Rep. Greg Walden stopped in the Pioneer office Monday, en route from Warm Springs to Redmond.
Walden was in Warm Springs to commemorate the signing of legislation allowing the tribes to become part owner of the PGE dams -- a transition celebrated on the reservation but viewed with concern within Jefferson County government. Roughly one-sixth of the county's taxbase came from PGE, which had owned the dams since their construction. Tribal ownership involvement will substantially reduce the county's revenues, but as Walden noted, the agreement "is a fair deal in the end."
The agreement keeps some revenue streaming into the county, where it could have been shut out completely.
"The tribes need (financial) help," said Walden. "They've been very progressive in how they managed their natural resources, using them wisely," noting how the dam ownership will help offset that dependency.
We asked Walden what else he'd been doing for Jefferson County. He noted he was working through the International Trade Commission on addressing the 19 percent tariff American companies were paying for Canadian wood, an exorbitant amount that has hurt Bright Wood and similar companies in this country.
He's been involved with keeping local government participation in the Lower Deschutes River Management program, a group which is focus to keeping access at at least present levels. BLM, state and tribal efforts, which have been dominate in the recent river management program, have been more inclined to limit access, something that would impact Madras and, to a larger extent, Maupin.
Walden said the Klamath Water crisis "comes up everyday" and has demanded substantial amounts of time; and he's also part of the committee investigating Enron and its activities.
We asked him what are most people from Jefferson County who call his office concerned about. It's not earth-shattering stuff, really, most have personal issues involving Social Security, veterans benefits and similar problems. We trust that the Hood River Congresssman is addressing those concerns.
Walden said he hadn't heard much regarding Cogentrix. Most everyone concerned about the issue knows it isn't a federal decision, he said, so his office has remained out of fire.
Cogentrix -- which has put a name to its local project, Grizzly Power Plant -- was certainly the hot topic in Jefferson County last week as the first of what we can expect to be several public meeting was held regarding the project.
At 15 minutes before speakers took the floor last Wednesday, I thought I was hitting the Cogentrix meeting relatively early. However, myself and the gang of other early birds were relegated to the adjacent room, trying to peak through the doorway at speakers.
The state Energy Council did a great job with this event except for venue selection. I guess they undershot the interest level.
As most realize, there are a lot of intelligent, well-meaning and motivated people against the Cogentrix project. They don't want such massive water consumption and the potential air pollution and fog they feel that the plant embodies. But what we may consider copious amounts of water and air particulate, the state standards for such projects may deem acceptable.
The most telling question-and-answer I heard on the night was directed to the state officials, and I paraphrase: "What impact will public opinion have on your decision." Answer, and I again paraphrase, "None."
The state basically stated that there are standards which the project must fit under to be approved. If it does fit under those standards, then it will be approved. Cogentrix won't have to convince their local enemies, just the state and the scientist and experts it will depend upon to make its determination.
Has there ever been a project more on again/off again as the North Madras Junction improvement? A few weeks ago, we were set for a front page story on the improvement, until a Monday night meeting derailed it, again. Now it's back on the ODOT roadmap, on again, set for August 2004. I'll believe it when the paving rigs roll and the street light is up.
I'll welcome it nonetheless.