would be on the hook for fisheries restoration. A task force assembled in 2013 slashed the cost of the overall package to about $545 million, down from an original estimate of $1.1 billion.

However, congressional approval has remained a sticking point, as bills authorizing the agreements have languished since 2011. Malcolm was noncommittal when asked if Walden’s bill would be fast-tracked through the House of Representatives and merged with the Senate version.

“We’re not going to speculate on the timeline,” he said. “We want people to have time to absorb it and give us their feedback.”

Legislator proposes regional minimum wage rates

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

SALEM — Spurred by two ballot initiatives to raise Oregon’s minimum wage, a Portland lawmaker plans to propose legislation in February that would set different regional minimum wage rates based on cost of living and median income.

Sen. Michael Dembrow, who chairs the Senate workforce committee, said a legislative agreement could help avert an acrimonious and prolonged battle over minimum wage at the ballot box.

“Our hope is if we can pass it in February, that the campaigns will stop collecting signatures, and they’ll feel comfortable with it,” Dembrow said.

A legislative work group began at the end of last session looking at some of the issues to consider in setting a minimum wage.

“What became clear from that was we needed to do something that is not one-size-fits-all,” Dembrow said. “We needed to take into account cost of living and economic vitality in different parts of the state.”

Dembrow said he envisions setting three regional minimum wage rates — with the highest rate in the Portland metro area and the lowest in rural areas.

The rates would be phased in during a three- to four-year period, he said.

“Our goal here is to get the wage where families can make it without relying on public assistance,” he said.

Senate workforce committee members have yet to settle on exact numbers but hope to have those details ready in time for a public hearing Jan. 14.

The regionally tiered minimum wage would address the need for higher incomes in Portland, where housing costs are skyrocketing, without crippling businesses in slower economic areas such as the southern coast, Dembrow said.

One ballot initiative underway proposes hiking the state’s minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2019. Another initiative by a union-led coalition seeks to boost minimum wage to $13.50 and give cities the authority to hike wages beyond that.

Dembrow’s legislation would not repeal state preemption on wage hikes, which prohibits municipalities from increasing minimum wage.

Giving cities the authority to independently hike wages can be problematic, Dembrow said.

“If Portland does raise the minimum wage, and Beaverton doesn’t, there is a concern a lot of businesses would relocate,” Dembrow said. “We have had a lot of experience with the state setting its own minimum wage but haven’t had a lot of experience with cities doing it. That is a relatively new phenomenon.”

In the past two years, Washington, D.C., Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles have taken action to gradually raise minimum wage to $15.

House and Senate leadership and Gov. Kate Brown have indicated passing minimum wage legislation is a priority for the upcoming session.

Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, said he supports increasing the minimum wage but has yet to decide on a specific amount. He said he also agrees with repealing the preemption on local wage hikes so that cities such as Portland could raise wages beyond the statewide floor.

But passing wage legislation in February will depend on securing support from key business leaders, he said.

If the Legislature fails to reach a consensus, House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland, plans to support the Raise the Wage’s coalitions ballot proposal to increase minimum wage to $13.50, said House Democrats spokeswoman Lindsey O’Brien.

So far, Portland Democrats have been dominating the discussion about wage increases, said House Minority Leader Mike McLane, R-Powell Butte.

McLane said he has seen none of the proposals but opposes any that take a one-size-fits-all approach to minimum wage because of the state’s geographic and economic diversity.

McLane said he is concerned higher wage mandates might hurt small businesses, especially in rural areas. He said inflation from hiking wages also could price out retirees on a fixed income and dash job opportunities for young, entry-level workers.

“I understand when you are in Portland that the world is different than Prineville, but I certainly hope Gov. Brown and House Speaker Kotek will show concern for all of the Oregonians who don’t live in the city of Portland,” McLane said.

The Capital Bureau is a collaboration between EO Media Group and Pamplin Media Group.

Lawmakers to seek ‘path forward’ on Klamath agreements

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

West Coast lawmakers are set to meet today amid warnings that the Klamath Basin’s water agreements could crumble if Congress doesn’t pass an authorization bill by the end of this year.

