Friday, Laurel testified during the public comment period at a meeting of the state Water Resources Commission. I played a part also, by looking on admiringly from the audience as she spoke. Laurel spouted out terms such as “recharge rates” and “sensitive groundwater overlay areas” with wonderful fluidity. I also contributed as Laurel’s faithful and obedient secretary by making up labels for the packets she handed on to the Commission.
Basically she appealed to the commissioners to step in and do something about Marion County’s longstanding apathy about groundwater problems. Laurel cited several instances in which obvious well problems were ignored, because the Planning Department is so pro-development, until homeowners ran out of water and had to pay a lot of money to deal with problems that never should have occurred if the county had been doing its job properly.
The cynical side of me expected that the commissioners would offer Laurel a “thank you” for her detailed testimony, then go on to other matters, such as lunch. I’ve testified numerous times before committees of the state legislature and found that a single person, who doesn’t represent a significant interest group, almost always is ignored, no matter how much sense he or she makes.
However, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the chairman immediately called three Water Resources staff up to the table to comment on the problems Laurel had raised. Then a member of the commission said that she thought a letter should be sent to Marion County, essentially telling them to get their act together and start protecting groundwater, or the Water Resources Commission might have to take its own measures—which are quite draconian (like forbidding any more wells to be drilled in an area).
After some discussion, it appears that a letter will be sent to all of the counties in Oregon, naturally including Marion County, which has a pretty pitiful record when it comes to preventing groundwater problems. Laurel was a center of attention after the meeting ended, with several people congratulating her on how clear and compelling her testimony was.
I beamed with pride, and then bought her lunch. No one asked for autographs at the Salem Center Food Court (I can’t afford much of a lunch on my secretary wages), but that was OK. Laurel the Environmental Activist is a star in my eyes. She has become highly knowledgeable about groundwater issues, and is an inspiring example of how one person can make a difference, if they grab onto a problem and refuse to let go until something is done about it. She’s a pit bull, and I’m proud to be pulled along at the end of her leash.