A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

More ‘wetlands’ insanity

Written February 21st, 2015 by Hasso Hering
Unaware of any "wetland," children cavort at he north end of Sunrise Park on Saturday.

Unaware of any “wetland,” children cavort at he north end of Sunrise Park on Saturday.

Somebody ought to add up all the public money that has been wasted over the years on studying or “mitigating” phony wetlands, that is, lands that are neither wet nor serve any of the functions of true wetlands. I’m thinking of this because in Albany now, we have yet another case.

As a way to prop up the neighborhood around it, the city wants to make improvements at the north end of Sunrise Park. The plan is to build a new playground, shelter, parking lot, picnic tables and “other amenities.” Not so fast, though.

“Regretfully,” Parks Director Ed Hodney tells the Human Relations Commission in a Feb. 19 memo, “we have been informed that the construction zone is covered with state-regulated wetlands, delaying the completion of design until the scope of the wetlands can be confirmed and potential construction impacts determined. A wetlands expert has been hired and will complete his assessment by mid-March…. Application will then be made to the State Department of Lands to determine any mitigation requirements before proceeding with the project.”

Sunrise Park is as flat as a table and is covered with grass that is regularly mowed. No cattails swaying in the breeze, no frogs frolicking in a swamp. There is no swamp. Not even a puddle is to be seen. And yet there is a “state-protected wetland”? Probably, because under the color of a misguided state law, the wetlands designators and regulators have gone nuts.

Doing this just to annoy citizens would be bad enough. But it costs money. That “wetlands expert” the parks department has hired does not work for nothing. (I’ll find out Monday what he’s getting.) If he finds something that needs “mitigating,” the city may have to pay a so-called wetlands bank, which maintains wetlands somewhere else.

The very idea of “mitigation” is insane because a real wetland’s importance — as wildlife habitat and a sponge to help absorb winter floods — depends on its specific location. Having a moist meadow somewhere else does not make up for the loss of any piece of real wetland.

But this nonsense is now routine. Some years ago Albany paid $75,000 to a wetlands bank that had set aside space for the Gatorade project that did not pan out. Then it spent another $30,000 on a new wetlands study in case the city wanted to extend 53rd Avenue eastward. The previous study had expired, as though real wetlands had a sell-by date, and the new one is likely to expire too before it is ever needed.

Just now, a state contractor is installing a crash barrier on the side of the I-5 median instead of in the middle because ODOT has to avoid alleged wetlands. And Linn County is about to spend an extra million dollars or so on widening three miles of Riverside Drive, and part of the extra expense is for “wetland delineation and mitigation.”

Years ago, President Bush the elder committed the country to “no net loss of wetlands.” That sounded good because everybody thought he was talking about watery places where ducks or tadpoles thrive. We were mistaken. Now we pay extra to delineate and mitigate the grass in Sunrise Park. (hh)

4 responses to “More ‘wetlands’ insanity”

  1. Jim Clausen says:

    “Wetlands mitigation” has very little to do with wetlands and very much to do with transferring money to the State to do with as they see fit.

    I know business owners who have paid $100,000 in “mitigation”. It’s a progressive/socialist dream come true having the ability to steal $ from business’ and give it to the government.

    “Wetlands mitigation” is nothing more than a newfangled way to extort taxes without calling them taxes. And, it will only get worse as we keep voting in these so-called “progressive” politicians…

    • Hasso Hering says:

      The money paid to mitigation banks goes to the private owners of those tracts of land, as I understand it, not to the government. (hh)

      • Jim Clausen says:

        They can spend the money in any number of ways – as spelled out by law…

        § 196.650¹
        Use of fund
        The Department of State Lands may use the moneys in the Oregon Removal-Fill Mitigation Fund for the following purposes:

        (1) For the voluntary acquisition of land or interests therein suitable for use in mitigation banks.

        (2) To pay for specific projects to create, restore, enhance or preserve water resources of this state for purposes of carrying out the provisions of ORS 196.600 (Definitions for ORS 196.600 to 196.655) to 196.905 (Applicability). Moneys deposited in the fund for impacts to the waters of this state may be used only for projects that create, restore, enhance or preserve water resources of this state.

        (3) For the implementation of long-term protection measures related to projects that create, restore, enhance or preserve water resources of this state.

        (4) For purchase of credits from approved mitigation banks.

        (5) For payment of administrative, research or scientific monitoring expenses of the department in carrying out the provisions of ORS 196.600 (Definitions for ORS 196.600 to 196.655) to 196.655 (Report on Oregon Removal-Fill Mitigation Fund).

        (6) For the disbursal of funds received under the federal Coastal Zone Management Act of 1972, as amended (16 U.S.C. 1451 et seq.), for such purposes as specifically stipulated in a grant award.

        (7) For the disbursal of funds received under the federal Emergency Wetlands Resources Act of 1986, P.L. 99-645, for the voluntary acquisition of wetlands and interests therein as identified in the wetlands provisions of the Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan. [Formerly 541.585; 1993 c.18 §37; 2003 c.738 §12; 2009 c.343 §12]

        5 and 6 are my favorites. 5 allows them to self perpetuate through “studies” etc. 6 allows them to buy up coastal farms and vast amounts of land in the name of “preservation”…

        Like I said, it has “very much to do with transferring money to the State to do with as they see fit.”

  2. Warren Beeson says:

    This is just another example of the “progress” brought to us by the “Progressives” who believe the more government the better. We would all be far better off if our legislature and Congress spent more of their time on cutting back or eliminating these boondoggles instead of expanding them. Right now we have our legislature working through the process of extending the ethanol mandate in the name of conservation and ”green energy” (whatever that is); when they should be eliminating it instead.


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