Friday, October 30, 2015

Public Hearing on Goal 11 Exception for Southern Deschutes County:

Goal 11 Exception Process 
for Southern Deschutes County
Board of County Commissioners Public Hearing 
in Sunriver, Oregon on October 28, 2015

Beginning at 6:00 p.m. on Wednesday evening, around 40 people gathered for a meeting to present, discuss and make future plans regarding the Goal 11Exception, tying the 2013 DEQ (Dept. of Environmental Quality) Steering Committee Recommendations into the Deschutes County Comprehensive Plan and the Newberry Country Plan.  ( PDF - Deschutes County Comprehensive Plan and PDF - Newberry Country Plan )

This meeting was basically about changing the rules in Southern Deschutes County so that people with smaller lots in the outlying areas of Sunriver  and La Pine could be able put small septic systems on their property along with their neighbors so that they could build on them.  Or, if their homes were already built, they could decide upon a group onsite sewer system in their neighborhoods.     

This is a “could”, and not a mandated requirement of the county.  As it is now, this option is not available, and that is what the Goal 11 Exception Rule is about; "to change an unreasonable law and to amend it to make sense today."

Here are maps and more information about the areas included in the areas included:  Goal 11 Exception Area Maps and Info.

Several agencies were represented at the meeting, including Deschutes County, Oregon’s DEQ and DLCD (Department of Land Conservation and Development).  Local residents, Deschutes County Citizen’s Action Group and other interested parties also attended.

County Administrator, Tom Anderson, and County Commissioners Al Unger, Tammy Baney and Tony DeBone.  Deschutes County Commissioner Info

Over the past three years, there have been around 50 meetings to discuss how Southern Deschutes County should properly handle their waste water in the future.  Prior to that, changes had been made so that where standard septic systems and sand-filter systems were previously approved, they were considered no longer adequate for new construction and for systems needing replacement.  ATT (Automatic Treatment Technology) systems were mandated, but recently there has been a moratorium placed on those in some areas also. 

Deschutes County Community Development inspectors determine which onsite system is required on an individual basis.  They partially determine the system type by water tables, soil samples, etc.  After that, the contractor or the homeowner installs the required system.  (Deschutes County Onsite Systems.)

The meeting opened with a general background talk by Deschutes County. Then. there were presentations by DLCD and DEQ; input from community speakers; and then a follow-up and discussion of plans for the future.

A representative from the Dept. of Land Conservation and Development gave testimony on why things should be changed.

Bob Bagget from the DEQ in Bend gave his talk, maintaining why this exception rule is recommended.  He told meeting attendees, in summary, that:

-      There is a documented health risk to clean groundwater in Southern Deschutes County;
-      The Goal 11 Exception provides solutions and is not a mandate;
-      Low interest loans will be available for those participating;
-      DEQ has met the burden of proof;
-      DEQ is working with other agencies to move things forward;
-      There is inevitable risk for groundwater contamination, but it is just not happening right now, and if we delay this now we will be sorry for it in the future.
-      There are multiple lines of evidence and that area-wide ground samples have been taken.

Speakers from the South County Community then took turns speaking.  Here are some of their concerns and questions:

-      Cheap nitrate tests were used to collect the evidence of contamination, and if the commissioners go along with the madness they will not be re-elected.

-      There has been an omission of evidence that the DCC (Deschutes County Commissioners) hasn’t never received.

-      Over the three years that it has taken to get ten recommendations, now only one is being dealt with.  Commissioners were asked to read past minutes and find out the other nine recommendations. 

-     How bad on a scale of either 1-10 or 1-100 was the pollution?

-     What is Bill Mason’s recommendation?

-    An example:  If somebody’s well casing is bad, why not make them fix it, instead of insisting that the whole town gets new wells?  The same with onsite systems and sewers.

-    Better scientific monitoring should be done.

-    This is not about nitrates and is not about the future.

-     There were objections to the “health hazard” language.

-     A tape recording from a previous meeting was given to the DCC, detailing why some of this is a bad idea.

-      The Comprehensive Plan is for the next 20 years, and we have to be very careful of the language included.  One reason for this being that it sounds like So. County water is garbage and that is the furthest thing from the truth.

-      Also, there could be misuse of the term “Sanitary District”.

-      The last three years will have just been a waste of time if this isn’t passed; after 50 meetings and 750 hours of studying data.

-      Stop putting in ATT’s and put that money toward localized small sewers.
-      One man supported the recommendation, but felt that many wouldn’t be able to afford the cost.

-      Cluster systems are a good idea in some areas.

-      We have good water and shouldn’t be telling everybody that we don’t.

-      Are we marketing on assumptions that might not happen?

So, as it turns out, some of the “health-hazard” language is necessary to provide a defensible burden of proof to get the Goal 11 Exemption passed.  The Newberry Country Plan itself would not have any of this language included, it will just say that the Goal 11 Exception is in place.  The language is being considered and worked on, however.

There are also several other recommendations to be considered:

-      Groundwater Monitoring (by DEQ and perhaps OSU Cascades)
-      Governance; Sanitary Authorities and grassroots efforts
-      Livestock Ordinance on rural residential properties
-      Groundwater Monitoring on golf courses, RV parks and mobile home parks
-      Stop the moratoriums on ATT systems and coordinate with DEQ on rules
-      See how others have done the financing and financial aide
-      Check out Alternative Green Solutions
-      The Master Plan 3.4

As the meeting ended, it was decided to keep the public record open for several weeks (people can submit emails and letters to the DCC).  There is no rush to pass the exception, though they will be working on it in a timely manner.  Another meeting will be held in South County during the next couple of months, and will most likely be held in La Pine this time.  More information can be found on the Deschutes County Website, and new links will be added to make things easier to find.

KTVZ was there and interviewed my husband, Cary Matthews, but they didn't end up using the footing in their broadcast.  Here is the link to their news story: