Here’s What the Effluent Subcommittee Was Doing in February and March — In Secret

Following a public records request to the City of Port Orford, some documents have now been made available. They relate to two private, unnoticed meetings between a subcommittee of the City Council, the Mayor, the City Administrator, Jeffrey Knapp (owner of the land leased for the proposed Pacific Gales golf course), and members of Elk River Property Development (Troy Russell and Jim Haley). The minutes of the meetings, and who attended each, can be seen by clicking the following link:

Notes 2-16_3-14

During the February meeting, somehow it was decided that the named recipient of the effluent should be Knapp Ranches, not the golf course — perhaps out of concern that if the golf project fails, the city would lose this recycled water outfall. The question of whether the current outfall would be retained, and could serve as a backup, has yet to be determined.

At the March 14 meeting, two of the three councilors on the subcommittee voted to recommend to the council that the city supply effluent to the Knapp Ranches. 100 Friends of Port Orford are astounded that such an important issue could be decided by so few, with so little study, and utterly outside of public view.

But even before this decision, the city, the Knapps, and Elk River Property Development had filed with the Oregon Water Resources Department to register an agreement to supply reclaimed, or recycled, water. Click the following link to view the document. Note that it was signed by the City Administrator on February 25.

OWRD Registration of Reclaimed Municipal Water Use

Additional documents supplied by the city under the public records request are the draft Recycled Water Use Plan, which is required for any permitting, and a spreadsheet detailing the costs to construct the pipeline from the city’s wastewater treatment plant to the Knapp property.

RWUP Working VS 3 10 16

Knapp Ranch Estimated Expenses

What should also have been supplied is the Land Use Compatibility Statement, which we know from the notes of the meetings was provided to the subcommittee in February. That document is conspicuously absent, yet it is a vital part of the permitting process. In it, the applicant (ERPD) must demonstrate that building the pipeline does not violate any land use laws, state or local. Why has it been withheld?

But the big question is, who’s in charge? It looks to us like the golf course developer has been running the effluent show from the start, either hauling Port Orford along willy-nilly, in its quest for DEQ permitting, for example, or occasionally pushing from behind. When will we get the promised public process on this? Many, many questions remain to be answered.

The mayor, City Council, and other city officials need to stop putting the cart before the horse. This began when the council jumped the gun last July and allowed ERPD to piggyback onto the city’s NPDES permit for wastewater disposal. This was prompted partly out of fear that the current outfall had failed — which is questionable. A false sense of urgency was created by ERPD. We needed to do a routine renewal of our permit, which was proceeding, and they took advantage because it worked for them. Port Orford did not, and does not, need ERPD. In fact, the lofty promises of last summer have largely disappeared. We no longer hear how many wonderful benefits are coming to the city because of the pipeline. In fact, ERPD is not proposing to pay for any improvements to city infrastructure, as was believed by many. The only thing they are going to do is build a pipeline to their golf course, for their sole benefit. The impact of this on Port Orford remains to be discovered.

Here is what should happen: The parties should both tell DEQ that the dual permit is premature. It’s time to hold public hearings on whether the citizens of Port Orford are in favor of sending effluent to the golf course, and all of the relevant issues must be discussed before taking any decision. If after a full airing of all concerns the answer is yes, then and only then should the official DEQ process on the golf course irrigation permit and pipeline begin. That will include a public comment period as well, where further concerns may be discussed.