During the Sept. 20 Lake Oswego City Council meeting, a resolution formally recognizing the Oswego Lake Watershed Council (OLWC) and authorizing approximately 300 hours of staff time to support this non-profit organization, was approved despite Councilors Olson and Kehoe requesting more time to understand the intent and purpose of the OLWC.
LO Stewards agree with the concept of a watershed approach and support voluntary stewardship and education as part of an overall strategy for natural resource policy. Since our inception, we have advocated for a more environmentally sound approach to caring for natural resources that meets Metro compliance and doesn't 'trade' the rights of private property owners to benefit development elsewhere. An equitable citywide watershed approach could be something we would support, but we do not support the recognition of the OLWC for the following reasons.
1.) There has not been a comprehensive policy review at the council level that accesses all of the city's existing regulatory and non-regulatory programs aimed at natural resource protection. Before approval of OLWC, there should be a review of the almost 20 existing ordinances and programs that address natural resource protection, what each achieves and how they all work together. We need to ensure we have equitable, sensible, respectful and environmentally sound policy that is clear on what we are protecting, why we are protecting it and how we are protecting it. This rush to engage with OLWC and commit 300 hours of staff time prior to a review of existing programs and policy direction is the wrong approach. This agenda-driven process, absent any resolution to the 'sensitive lands' concerns expressed by citizens, contributes to the arbitrary, inequitable, piecemeal approach that we already have and is a source of frustration and division within our community.
2.) It's very concerning that at least four members of the OLWC have been supportive of the inequitable 'sensitive lands' trade program. Two of these board members were also members of the Second Look Task Force that supported the 'sensitive lands' program. How can the community trust OLWC when the majority of its board members have supported a 'sensitive lands' program that has been shown to be environmentally flawed, politically driven, and abuses the private property rights of many of it's citizens.
3.) During public comment regarding the proposed streetcar project, none of those involved in OLWC expressed concern about the well-documented damage to the watershed that would result from the construction and operation of the streetcar. Their silence raises concerns about the sincerity of OLWC.
4.) The Oregon statute referenced in the approved council resolution indicates that watershed councils can recommend implementation of environmental regulations to reach their goals. This raises significant concerns that OLWC, a council consisting of citizens sympathetic with 'sensitive lands' regulations on private backyards, may be a back door approach to further regulation of private property. The OLWC can advocate for extreme regulations on private property that city staff can then implement.
We must remind council of its 2011 goal to resolve citizens' concerns about 'sensitive lands' policy. Sanctioning OLWC before the 'sensitive lands' issue is resolved, providing significant costly staff support, and recognizing OLWC with a board that is made up of the usual political insiders who have a history of supporting extreme land use restrictions on private property, is a step in the wrong direction.
Please visit www.lostewards.org/ for more information.
Bob Thompson, is a Lake Osweg resident and member of the LO Stewards PAC.