If nothing else, we’re sure helping to publicize the danger Measure 37 poses to Oregon’s groundwater.
Today’s Salem Statesman-Journal had another front page story, “Marion county decision may set precedent for farmland,” about the fight Laurel is leading against a 217 acre subdivision planned for nearby farmland. (Plus a related story about a similar situation in the Eola Hills).
When I say “if nothing else,” I’m pointing toward the disturbing possibility that the Marion County Planning Commission might approve the subdivision application tomorrow night without requiring a study of how much groundwater actually is available in the area.
Last Friday we sent a letter to 92 of our neighbors, updating them on what’s going on with the Keep Our Water Safe (KOWS) committee that Laurel chairs. We said:
Even the applicant’s hydrogeologist, Malia Kupillas, has testified that more information is needed about water availability, usage, and problems in this area before the development moves forward. So it seems unthinkable that the Planning Commission would ignore the recommendations of both the applicant, Leroy Laack, and the opposition, which includes the KOWS committee.
(Here’s the entire letter.)
But the unthinkable can happen if a government body fails to carefully think through a problem. All we and our neighbors are asking is that approval of the 43-lot subdivision (which could be as large as 80 lots) be held up until a hydrogeological study proves that there is adequate water to support 43 more wells.
People already living here shouldn’t have their wells go dry because of poor planning. Nor should the creek that feeds Spring Lake, which has senior rights to the water that flows off of the proposed subdivision. Leroy Laack, the Measure 37 claimant, has waited thirty years to develop his property. It won’t hurt him to wait three more months so a study can be conducted.
Especially when the only evidence of groundwater adequacy the Marion County Planning Commission has so far is based on “fuzzy math.” This well-deserved term was heard frequently during the first hearing on the Laack subdivision. Even from some of the commissioners.
The Salem KATU (Portland Channel 2) news team came out today to interview Laurel and me again. (The story reportedly will run on the 5 o’clock news). Before Melica Johnson and her cameraman arrived, I grabbed a paper plate and made a video-friendly depiction of the fuzzy math.
Unfortunately, it probably wasn’t friendly enough to make it on air, notwithstanding my intense effort to print as legibly as possible. Since I spent all of, um, a couple of minutes on this graphic arts beauty, I’ll blog my explanation of the plate.
The red line divides two aquifers on the 217 acre property. Laack has made a 92 acre marine sediment aquifer parcel into one lot. The other 125 acre basalt aquifer parcel is proposed to have 42 lots, with 42 wells.
This subdivision is in a groundwater limited SGO (sensitive groundwater overlay) zone where five acres is considered necessary to support one well. Divide 217 acres by 43 wells, and you’ll see that the average lot size of the Laack subdivision is 5.05 acres.
So Marion County might allow Laack and his co-owners to scoot through the requirements of the groundwater ordinance because the average lot in the proposed subdivision is larger than five acres.
Fuzzy math! Because the average is based on one big 92 acre lot and 42 small lots, which average three acres in size. Fuzzy math! Because the water under the single large lot is in a different aquifer from the small lots, so even though Laack may have passed a legality, his subdivision isn’t in accord with groundwater reality.
Those 42 wells are going to be built on acreages of mostly two to three acres. A well on anything less than five acres in an SGO zone is supposed to raise a red flag. But the Measure 37 claimant is trying to play games with the county groundwater ordinance.
Problem is, water is real. Simplistic formulas aren’t. That’s why a study of what really is going on with the groundwater in our area is needed before the subdivision is approved, not just a fuzzy math stamp of approval from the Planning Commission.
Tomorrow we’ll find out whether the Commission is more concerned with a non-sensical legality or the hard facts of reality. Hopefully, the latter. When people in our neighborhood turn on their faucets, they want water to come out—not fuzzy math.