Effluent Hearing Called Off, and Other Weirdness (with a Footnote about the Pacific Gales/LUBA decision)

Citing “notification” issues raised by counsel for the city and Elk River Property Development, City Administrator Terrie Richards said on Wednesday, April 27, that the hearing to decide whether treated wastewater would be supplied to the proposed golf course was postponed. Perhaps ERPD is unhappy with the idea of a public hearing? Just hustling the issue quickly through the Port Orford City Council didn’t work. Now for Plan B, whatever that might turn out to be.

Strangely, the Port Orford News sported this headline on Wednesday: “Council OKs sending effluent to Pacific Gales Golf Course.” That did not happen! How could the city’s newspaper of record get this so wrong?

Click the link below to view the video of the meeting on Archive.org:

P.O. City Council, April 21, 2016

An interesting bit of news arrived in the Oregon Coast Alliance Newsletter on Thursday. LUBA denied ERPD’s request for attorneys’ fees! Quoting from the newsletter:

“Elk River Property Development, the applicants for the proposed Knapp Ranch golf course near Port Orford, won the second LUBA appeal ORCA filed against the County’s golf course approval. They then sought $7,400 of attorneys’ fees from ORCA! Following that, they asked if we wanted to negotiate instead. What did they want in return? According to the email from ERPD’s attorney, ‘I believe my client would be willing to withdraw the motion for fees…If you would commit to not challenging my client’s application for the city of Port Orford’s recycled wastewater, or being involved in that process in any way, directly or indirectly[.]’ In other words, they were hoping to gag ORCA in return for dropping the claim. ORCA refused this ‘offer’ — we do not submit to extortionate pressure.”

Pipeline Hearing Set for May

At the Port Orford City Council meeting on April 21, it was announced that a legislative hearing will be held, probably on May 9, at which the council will hear testimony and deliberate on supplying effluent to the golf course. We got the signal that only one issue will be discussed — whether Port Orford is willing to do this. We are likely to hear, again, from Troy Russell/ERPD all about the mechanics of the pipeline, the pump stations, the route, the drilling method, and more. Certainly we’ll hear all about the alleged benefits to the city. Benefits that may or may not be based on anything more real than wishes, hopes, and guesses.

Will we hear about a price for the effluent? Not likely. ERPD, says Russell, doesn’t want to pay for it. Will we hear about housing or commercial development plans they may have in the Urban Growth Boundary? Plans to annex the golf course to the city? Or will questions such as those be ruled out of order? City Counsel Kudlac indicated that first we’ll decide whether or not to supply effluent, and only then will a land use hearing be held. But once the die is cast and ERPD starts building the pipeline, the city may be well and truly stuck with the fallout from the new outfall. That is why we need to ask everything we want to know NOW, and why the City Council must demand to get everything upfront and on paper before giving consent.

What we’ve faced so far is:

  • confusion about permits,
  • lack of information about long-term goals,
  • focusing on the pipeline construction details but ignoring current and future costs to ratepayers,
  • silence about the legality of the conditional use permit for the golf course (it does not include the use of effluent),
  • dodging questions about the effects on Garrison Lake,
  • not factoring in the landfill near the pipeline route,
  • and non-contractual promises, promises, promises.

All these questions and many more MUST be aired thoroughly and answered in full before anyone says another “Yes” on anything to do with Pacific Gales.

April 18 Effluent Subcommittee Meeting: Decision Stands

At Monday’s meeting, Councilors Cox and Pogwizd stood by their decision of April 11. The subcommittee recommendation to the Port Orford City Council is: Tell Elk River Property Development that Port Orford WILL supply effluent for their proposed Pacific Gales Golf Course. Councilor Clancy’s NO vote also stood, and more closely represented the will of the citizens present at the meeting.

The audience (approximately 15 citizens) was more subdued than at the April 11 meeting. But just in case we might want to voice our questions and criticism a bit more informally, a P.O. Police Dept. officer was on hand to keep order. Also present was City Counsel Kudlac (I guess we’re getting serious now!), the City Administrator, Jeff Knapp, and Troy Russell, as well as the subcommittee. Notably, County Commissioner David Brock Smith was also present, playing hooky from the Board of Commissioners meeting being held simultaneously in Gold Beach. More later about him!

So, what did we learn? Russell has a new Power Point presentation on the mechanics of the pump stations, drilling process, etc. Tinkering around the details of materials and processes. Again we were told that the city is “not obligated” to anything. Supposedly, at any time we do not like what we see and do not want to go forward, we can back out. Counsel Kudlac stated that Port Orford is not obligated except “under contract language.” And as far as we know, no contracts have been signed. Those documents submitted to DEQ and other state agencies, with the signatures of city officials? Hmmmmm. Oh, and what about that agreement Russell had in front of him at the meeting? He referred to it, but not even the councilors had a copy. The one thing we know is in it is a clause that gives him the effluent for free for three years. Hmmmmmm.