U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., who has been cool to the proposal to remove four dams from the Klamath River that’s at the heart of the water pact, will meet with Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon and other leaders to “find a path forward” on Klamath issues, his office said Dec. 2.

The meeting will include Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, and California Republican Reps. Tom McClintock and Doug LaMalfa, two vocal opponents of removing the dams.

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Rep. Jared Huffman, D-Calif., will also attend, according to Walden’s office.

“There’s a lot of moving parts to this,” Walden spokesman Andrew Malcolm told the Capital Press. “There’s a lot of people opposed (to dam removal) in the House and the Senate. In the Senate, a bill was proposed this year and has gone nowhere. So we believe a good way forward is to gather everyone together ... to discuss what might be useful.”

The meeting comes as Oregon Gov. Kate Brown recently sent a letter to lawmakers urging their quick authorization of the Klamath pacts, and more than 50 groups — including the Oregon Farm Bureau, the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association and several local farm groups — signed on to an ad published Dec. 2 in several Oregon newspapers urging Congress to act.

Groups that supported that 2010 Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement and two companion pacts warn they could all crumble soon if Congress doesn’t act before Jan. 1, returning the region to the water fights and irrigation shutoffs of decades past.

Already, regulatory agencies are resuming the task of reviewing PacifiCorp’s dam relicensing application, and the Yurok Tribe — a key water right holder on the Klamath River — has withdrawn from the agreements, the advocates say.

The 42 signatories of the pacts that included the dam removals as well as water-sharing and numerous conservation efforts in the basin already renewed the agreements once, in late 2012.

“I think this time is different,” said Glen Spain, northwest regional director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations. “We’re a short period of time ... from deadlines when this is all supposed to happen. We’ve done everything that’s been required in this, including finding non-federal money for dam removal.”

Proponents say PacifiCorp’s pledge of $200 million and funding from California’s Proposition 1 water bond will cover the cost of dam removal, although the federal government would be on the hook for fisheries restoration. A task force assembled in 2013 slashed the cost of the overall package to about $545 million, down from an original estimate of $1.1 billion.

However, congressional approval has remained a sticking point, as bills authorizing the agreements have languished since 2011. This year, Widen’s Senate Bill 133 failed to advance beyond the upper chamber’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

Trooper puts down cows after crash: ‘It’s heart-wrenching’

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

WALTERVILLE, Ore. (AP) — Oregon State Police Trooper Anthony Mathews shot the cow dead.

And then he had to do it again and again and again.

“It’s heart-wrenching,” Mathews said at the scene along Highway 126 west of Walterville, where a truck pulling a trailer with 68 cattle overturned Tuesday afternoon. “They’re more or less like pets, and it’s hard, but you have to do what’s right for them and not let them suffer.”

Mathews, a wildlife division trooper with the state police, was assigned to kill a total of 12 injured cows trapped inside the trailer.

Mathews said he’d had to kill animals before, mostly wildlife.

As the shots from Mathews’ handgun rang out, bystanders and emergency crew members winced and plugged their ears. Mathews was equipped with ear protection to cancel out the sharp sounds.

Mathews said there were “many more” animals already dead in the trailer.

Once confirmed dead, the cows were dragged from the trailer with a long metal cable and placed into another trailer. A co-owner of the truck and trailer, Ron Langley of Monroe, said the carcasses would likely be taken to a designated dump, as they could not be used for meat.

“A lot of them have broken legs and bones,” Langley said of the animals. “There’s no way for us to get them up or use them, so we have to shoot them.”

Langley works for Apache Transport, a Junction City company that hauls livestock and construction materials.

The owner of the cows was also on the scene and helped troopers decipher which animals could be salvaged.

The truck driver had minor injuries and was not taken to a hospital, law enforcement officials said.

The truck sheared a tree and also struck a power pole, which downed lines and cut power to several nearby homes and businesses.

