Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
Upholding rural Americans' rights to grow food,
own property, and caretake our wildlife and natural resources.
Capital Press, January 23, 2004:
Energy plant shouldn't go up on farm-zoned land
Melyn M. "Lyn" Brock
As farmers, we know how important water is to life and to farming. We also understand the process of growing food and we appreciate and protect our land. I can't imagine anyone arguing that food and water aren't the two most important commodities to human life. All residents of Oregon should come to the same conclusion if they really thought about where their food and water come from and how important they are to the health and safety of their family. As farmers, we work hard to care for and protect our environment for the health and safety of our families and to protect our way of life and our livelihood. We know that we need to preserve farm land.
Many of us in the Bonanza / Langell Valley area and in Klamath Falls are working to oppose the siting of the COB Energy Facility in rural, agricultural Langell Valley. COB Energy Facility, LLC proposes to construct an 1160-megawatt gas-fired electric generating plant in Klamath County near the city of Bonanza on land zoned EFU (exclusive farm use). THIS PROPOSED POWER PLANT WOULD BE HUGE! To our knowledge, it would be the largest natural gas fired electric generating facility on the west coast and one of the biggest in our country, which probably means it would be one of the largest in the world!
A website for University of Oregon ( http://www.uoregon.edu/~pppm/landuse/Farmland-Facts.html )
on this page titled "Oregon Farmland Facts" states: "Information about planning and zoning agricultural land in Oregon ... For more than two decades, Oregon has maintained a strong policy to protect farmland. That policy was set by the state's legislature in 1973. It calls for "preservation of a maximum amount of the limited supply of agricultural land (ORS 215.243)." This page also asks and answers the question, "Is agriculture important to Oregon's economy? Yes. It is one of Oregon's largest industries--the largest by some measures."
Oregon law states that we should protect our farmland. In order for this company to site their facility on EFU land, they must request a Goal 3 exception. The applicable statewide planning goal, Goal 3, provides that "agricultural lands shall be preserved and maintained for farm use, consistent with existing and future needs for agricultural products, forest and open space and with the state's agricultural land use policy expressed in ORS 215.243 and 215.700." Oregon Department of Energy has just released the Draft Proposed Order recommending that the Energy Facility Siting Council "find that reasons justify allowing the proposed use to remove ... farmland from commercial agricultural production." It states that the "applicant must still show reasons justifying why a goal should not apply..." The reason COB initially chose this site is that it is a location with close access to the power grid and natural gas line and that they have an option to buy property with a deep well that produces over 7000 gallons per minute. They initially applied to build a water cooled electric generating facility. Their reasons why Goal 3 should not apply were that they had to be near these resources: the intertie power lines, the gas line, and this deep and productive well. Farmers and residents in this locality strongly objected to the amount of water they would use ... clean, pure well water! They have amended their application to be an air cooled facility. Now they only require 210 gallons per minute for industrial use. We still object to them using ground water for this process when they could use wastewater or surface water. More importantly, though, from a legal perspective, is that they no longer need to be located at this site. They no longer need access to this well which produces such a great quantity of water. The Department of Energy's draft recommends they are allowed their exception. Based on Oregon law, we would argue that they should not qualify for a Goal 3 exception.
I would like to encourage all farmers in Oregon to write letters to our Governor. (Governor Kulongoski, 160 State Capitol, Salem, Oregon 97301) He evidently thinks there are only three or four families near Bonanza who are against this project. I have talked to hundreds of people and have found hardly any in favor! Just write your letter from your heart, in your own handwriting. Even two sentences would be enough. Just tell him you don't want the COB Energy Facility to be sited on EFU land or that you object to a mega-million dollar company from out of state being allowed to site their plant in an agricultural area. Tell him that they should not qualify for a Goal 3 Exception! Or tell him we want Oregon resources used more wisely. If you are a registered voter, you might want to tell him that! And you might want to send a copy to me or to the Capital Press so we can know the opinions of Oregon farmers. Thank you!
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