Those pesky parking fees

For almost a year now, if you visited the E.E. Wilson Wildlife Area northwest of Albany, you were supposed to display a parking permit. The permit would have cost you seven dollars. Or you could have bought one good for the whole year, and then the price would have been 22 dollars. But if you bought a hunting license, the wildlife area parking permit would have been free.

I'm reminded of this permit program every time I go by the E.E. Wilson Area on Camp Adair Road. I see the signs that say you need a permit to park there, even if you just want to take a quick look at the pheasants in the pens they have, and even if you park in order to wander around the memorial for the Timberwolves and other units that trained at Camp Adair during the Second World War.

When I asked the other day, the Department of Fish and Wildlife told me that tickets for being caught without a parking permit are 75 dollars, and they count as a wildlife violation, not a traffic fine. They don't know how many -- if any -- tickets have been issued by the state police at the five wildlife areas where the requirement is in effect this year. (Next year it will be expanded to four more, and to the remaining six in 2014.) ODFW says that this year and next, it is concentrating on public education about the parking fees, not enforcement. Maybe that explains why I haven't seen any wildlife trooper patrolling the parking lots off Camp Adair.

Why a fee to park there? The wildlife areas cost money to keep up, and revenue from hunters is generally trending down. It would be nice if the legislature gave the department an appropriation from the general fund for the wildlife areas. But as long as it doesn't, the department has to raise a little money any way it can. So before you visit E.E. Wilson again, go to Bi-Mart or some other place they sell the parking permits and get one. (hh)

Canal work update

The latest on the work to clean out Albany's Santiam Canal from the Union Pacific tracks to Seventh Avenue, a $384,000 project being done by Richard Phillips Marine Inc. of Boring under contract with the city: This is what it looked like just downstream from Ninth Avenue on Thursday night. Most of the flow goes through the 48-inch-diameter pipeline, and a temporary dam keeps the water from surging back into the section being dredged, from about 12th to Ninth. A similar dam is on the upstream end of the pipe. The historic canal is being cleared of sediment and vegetation to restore its capacity. It feeds the Vine Street water treatment plant and the power plant there.

If disaster strikes

Among the essentials: Water and a radio

The aftermath of Sandy, the big storm on the East Coast, reminds us all that we ought to be better prepared, even here in the tranquil mid-valley, where severe weather is very rare indeed.Our last really big wind storm was 50 years ago, and though it was bad, it was nothing like what hit the East Coast last week. We've had the occasional high water since then, and in the Cascades there's been a big fire now and then, but for the most part, we have been spared disasters. That doesn't mean we are immune. As we all know, our biggest threat is a big earthquake. The scientists keep telling us that we are due for one. And if it happens, it could be worse than any storm. A big quake would knock out power and destroy highways and bridges. It could also snap natural gas lines, and as the people back east have just found out, this could cause devastating fires.

So what does it mean to be prepared? Mainly, it means having a supply of food and water for everybody in your household for at least a couple of weeks. Also, figure out how to provide heat and light without either power or gas. A portable generator might come in handy. Radios and flashlights with lots and lots of batteries. Plenty of fuel for your fireplace if you have one. If not, some kind of burn barrel for outside, also with piles of fuel.

The main thing is to think ahead. Think of how you survive each day, and how you would manage without utilities at your house or gas for your truck. We may not want to look like a bunch of survivalists. But better to be prepared, better than to starve or freeze when the big one hits. (hh)

Cable barrier: We have to wait

A week ago I reported on the $2.6 million cable barrier project in the median of Interstate 5 in Lane and Linn counties, from the Harrisburg exit south for 35 miles. I wondered whether ODOT had any plans to extend that feature north, where some of the crossover accidents have happened, the type of crash that this barrier down the middle of the freeway is suposed to prevent.

I asked Rick Little about this. Rick is ODOT's public information officer for this part of the state, and he's a very helpful guy when it comes to information about the highway department. He looked into it and found that yes, there are plans to extend the barrier north up through Linn County. That's roughly another 35 miles, up to the Marion County line.

Plans -- that's all they are so far. Extension of the barrier is included in the draft of the state transportation improvement plan for 2016-18. But as Rick Little points out, a final decision has not been made. And he says all projects always compete against each other for funding. Still, he says, a "project is in the queue to continue the barrier northward."

Crossover crashes are not exactly frequent. I think I am remembering two in the last 10 years or so on I-5 south of Albany. There may have been more. The thing is, when they happen, they are usually fatal. When vehicles hit head-on with a combined speed of more than 100 miles an hour, there's no feasible defense.

For a while ODOT had its doubts about cable barriers. It's good that it has overcome them and is putting one in where it might save some lives. It would be even nicer if we didn't have to wait another four to six years. (hh)

Canal work in progress

An Albany tidbit from the public works front: What's that pipe doing in the Santiam Canal? It's about to the carry as much of the canal water as it can, but that's only temporary.

The snapshot was taken Tuesday afternoon after a contractor had laid the 48-inch-diameter pipe from just above 12th Avenue to just below Ninth. The workers were intending to dam up the waterway at the up- and downstream ends, forcing most of the flow through the pipeline. This would allow them to dredge or excavate the canal in those three blocks, restoring the waterways's capacity. The city of Albany contracted for the work as part of its canal maintenance and rehabilitation program.

The historic canal, running 18 miles from the South Santiam River, feeds the Vine Street water treatment plant and the refurbished hydropower generator there before tumbling into the Calapooia River. The generator remains idle while the canal flow is reduced for the dredging job.

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