Following the crash, several cows escaped to a nearby field through a hole in the top of trailer, according to state police trooper Sgt. Vonn Schleicher, who said he was unsure how many cows were alive, dead or injured. The trailer likely was ripped open on impact, Schleicher said.

The cows that remained trapped inside the trailer could be heard mooing and kicking the metal trailer, prompting officials to decide to shoot the severely injured animals, Schleicher said.

The area where the truck overturned has been the scene of multiple crashes over the years, according to several neighbors.

A driver who crashed his state-owned tanker truck on Dec. 30, 2014, spilled a load of 11,000 juvenile salmon in the same spot. The driver, who struck a power pole, was later determined to have a blood alcohol level of 0.29 percent, state police said at the time.

The scene at Tuesday’s crash was eerily familiar, according to 38-year-old Penny Burns, who said crashes in the area are “a constant problem.”

“That’s the exact same spot the fish truck crashed,” Burns said. “There are so many crashes here. ... I mean look at my fence, it’s had to be replaced because of it.”

Burns said she was the first to call 911.

“As soon as I heard it, I came out and saw one (cow) take off,” Burns said. “They were all mooing and kicking very loudly.”

Burns said the driver got out of the truck quickly.

“The guy was hurt a little, he was bleeding from the head and looked like he may have broken his nose, but he was walking and talking just fine,” Burns said.

Marlin Lay, 56, said he was arriving home just up the street when the crash happened.

“Speeding is what got him,” Lay said. “He hit that tree so hard, he bounced back into the highway.”

Lay, who has lived off Cedar Flat Road for more than 20 years, said the area is prone to crashes because of its curves.

“You’re going 55 (mph), then all of the sudden it’s 45 and the road is curving,” Lay said. “There’s a sign right there that says 45 and they don’t pay attention.”

Police said Wednesday that speed was a reason the truck failed to negotiate the turn. The driver was cited for failing to drive within his lane.

Willamette River gets a passing grade from researchers

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

A river health “report card” compiled by representatives from 20 entities gives Oregon’s Willamette River a “B” grade in its upper and middle sections and a C+ as it passes through Portland on its way to the Columbia.

The report made public Wednesday grades the river on five factors: Water quality, fish and wildlife presence, habitat such as streambank vegetation, flow and the impact of people.

Scientists measured the river’s health as determined by multiple indicators. Among them were fecal bacteria levels, the presence of native fish and bald eagles, water temperature, channel structure and levels of toxics.

Overall, it was a surprisingly good show for a river that is the nation’s 19th largest by volume, courses 187 miles through Oregon’s largest cities and highly productive farmland, and is often written off as polluted.

“The river is clean enough to swim in,” said Allison Hensey, deputy director of the Willamette River Initiative, an effort funded by the non-profit Meyer Memorial Trust.

Fecal bacteria counts are low throughout the river’s reach, toxics are relatively low except in the Portland harbor “superfund” contamination cleanup site, and there were no harmful algal blooms in the upper and middle reaches. Algal blooms are rare enough in the lower Portland stretch that the river earned an A+ from the study group.

Water quality in the Willamette is very good from Eugene to Albany, good from Albany to Newberg, and acceptable from Newberg to Portland, the group reported. Native fish and bald eagles, two of the indicators considered, are found in good numbers through most of the river.

But problems remain, Hensey said. The river is too warm, channel complexity is diminished, the flow volume is well below ideal level and native resident fish such as bass and carp — as opposed to ocean migrating salmon and steelhead — aren’t safe to eat in large quantities. Flood plain vegetation, the trees and bushes that hold, filter and cool the river, has been disrupted.

For some emerging concerns — such as traces of pharmaceuticals or personal care products found in the river — the study group had no standards by which to grade the Willamette’s health, Hensey said.

The river has multiple uses, ranging from irrigation to recreation, and five cities now draw drinking water from the Willamette, with more likely to join them, she said.

“This is a river we all rely on,” she said.

Willamette Valley farmers are in good position to help solve some of the river’s problems because their land borders it, said Cheryl Hummon, riparian specialist with the Oregon Department of Agriculture’s water quality management program.

