Port Orford Council Agrees to Give Away Valuable Commodity to Private Business

At their March 15 meeting, the Port Orford City Council voted narrowly to provide the city’s treated effluent to Elk River Property Development for a golf course they propose to build north of the city. In a move that surprised most of the councilors and members of the audience, former mayor Jim Auborn read the following:

I make a motion to provide the city’s treated effluent to Elk River Property Development to be the first and main source of irrigation for the Pacific Gales Golf Course at no cost to ERPD with full recommendations for future engineering work to maintain the current ocean outfall viability, and in turn ERPD will allow the City of Port Orford the ability to cross their property adjacent to the sewer treatment plant, both water and sewer infrastructure, at no cost to the city for use of the property for the city’s infrastructure. This motion also directs city staff to work with the engineers to move forward with a secondary outfall project, including the ability to accommodate all outfall should the ocean outfall be no longer viable.     [from video of the meeting, https://archive.org/details/CityCouncilMtgP103152018; punctuation and emphasis supplied]

Discussion was contentious during the appearance of ERPD’s Troy Russell before the council and continued after the motion was made. State Representative David Brock Smith advocated in favor of the deal for effluent, and he stated that the effluent pipeline project had been fully approved, in spite of the appeal of Curry County’s decision that is now before LUBA.

Smith’s assurances were contradicted by local resident Penny Suess, who told the council:

The permit for the golf course expired in January 2016 because [ERPD] failed to ask for an extension. This was condition number 1 of the permit, but they overlooked or ignored this very basic, easy to fulfill requirement. Since the permit was granted, in 2015, ERPD has made at least two major changes to the plan for the golf course: They decided that they need reclaimed water to be piped from Port Orford for irrigation, and they decided to add housing. The permit was not modified to include these new components. Therefore, there is no single oversight mechanism on the project in the future. . . . Last fall, the county planning commission denied ERPD’s pipeline request. The decision was based on a cascade of dominoes resulting from the expiration of the permit. The commission determined that necessary state permits for piping reclaimed water could not be obtained when no approved project existed. A golf course is not an allowed use outright. It must have a valid permit. In other words, you can’t get approval to build a theoretical pipeline to a nonexistent, unpermitted golf course. When ERPD appealed, the Board of Commissioners upheld the appeal – but for the wrong reasons. The commissioners gave little attention to the underlying state laws and county zoning codes in making this decision. They relied on the same vague, unsubstantiated claims that ERPD and its supporters have been making for the past four years . . . On March 14, Oregon Coast Alliance gave notice to the BOC of their intent to appeal the pipeline decision to the Land Use Board of Appeals . . . This back-and-forth process is going to continue until all of the legal questions have been fully litigated. 

It was also said by Smith that no appeal to LUBA by ORCA has succeeded. However, of the four appeals to date, one did not move ahead because ERPD asked the county to withdraw the decision so they could refile the application; two were remanded back to the county (a remand for reconsideration is a win); and one was denied by LUBA. Yet Smith said: “ORCA is the most unreputable environmental for-profit nonprofit [sic] I’ve ever dealt with in the state legislature.”

Notice of Intent to Appeal

Pay particular attention to pages 5 through 10 of the NITA embedded above. The county failed to create a proper final order stating their decision and the right of appeal, and they failed to send it to all interested parties, as required by law. They created the final order and sent it out only after a request was made by ORCA – on the final day allowed for appeals.

Councilors Rohrbach, Webb, and Clancy voted NO on the motion; Auborn, Campbell, and Cox voted YES. Mayor Pogwizd broke the tie with a YES.