Slant: Short opinion pieces and rumor-chasing notes
Happening Person: Greg Bryant
SMITH SILENT ON ROGUE?
Efforts to increase protections for Oregon’s Rogue River made headway on Capitol Hill last week, with hearings in the House on Rep. Peter DeFazio’s Oregon Treasures bill, but so far Republican Sen. Gordon Smith seems to be staying silent on whether he supports the Senate’s version of the legislation.
DeFazio’s bill was introduced this summer and adds more than 142 miles of Wild and Scenic River status to protect Rogue River tributaries; adds protection for the Oregon Caves National Monument; and adds Wild and Scenic Rivers, Wilderness and National Recreation Areas to the Mt. Hood National Forest.
The Senate version of the bill introduced by Sen. Ron Wyden splits the protections up into two separate bills: the Oregon Caves National Monument Boundary Adjustment Act and the Lower Rogue Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.
The Senate held a hearing on the Oregon Caves bill, but Smith, who sits on the National Parks subcommittee and has voiced support for the Oregon Caves expansion, has not said a word about saving the Rogue.
Sen. Smith’s office didn’t return EW’s calls about the Rogue legislation by press time.
Josh Laughlin of the Cascadia Wildlands Project, which has been working to save the Rogue for some time (see EW 9/27/07), says Smith “remains the single obstacle to seeing this historic legislation pass, and we hope he comes to his senses real soon.” — Camilla Mortensen
WELC GOES SUPREME
Those laid-back but feisty attorneys from the Western Environmental Law Center in Eugene are taking a case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court next month. Durango-based attorney Matt Kenna will be arguing “Summers v. Earth Island Institute,” before familiar names like Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas on Oct. 8. He says the implications of the case, which started as a dispute over a Forest Service timber sale, are “far reaching” not just for environmentalists, but for business, academic and state government interests, too.
The case began when the group Earth Island Institute sued the Forest Service over a California timber sale that was approved without environmental review or public input. Under the Bush administration’s “Healthy Forests Initiative,” which used wildfire threats as a reason to increase the thinning of national forests, the government began exempting a larger number of actions from the National Environmental Policy Act. NEPA requires both environmental reviews and public involvement for projects on public lands.
The timber sale was stopped in 2003 when the court ruled it was illegal, but the lawsuit became part of another legal action by a number of environmental groups challenging the Forest Service’s policy of exempting many timber sales from the public review process. The courts continued to side with the enviros and WELC, despite repeated appeals of the decision by the Forest Service, until finally the Forest Service took the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Kenna says the case “goes beyond environmental issues” because if he doesn’t win, it would mean the public couldn’t challenge federal regulations and have them set aside nationwide. He poses the example of a Medicare patient challenging a lack of health care benefits and having the court’s decision apply only to that case. All other Medicare patients with a similar problem would have to file their own cases, with all the ensuing time and expense.
If Kenna and WELC succeed in their argument, the public will maintain its right to challenge federal regulations it thinks are illegal. The Supreme Court will announce a decision three to six months after the case is heard. — Camilla Mortensen
RETURN TO TERN ISLAND
It looks like the Army Corps of Engineers’ efforts to relocate the salmon-swallowing Caspian terns just may pan out, but not right away. The Corps built a couple of islands last year, including Lane County’s very first square island in Fern Ridge Reservoir (EW 4/3) to try to lure some of the thousands of terns that dine on migrating juvenile salmon at the mouth of Columbia River. Terns, like sea lions, have been scapegoated for the low salmon numbers in the river. Many environmentalists attribute the source of the salmon problems to the dams that impede fish passage up the river.
OSU researchers and Army Corps wildlife biologists reported signs of life on one of the newly built islands this summer. A survey of the island in Crump Lake in southern Oregon yielded a count of 520 pairs of terns, with some sticking around to nest, according to a news release from OSU.
The Fern Ridge island terns are a little harder to get information on thanks to all the debate that has arisen over the controversial migratory birds. But Amy Echols, assistant chief of Corps public affairs in Portland, was able to report that as recently as Tuesday morning, two terns were circling the island, which is populated with tern decoys and a digital recording of tern calls. Local birdwatchers have apparently been delighted by the appearance of a brown pelican at the island. It was the first inland record of a brown pelican in Lane County.
Echols says that terns have been reported “scouting” the island, but none have nested and none are expected to this year. She says, “With the southern migration starting, we’ll likely not to see any terns back in the area until next spring.”
The terns, if they do come to Fern Ridge, are expected to dine on the non-native fish that populate the waters of the reservoir and hopefully not on the salmon of Lane County’s rivers and streams. — Camilla Mortensen
STUDENT FIGHTS STADIUM DECISION
UO student Jonathan O. Bowers has paid $650 to file an appeal Sept. 3 with the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA), objecting to the Eugene City Council’s approval of vacating a city alley for construction of a new basketball stadium.