Farmers and other rural landowners should maintain existing forested areas along the Willamette and its tributary streams, Hummon said. Such work doesn’t take land out of production, doesn’t require a permit and doesn’t need financial or technical assistance. “It is far more effective and efficient to protect what we have than to restore what we’ve lost,” Hummon said in an email.

Hummon was one of the study group members that spent the past year-and-a-half researching the river’s health. Others were from Oregon State and the University of Oregon, ODFW, Oregon DEQ, several cities, utilities and tribal and watershed groups. The University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science helped coordinate the work.

Opportunity grows in cider apples

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

SHERWOOD, Ore. — Richard Hostetter wasn’t a farmer, but he knew the international investment game. He knew the big boys were increasingly favoring agriculture over the long haul. People have to eat, after all.

Arriving in Oregon in 2013 after 17 years in Tokyo, where he’d worked for big banks and investment houses, he searched for an opportunity. He figured he was too late to make money in Oregon blueberries or hazelnuts, and the wine industry likewise seemed over-populated.

When someone mentioned cider apples, his response was, “What the heck is that?”

“Initially, I wasn’t interested,” he said. “I didn’t think it had any legs.”

Research and due diligence convinced him otherwise. It quickly became apparent that hard cider was an industry on the rise. Cideries and cider pubs were popping up everywhere, especially in Portland, mimicking the rise of the craft beer industry. Membership in the Northwest Cider Association grew from 17 to 70 in the past three years.

And just like wine grapes, the apples that make the best hard cider are different than the ones people like to eat. The rush is on to provide the bittersweet varieties, including old English and French apples, that make the best hard cider.

There is, Hostetter discovered, “A mismatch between rapidly growing demand and slow growing supply.”

Which is how he came to plant 15,000 cider apple trees on three leased acres outside Sherwood, 20 miles south of Portland.

“I do believe there’s a big opportunity in cider apples,” he said. “I’ve rolled the dice fairly aggressively on this.”

In that sense, Hostetter, 47, represents a couple of truisms in Oregon agriculture. First, the emerging generation of farmers includes people new to the field but with other skills, experience or money. Second, Oregon’s agricultural diversity — the state grows 220 crops — opens doors to unexpected economic development.

Hostetter is engaged in a crash course on grafting, planting and growing fruit trees, all of which is complicated and costly. “Even the wood for grafting is worth a lot of money right now,” he said.

The biggest difficulty has been finding farmland to buy, with water rights. suitable soil and within striking distance of Portland. He has about two dozen varieties growing in close-packed nursery style on the leased land while he searches for property on which to transplant his orchard.

He believes the industry will achieve a high-qualty niche once cider makers have a supply of proper apples.

Ten years from now, he hopes to be known as the owner of a sizable commercial cider apple business.

Richard Hostetter

Age: 47

Family: Wife, Naoko, sons Ryan and Alan, and Reggie the chocolate lab, who has free rein of the cider orchard. Wife is from Japan and family (except Reggie, Hostetter jokes) is bi-lingual.

Background: Grew up on Lookout Mountain, Tenn., a suburb of Chattanooga. Not from an agricultural family, but loved farms and dreamed of owning one.

Education: Bachelor of arts degree from Wheaton College in Illinois; master’s degree in business administration from University of South Carolina.

Professional life: Worked 13 years as an economist in the Japanese foreign exchange and stock markets, four years as a management consultant in Tokyo.

Why farming, why now: International institutional investors are increasingly looking at agriculture as a solid place to put their money. Getting into farming combines two interests.

Why cider apples: The increasing sophistication of American consumers. The demand for fine wine and craft beer is spreading to other beverages and food. With cider apples, there’s a complete mismatch between “rapidly growing demand and slow growing supply.”

Strong salmon returns up Columbia River past McNary Dam

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

PENDLETON, Ore. — The Columbia Basin’s 2015 salmon season is the second-strongest year since the federal dams were built nearly 80 years ago.