ERPD and its consultants must have put hundreds of hours into seeking permits, preparing maps and other documentation, and who knows what else, over the past year. Does anybody really believe they would take NO for an answer, give up and walk away? We have been going down the primrose path with them since at least last May, when they succeeded in getting permission to piggyback a second wastewater outfall for the golf course onto renewal of the city’s NPDES permit. Currently, this permit is on hold because of the added outfall process. It should have been approved by October 2015.

We need to ask a Big Question: Just whose interests are being served? With small, incremental commitments, the City Council majority has obligated Port Orford more and more to this private business venture with no track record, with unknown assets, and with questionable intentions. They have not amended their Curry County conditional use permit to reflect the use of effluent or the construction of a pipeline through the Urban Growth Boundary. Land use hearings have not been held on the pipeline or on their residential development plans. (We know they have them, because we’ve seen a letter they sent regarding leasing county-owned land in the UGB.) There has been no public process on the DEQ permit and the associated Recycled Water Use Plan. That’s no public input, folks. Zero. Zilch. Nada.

Here is another Big Question: How can the council majority keep getting the city in deeper and deeper on this without fully informing the citizens, water/sewer ratepayers, and other stakeholders? Whether or not you favor a golf course, obligating Port Orford to such a risky business is another question altogether. And it’s pure folly to do so in the absence of all the facts.

Which brings us to Commissioner Smith. We have speculated privately among ourselves about residential and commercial development north of town. Now, finally, somebody publicly points out that gorilla in the room. During a dialog between Councilor Clancy and Smith during public input, she related that he had spoken to her privately some time ago, recommending that the council vote to annex the golf course into the city and extend city services to it (which would be required in any annexation). He did not deny Clancy’s claim. Presumably, he still favors it.

Such annexation would have to be done by “cherry stemming,” or connecting the golf course to the city by a narrow corridor (stem) through the UGB. The UGB, of course, is a swath of land not yet part of the city of Port Orford, but available for inclusion at some future time. So, could the proposed pipeline route through the UGB — the Arizona Street right-of-way — also be used for water and sewer lines? And might this open up the possibility of annexing not only the golf course but also properties in the UGB, which at present have no city services? This would mean quite a boost in property values for owners out there. And it would make all types of development more possible and more profitable.

The dominoes continue to fall, but it’s far from Game Over. The City Council needs to take a time-out and really explore what it means before agreeing to this effluent deal. Let’s see all of the cards on the table, and bring everybody into the game.

Click the link below to go to a video of the meeting.


Effluent Subcommittee Votes to Recommend the Pipeline

On April 11, the three-member subcommittee of the Port Orford City Council met in their first public meeting. And again, as in their previous secret meetings, they voted 2 to 1 in favor of sending a thumbs-up to the council. If the council agrees, then Elk River Property Development will be one step closer to building a pipeline from the city’s wastewater treatment plant to leased land north of the Urban Growth Boundary.

Citizens in attendance at the meeting raised many, many questions about this plan. There were few answers from Troy Russell, ERPD’s representative. In fact, it quickly became known that information critical to any decision had not yet been provided to the members of the subcommittee. Russell said that the Land Use Compatibility Statement had been filed with the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality back in December of 2015 — over the signature of Port Orford’s contract City Planner, Crystal Shoji. Yet the completed LUCS was not given to the subcommittee during deliberations in February and March. Nor was it available for this meeting. Councilor Tim Pogwizd requested that the City Administrator provide the documents to each councilor by the end of the week.

In spite of the YES vote, a second subcommittee meeting is scheduled for Monday, April 18, at 10 a.m. in the council chambers. At that time, the new documents will be reviewed. Is it possible that the decision will be rescinded? It should be! Questions should be answered. Hearings should be held before both the Port Orford Planning Commission and Curry County Planning. And DEQ should not go forward until this process is complete.

Citizens, water and sewer ratepayers, and local residents with personal and business ties to the City of Port Orford are urged to come to the meeting on Monday, and the full council meeting on April 21, and see how casually vital decisions are made for us. It is a murky process at best; at worst, we will be committed to a very dark and dangerous road.

Port Orford’s future hangs by a thread. In that we are like many small cities in Oregon and around the country. Is tying us to this golf course what will finally snap our ability to survive? How much of our independence will be traded away for a few bright promises? We don’t know yet. We just don’t know.

View the video recording of the meeting here:

April 11 Subcommittee Meeting

View the documents supplied this week to the public:

ERPD to subcommittee 4-11-16

LUCS Final 2015-12-28

LUCS Map Attachments Final 12-28-15

LUCS Appendix 12-28-15

PO wastewater reuse submittals timeline

Treated Wastewater Reuse Project Timeline