Bowers favors preserving and renovating McArthur Court and says the council decision “was based on too-narrow a definition of the public interest.” He says Mac Court is “still a viable Division I men’s basketball arena, much like the five other Division I basketball arenas built between 1925 and 1928 that are still in use today. None of which are slated to be replaced.”
He says all of the other college basketball arenas of this era have been renovated and Mac Court is a “culturally significant arena representing a diminishing part of the history of college basketball,” and he believes the building would qualify for the National Register of Historic Places.
Bowers says he is also concerned about the impact on the neighborhood from a new stadium, and the “pressure to resort to taxpayer funds to pay back such an enormous debt” that would be incurred by the stadium’s construction and operation. — Ted J. Taylor
EWEB STEAM CUSTOMERS FACE BIG COSTS
EWEB’s steam plant is destined for decommissioning (see News Briefs last week), and customers that will need to convert to natural gas or some other energy supply for space heat and hot water include five hospital buildings, 11 lodging/housing buildings, five government buildings, 14 offices, eight city of Eugene buildings, four churches and five restaurants.
The five metered hospital buildings (presumably Sacred Heart Medical Center) buy nearly $1.2 million of steam each year, and the estimated cost of conversion to natural gas is about $4.2 million. City of Eugene buildings buy $328,400 worth of steam each year, and the cost to convert will be about $1.6 million. The EWEB headquarters building uses $100,400 worth of steam, and the conversion cost would be $436,000. The numbers are included in an interoffice memo dated Sept. 9 from EWEB commissioners to Mike Logan, EWEB key accounts program manager.
The memo also includes estimated years to pay back the conversion costs, assuming new heating systems would be more cost-effective. The city buildings would take about 4.8 years of savings to repay the conversion costs; Sacred Heart about 3.6 years; EWEB headquarters about 4.6 years.
EWEB commissioners are currently working with staff members on a draft Steam Utility Transition Policy that will be on the agenda of the utility board’s Oct. 7 work session.
EWEB is actively seeking input on the transition from both customers and the public, and is planning a “reasonable transition period” for customers to make the switch. A draft transition policy says “continuing to operate a transition period beyond 2-5 years is highly unlikely without a significant financial impact to the electric utility.” — TJT
FULL GARDENS, EMPTY BANK
Lane County vegetable gardens are overflowing with the bounty that comes in late summer, but it’s also the time of year when food bank shelves are empty. Donations at FOOD for Lane County are down by more than a million pounds from this time last year despite the success of canned food drives, according to Barbara Butzer, programs and services director at FFLC. So the Avid Gardeners group is organizing efforts to share the bounty. Here are the group’s suggestions:
• Extra produce can go to the reception area of the FOOD for Lane County warehouse, located at 770 Bailey Hill Road (just north of West 11th Avenue).
• The best time to donate is early in the week and early in the day. FFLC is open for deliveries 8 am to 5 pm weekdays.
• The best produce is food that stores well. Examples are firm carrots, potatoes, onions or other root crops, peas, beans, squash, cabbage, head lettuce, radishes, firm tomatoes, peppers, tomatillos, blueberries, plums and apples.
• Sort vegetables and fruits separately and place in cardboard boxes or sturdy paper bags.
• Avoid overripe or naturally soft fruits and vegetables, such as raspberries. “And no bus-size zucchinis,” suggests Avid Gardeners. “If you wouldn’t put it on your own plate, recycle it in your compost.”
Avid Gardeners holds informative monthly meetings at 7 pm the third Sunday of each month at the Garden Club, 1645 High St., Eugene. See avidgardeners.org or call 726-8997.
NEW QUEEN PROPOSES CONTEST
Eugene’s new S.L.U.G. Queen Marie Slugtoinette, aka Constance Van Flandern, presided over the Eugene Celebration Parade Saturday in an elaborate coach with entourage and promises a lively year before she steps down and becomes an “old queen.” A contest or two might even be brewing (though it’s probably best to not mention beer and slugs in the same sentence).
“Bonjour Eugene! Ce qu’est une célébration!” she wrote in a statement to EW readers this week. “What a celebration! I almost lost my head with all the excitement, pageantry and glitter last weekend. I am thrilled by the outpouring of affection Eugene showers on her S.L.U.G. Queen. Slugs just love showers. And, although the Eugene Celebration and the Parade are sadly over, my rain has just begun!”
The queen said she has “lots of fun and fabulous ideas” for the year, including “GastroPODcasts” highlighting local happenings, a second annual S.L.U.G. Queen Salon art exhibition (see slugqueeneugene.com), a possible booth at the Oregon Country Fair where people can rub shoulders with queens old and new, and a bronze S.L.U.G. Queen sculpture “as a gift to you, Eugene, for embracing your creativity, diversity and wonderful sense of humor.”
Queen Marie says she adores party games and has devised one called Slime Acronym-ics. S.L.U.G. officially stands for Society for the Legitimization of the Ubiquitous Gastropod, but she wants to hear what else the acronym could stand for. Hmm. Slugs Love Urban Gardens?
