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County dropped the ball with flood-repair permits

When the Sandy River Basin flooded this past winter, it hit a permit process hardball right into left field.

Guess who was out there picking daisies? Yep, Clackamas County got hit in the head with the ball.

As of this reading, the federal 'in water work period,' which occurs July 15 through Aug. 31, will have passed. This is the only time allowed to work under federal and state guidelines below the ordinary high water mark.

After our recent flood - still dazed and confused - Clackamas County held meetings with concerned citizens on Mount Hood, reassuring us they were here to guide us through the confusing permit process.

It is at that point that Clackamas County disregarded its own ordinance (No. 703.09), which allows for stream-bank stabilization prior to applying for a county permit by initially involving themselves with the federal and state permit process that they were not sophisticated enough to fully understand, nor was their permit required to begin with.

For perspective, on Jan. 1, 2009, our mountain residents saw its largest flood event. I applied for three different emergency projects through the Department of State Lands and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. I received all the necessary permits from these agencies and was allowed to immediately begin a Sandy River project, a Wildcat Creek project by May and finally another on Cedar Creek during the 'in-water work period.'

To be clear, no rules have changed for emergency bank stabilization since 2006 (the other flood event).

To be crystal clear, the Clackamas County floodplain ordinance (No. 703.09) allows for retroactive permitting because FEMA requirements are time consuming, complex and expensive.

The county is supposed to understand, by state law, that protection of your property is permitted under emergency authorization and is the first step to protection of your home.

It's an easy governmental structure to understand: federal, then state, then county.

It's my opinion that because of the county's delusional interference, the Corps of Engineers decided a new 'Regional General Permit,' along with the state's general authorization, was necessary so that any approved protection measure would comply with every jurisdiction to avoid confusion and protect us all from the county's lack of understanding.

Unfortunately, it hasn't worked out so well and the Regional General Permit is still in review at the National Marine Fisheries Service level. So much for that 'in-water work period.'

I'm going to call it like I see it. Just like the Lolo Pass Road repair, Clackamas County took responsibility for the permit process, and they failed miserably to perform. They got hit in the head with the permit hardball and are acting like they caught it.

This was illustrated by Clackamas County Planning Director Cam Gilmour's recent email stating, 'The new permit process was a streamlined progression headed by the county, and I wish we had made more progress on finding a way to have a more expedient permitting process. Staff has worked very hard to have the county, Department of State Lands and Corps permitting more timely and coordinated to meet the respective requirements. The new process is progress in my opinion.'

In another email regarding the county's 'efforts,' Gilmour states, 'Bank stabilization work requires and will continue to require a Flood Development Permit and Principal River Conservancy Application review. Those land-use processes will continue in the same fashion and under the same processes that they always have.'

Really? At Gilmour's pay grade, he really shouldn't see the same old process at the county level as progress. Is he paying any attention? Or is he just getting paid?

As a community, we have all been deceived into thinking that the county was here to help us protect our homes from the river and the river from our homes.

For the federal, state and county to have not had a permit in place by the time the 'in-water work period' was allowed is nothing less than intentional reckless endangerment.

Any unprotected property near the river is in imminent danger from the next La Niña event forecasted from September through March. I urge anyone who is concerned for their property to email Karla Ellis at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) and Anita Huffman at Department of State Lands (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) and express your displeasure with the process that has left your property unprotected from the imminent danger of another La Niña.

Don't bother with the county. It is back to picking daisies.

Kip O'Connor is a riverfront owner and has lived on the mountain for more than 40 years.