A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

How wetland rules waste money

Written April 14th, 2017 by Hasso Hering

Here’s an example of how Oregon’s effort to protect so-called wetlands goes too far and requires the spending of public money without accomplishing any actual wetland protection. I came across it on a bike ride on Riverside Drive just outside of Albany.

What I noticed were little pink flags on wires stuck in the ditch on the northwest side of Riverside. The flags denote an effort at “wetland delineation,” identifying wetlands that come under state protection as waters of the state.

Linn County is preparing to widen Riverside Drive, and widening implies moving the roadside ditch a few feet to the side. The old ditch would be covered and a new one created. It’s hard to see how this amounts to a big deal in connection with wetlands generally.

The state requires a permit to remove or fill any wetlands. Amazingly, according to the Department of State Lands, this applies to “artificial ponds and ditches” as well as to what we would normally associate with the term wetlands — low-lying areas where water has created an environment important for plants and wildlife as well as flood control.

The state also requires that when wetlands are filled, the loss has to be mitigated, meaning that an equal amount has to be created or preserved elsewhere. This can be accomplished by buying credits in so-called wetlands banks.

In the case of Linn County’s plans for Riverside Drive, Roadmaster Darrin Lane told me earlier that the county expects to have to spend more than $124,000 for wetland mitigation. To move a roadside ditch.

We can dream of a day when reasonable state laws — like the law to protect the waters of the state — will be administered with reason in mind. But as those little flags show, that day is not in sight. (hh)

I got off the bike down to take a closer look at those little flags.


13 responses to “How wetland rules waste money”

  1. tom cordier says:

    that’s why I asked the Council to rethink the stormwater rules in light of POTUS retraction of EPA’s “waters of America” over-reach. Sorry you did not report on the request.

    • hj.anony1 says:

      Oh TC, you are such a busy body. I sincerely doubt you are “sorry” HH did not report on something you’ve done. More like you wish he would report but if he did that he would need to report on all your teabaggery hits & misses. More misses by my count.

      According to my research, your “waters of America” overreach has never taken effect. No, it has been tied up in the courts. So why would the council listen and act upon your comment. I fail to see the correlation with stormwater rules.

      Fear not! Don the Con’s toady Scott “I let oil and gas corporations guide me” Pruitt will overreach. The council then can swing back in the wind too.

    • centrist says:

      Well Tom, I think you’re a little early. The Executive has expressed intent, but there’s always the matter of law.
      By the way, the Corps of Engineers still has authority. Unwinding their rules to achieve what some folks want will take a century

  2. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    Perhaps another banking opportunity for the high rollers on the city council?

    Bringing credit buyers and credit sellers together sounds rather lucrative. And given the council’s vast experience in urban renewal banking, a slam dunk money maker.

    In the spirit of CARA, they could call themselves: Central Albany Credit Agency, or CACA.

    Fitting, don’t you think?

  3. Richard Vannice says:

    I believe that, among other things, soil type comes into play when determining wetlands. If that is so how can one purchase a site to “mitigate” for what they fill in if it is not the same type of soil?????
    I am familiar with one piece of property that, when the City installed the sewer system in N. Albany, the owner had a lot of the excavated soil dumped on his property. When the City came through and checked for what was wetlands the line separating wetlands from non-wetlands hit that property line and ran straight to the end of the fill area then turned to wetlands again. Just saying…

    • George Pugh says:

      You are correct, Mr. Vannice, in that one of the indicators of “wetlands” is hydric soil types. In federal rules, and I believe state rules, for agricultural lands, three indicators must be present for the dermination of wetland; hydric-soils, iron staining (which shows evidence of ponding), and the presence (or possibility of the historic presence) of wetland vegetation species.

      I have, this last year, been a member of a committee originated by the Department of Lands which is purposed to find rules to reasonably allow the maintenance of agricultural ditches. Among several things I learned was that rules disallow the spreading of the spoils from ditch cleaning to more than a depth of three inches on top of a “wetland” area. In most instances in this part of the valley, if a ditch is necessary it must be a wetland.
      In agriculture, if a field has been tiled for drainage or substantially ditched prior to 1986 it is considered “prior converted” and is no longer wetlands. Many of our fields are “farmed wetlands” and we can maintain our ditches.
      This is a very simplified statement of the rules as I understand them and may vary outside of the agricultural arena. It would seem that moving a ditch a few feet would not be a significant alteration of a wetland.
      Not being an advocate of big government, I’ve been pleased with the willingness of the Oregon Dept. of Lands administration to find workable rules to make common sense changes to the existing rules. They can’t change the over-arching regulations, but they seem to be diligent in their efforts to accommodate agriculture’s issues.

      • centrist says:

        Thanks for the report of sensibility. When folks work together, compromise and sensible solutions are always possible.
        When folks don’t, well then lawyers gain income while the problem escalates

  4. Penny Miltenberger says:

    Amen, speaking of waste, did you know that there are 108 people listed on the Dept. of state lands staff?

  5. John Hartman says:

    Watching Hasso twist in anxiety as he attempts to redefine what wetlands are is sheer joy. Fortunately, Hasso and his devotees do not get to make the rules for the whole state. Fortunately, we have a group of folks whose job it is to make certain the state is not drained entirely just so business can make more money. In short, we should be pleased that Hering and his ilk are not the people in charge.

  6. Tony White says:

    With any luck Trump will rein the EPA back in. But states like California, Washington and Oregon (the foundations-of-silly-liberalism) states will continue to waste public money with infringements on private liberty such as this.

  7. H.R. Richner says:

    Wetland rules are not only wasteful, they are unconstitutional. Where they diminish property values they are takings without compensation. The fifth amendment concludes by stating “nor shall private property be taken for public use without compensation.” Also,
    environmentalism is on its way to become a religion which Congress may not establish according to the first amendment.

  8. Jakk says:

    I feel that your sense of let me do whatever I want… doesn’t seem to understand what a wetland is.. why it’s necessary or why you should feel a right that everything is yours. It’s not yours.. get over it. A chunk of concrete built on a swamp is just going to get destroyed but its also unnecessary in keep humans and animals alive.. There has never been such a huge influx of poisoning Americans and making rash stupid decisions as there has been now. The EPA need to step it up and create more safe areas rather than less.

  9. Ab says:

    Even artificial wetlands, such as man-made ditches, provide habitat for wetland dependent wildlife such as amphibians. Just because it is a small area and just because it’s man-made doesn’t mean destroying it isn’t harmful.


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