Submissions can be sent via the contact page on the website. The top three entries will win a SlugsAway Electronic Slug and Snail garden fence by Rittenhouse, a $50 value, and have their entry published on the website. Deadline for entries is Oct. 3.
“I look forward to seeing just how slick your puzzle skills are,” she says. — TJT
PIZZA DAY FOR CLAY
Friends of Michael Clay, who was attacked and severely beaten in Eugene earlier this summer, are organizing a “Michael Clay Pizza Day” benefit Tuesday, Sept. 23 at pizza parlors around Eugene and Springfield, according to organizer Kathy Ging.
Details and a printable coupon are available at http://kathyging.com/Michael_Clay_Benefit.pdf Three of the seven participating restaurants will not be asking for coupons or flyers, and hours of the benefit vary. A percentage of proceeds for sale of pizza and salads will go to help defray Clay’s living expenses while he recovers from his injuries (see EW cover story, 8/14).
Participating pizza parlors are Papa’s Pizza on West 11th, Coburg Road and Springfield’s Main Street; Track Town on Franklin; Cozmic Pizza on West 8th Avenue; Pizza Research Institute at 13th and Lawrence; and Sy’s Pizza at 12th and Alder.
• A gathering in support of Mayor Kitty Piercy is planned at 5:30 pm Friday, Sept. 19, at Tsunami Books, 2585 Willamette St. Refreshments and music are planned. RSVP to email@example.com or call 344-9933. An “Open Farm” event in support of Piercy is also planned for 3 to 6 pm Sunday, Sept. 21, at the home of Tony Corcoran and Jeannie Merrick. Contact Tonycorcoran1@aol.com or firstname.lastname@example.org for information and directions.
• Bill Sizemore’s Measure 58 proposal to restrict bilingual education in public schools will be the subject of a free forum at 1 pm Friday, Sept. 26, at the UO School of Law, room 175. Invited speakers include Sizemore or his designee; Alejandra Favela, coordinator of the Bilingual Endorsement Program at Lewis and Clark College; Steve Bender, a UO law professor and author of a new book about the English-only movement; Paco Furlan, principal of a local elementary school that is trying to implement a dual immersion program; and Marcia Koenig, lead recruiter for the Lane Migrant Education Program. The event is sponsored by the Public Interest/Public Service program at the UO School of Law, with support from the Wayne Morse Center on Law and Politics.
Since the U.S. invasion of Iraq began on March 20, 2003 (last week’s numbers in parentheses):
• 4,157 U.S. troops killed* (4,155)
• 31,415 U.S. troops injured* (30,636)
• 145 U.S. military suicides* (145)
• 314 coalition troops killed** (314)
• 1,123 U.S. contractors killed (accurate updates NA)
• 95,504 to 1.1 million civilians killed*** (94,782)
• $554.3 billion cost of war ($552.3 billion)
• $157.6 million cost to Eugene taxpayers ($157.1 million)
through September 15, 2008; source: icasualties.org; some figures only
Lane Area Herbicide Spray Schedule
• Near Twin Oaks School: Oregon Forest Management Services (896-3757) will ground spray 700 acres with Garlon 4 herbicide (volatile ester-solvent form) plus methylated seed oil adjuvant next to Twin Oaks Elementary School for Seneca Jones Timber Company (461-6245) starting Sept. 22 (# 50780) and also other units near Spencer, Hawley, Coyote, Farman, and Conger creeks. ODF 935-2283.
• Near McKenzie River: Oregon Forest Management Services will ground spray 167 acres for Weyerhaeuser (741-5211) near a McKenzie River tributary, Gales and Osborn creeks starting immediately (#55702).
Compiled by Jan Wroncy, Forestland Dwellers: 342-8332, www.forestlanddwellers.org
Born in New York City, Greg Bryant moved to Eugene with his mom when he was 13. “Eugene was known as the greener Berkeley,” he says. “We heard about Eugene at the Quaker meeting house.” Bryant started computer programming at age 14, studied computer science at the UO, and spent the early 1980s in Silicon Valley, working for Intel and several startup companies. Returning to Eugene in ’86, he got into appropriate-technology activism. “I started a magazine called Rain and co-founded the Center for Alternative Transport,” he notes. In the late ’90s, Bryant had an open-source Linux demo project called Workspot that employed 50 people in Palo Alto before the dot-com crash brought it down. Once again back in Eugene, he and his new bride, Olga, were looking to start a special-purpose community center. “We started dancing tango in 2002,” he says. “We opened the Tango Center in 2003.” Located in the historic West Broadway building that housed Eugene’s 1929-55 indoor Farmer’s Market, the TC has revitalized nightlife in downtown Eugene. “Eugene has more people per capita dancing tango than any other place in the world,” says Bryant, “including Buenos Aires.” Learn more at tangocenter.org