A record number of fall chinook salmon returned up the Columbia River past McNary Dam in 2015, continuing on to spawning grounds at Hanford Reach, the Snake River and Yakima Basin.

More than 456,000 of the fish were counted at McNary Dam, breaking the facility’s previous record of 454,991 set in 2013. An estimated 200,000 fall chinook made it back to Hanford Reach, the most since hydroelectric dams were first built on the Columbia nearly 80 years ago.

Both federal and tribal leaders hailed the impressive run as a positive sign of their efforts to improve both fish habitat and passage at the dams. The Bonneville Power Administration is especially pleased with recent projects at McNary Dam, re-routing its juvenile fish bypass channel to provide better protection from predators. Crews also installed weirs at two of the dam’s spillway gates, which lets certain species of fish pass through closer to the surface.

Overall, 2.3 million adult salmon passed through Bonneville Dam near Portland, making it the second-strongest year on record for the entire Columbia Basin.

“When you look at how well salmon did overall is this year, it’s clear the approach of restoring critical fish habitat and improving dam passage is working,” said Lorri Bodi, vice president of environment, fish and wildlife at BPA.

There were 3,485 chinook counted at Three Mile Falls Dam on the Umatilla River near Hermiston. That’s slightly more than the 3,259 in 2014, and less than the 4,117 fish in 2013.

Coho counts fell back to Earth after a monster year in 2014 — 3,076 in 2015, compared to more than 14,000 a year ago at Three Mile Falls Dam. Steelhead were much lower, with just 558 fish versus 1,480 in 2014.

Kat Brigham, who has served on the Board of Trustees for the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation as well as the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, said such anomalies used to be purely attributed to ocean survival — something that’s no doubt important, but was a convenient way of dismissing environmental damage and flaws in the dams’ passage systems.

“Ocean survival is an important piece, but nobody can really determine what good ocean survival is,” Brigham said. “We still have to look at what needs to be done to protect our fish as both adults and juveniles.”

Brigham said she is excited about this year’s fall returns, which is the result of hard work between the four CRITFC tribes, Northwest states and federal government.

But there are still challenges to reestablishing sustainable populations, she said. The basin still has 13 fish runs listed on the Endangered Species Act, and a changing climate won’t make things any easier.

The CTUIR and Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife began trucking spring salmon up past Three Mile Falls Dam in May this year, much earlier than normal as low flows and warm water put additional stress on the fish.

Coming up with a plan for endangered fish require a holistic approach, Brigham said. No part of the restoration effort is more important than the other.

“If it was a real simple answer, I hope we would have found it and got it done,” Brigham said. “It’s not just the drought. You have to look at everything.”

Brigham said she understands the BPA has to consider costs, and irrigation will always be a part of the basin. They are striving to come up with a balance that will ultimately allow everyone to survive. She said the CTUIR’s Umatilla River Vision is potentially a model for other interests to consider.

“It’s an ongoing project to try and protect the habitat and fish going over dams,” she said. “We are protecting our culture, our way of life and treaty rights.”

Not all Northwest fish runs fared well in 2015. Unseasonably warm temperatures heated river water enough to all but decimate endangered Snake River sockeye, though biologists did release 600 hatchery sockeye into Idaho’s Redfish and Pettit Lakes to spawn naturally. Research shows the offspring of sockeye spawned naturally in lakes return at higher rates than those simply released from the hatchery.

Paul Lumley, CRITFC executive director, said the successes in 2015 highlight what they are capable of accomplishing as a region when everyone works together.

“Yes, there is more work to be done to address things like climate change, water quality and water temperatures, but this success provides the confidence to achieve full salmon recovery,” Lumley said.

Bandon/Port Orford KOA awarded

Langlois News from The World Newspaper -

LANGLOIS — The Bandon/Port Orford KOA Journey has earned the prestigious 2016 KOA President’s and Founder’s Awards from Kampgrounds of America Inc., the world’s largest system of family-friendly, open-to-the-public campgrounds, according to a news release from KOA.


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