Lots of Oregonians take the water that comes out of their faucets for granted. But if you rely on a well, you don't.
Measure 37 opened up farm and forest land for development that lacks enough water for subdivisions. Fortunately, Measure 49 is riding to the rescue of people like us and our neighbors whose rural water supply is threatened by Measure 37 claims in groundwater limited areas.
Maybe you think that Oregon already has protections against subdivisions causing surrounding wells and springs to go dry. If so, think again.
My wife and I know whereof we speak. As do more than thirty other property owners in our area who have formed a Keep Our Water Safe committee to, well, keep our water safe.
Last night our email inbox contained the final order from Marion County approving a 42 lot, 125 acre subdivision on groundwater limited farmland in the south Salem hills. Two of the three county commissioners signed it: Sam Brentano and Patti Milne.
Failing to heed loads of evidence that there isn't proof of enough water to supply 42 more wells without existing water users being harmed, Brentano and Milne voted to approve the subdivision (Commissioner Carlson correctly voted "No").
So it was appropriate that these two signed the final order. We've been curious to learn what sort of twisted logic could be used to support the crazy decision to allow the development to proceed after experts hired by Marion County, as required by its groundwater ordinance, gave a Hydro Review prepared by the applicant a big thumbs down.
I called that another Measure 37 outrage, because it completely ignored the property rights of the many people already living in an area in favor of the Measure 37 rights of a few would-be subdivision builders. (See the "Protect Oregon Property Rights" blog).
Like, the right to not have our wells go dry.
For those land use junkies who'd enjoy pouring over the 26-page Marion County final order, here it is in its 2 MB pdf file glory: Download boc_decision.pdf
But be warned. You might feel like tearing your hair out if you value common sense (and careful editing – there are obvious wording and spelling errors, which reflects how little thought went into this turkey of a final order).
I'll summarize what's going on here for the benefit of those concerned about Oregon groundwater who want an explanation of why Measure 49 deserves a "Yes" vote.
Politicians can't be counted on to enforce their own groundwater protection ordinances, because many are so pro-Measure 37 they refuse to recognize clear evidence of insufficient water for a large subdivision.
So Measure 49 is needed. It will limit developments on groundwater limited farmland, like this one, to three home sites. That still may be three too many in our area, given how many wells already have had to be deepened or replaced, but it's a heck of a lot better than 42.
Groundwater is real, not political. It's either there, or it isn't. Hydrogeologists have ways of learning whether there is enough water for a subdivision. The Measure 37 applicant's consultant, Malia Kupillas, prepared a Hydro Review report that tried to show this.
She failed. The scientific process called for in Marion County's groundwater ordinance is to submit a Hydro Review to an independent expert for an unbiased assessment – the same thing that's done in reputable science journals before a paper is published.
The expert concluded that there isn't sufficient information available to prove that the subdivision won't harm surrounding wells and springs. Thus the Measure 37 applicant's report was failed.
Under the groundwater ordinance this should have triggered a much more extensive Hydro Study. But the two county commissioners ignored this law and cherry-picked conclusions provided by Leroy Laack's own hired gun.
And their final order conveniently fails to mention a central, key, all-important fact: the Hydro Review that was submitted to the independent expert failed.
Sam Brentano and Patti Milne either don't understand their own county ordinances, or they're choosing to ignore them. Either way, this is reason to vote them out of office when they're up for re-election.
And to vote for Measure 49 in November. Because politics can't be allowed to trump common sense.
Which is: your property rights stop when they make my well go dry.