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DEQ denies key water quality certification for Jordan Cove

Oregon environmental regulators denied a key certification for the Jordan Cove Energy Project on Monday, dealing a blow to the proposed natural gas pipeline.

The Department of Environmental Quality said in a press release it won’t issue Jordan Cove a Section 401 Water Quality Certification, saying the project doesn’t meet water quality standards.

The certification program evaluates water quality impacts of projects that may pollute Oregon waterways. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers cannot issue construction permits for projects without the certification, according to the Clean Water Act.

The pipeline would cross more than 300 wetlands, rivers and streams on its 229-mile path from Malin to Coos Bay. It would cross 64 miles of land in Douglas County.

The DEQ said the project would impact water temperature and cause sedimentation to streams and wetlands, among other concerns. The agency also cited the risk of drilling materials being released from construction at the proposed crossing of the Coos Bay estuary.

“There is insufficient information to demonstrate compliance with water quality standards, and because the available information shows that some standards are more likely than not to be violated,” DEQ said.

Jordan Cove has the ability to reapply for the certification and submit additional information requested by the DEQ. Additional information, including changes to the project or further mitigation measures, may yield a different decision, the agency said.

The DEQ requested information regarding potential water quality impacts from Jordan Cove in September, December and March.

“Jordan Cove has provided some, but not all, of the information requested,” the agency said.

The U.S. Army Corps initially instructed the DEQ to complete its review by May 7. The agency extended that date to Sept. 24, 2019, after Jordan Cove’s withdrawal and resubmission of its application.

“Recent federal court and agency decisions have raised significant questions about whether this extension was valid,” the DEQ said.

Jordan Cove is working to better understand the DEQ’s decision and its impacts, according to an emailed statement from the company.

On Monday, advocacy groups opposed to the project called the decision a potentially fatal blow.

“This decision shows that the Clean Water Act still works in Oregon to protect our citizens, our rivers, and our fish,” said Andrew Hawley, a staff attorney for the Western Environmental Law Center, in a press release.

Pembina, Jordan Cove’s Canadian parent company, is awaiting decisions on several local, state and federal permits that will decide the future of the project.

On its way down: Demolition of downtown Safeway building under way

Demolition of the old Safeway building in downtown Roseburg began on Monday morning. The building has been vacant since 2006, and property owners Pat and Mary Derose have had their second demolition permit from the city since October. The previous permit expired in 2009. Roseburg Community Development Director Stuart Cowie said i.e. Engineering, Inc., which is overseeing the demolition, estimates it could take several weeks to finish the project.

Master Gardeners' plant sale a rush for garden plants and shrubs

Before the annual Douglas County Master Gardeners’ Plant and Garden Expo opened for business, a long line was already formed outside the doors of the Exhibit Building at the Douglas County Fairgrounds on Saturday.

“It was lined up all the way out to the parking lot,” said Bonnie Durick, the chairperson of the plant sale. “The first guy was here about a quarter-to-eight, and we didn’t open until 9 a.m.”

As the doors opened, the rush was on to get to the tomato plants and other plant starts for vegetable gardens. And long line quickly formed inside, with people waiting to pay for their plants.

“They want to get here early because they all have their eyes on something,” Durick said.

The vegetable starts sold rapidly to people preparing to plant their spring gardens.

“Our vegetables go very quickly,” said Kish Doyle, a member of the Douglas County Master Gardeners.

“And if it’s after Mother’s Day, it’s probably safe to plant — that’s the general rule.”

Doyle said it’s a huge job to set up for the sale and volunteers began the process on Friday morning, getting the tables and booths ready to go.

“The Master Gardeners bring in about 20,000 plants including vegetables, flowers, succulents, shrubs, trees, everything,” Doyle said.

About 40 vendors selling garden-related items came from around Douglas County and even some from out of the county. The vendors displayed plants, tools, yard ornaments, birdhouses, hanging plants, trees, and anything garden related. Even beekeepers, whose bees foster pollination, had an information booth.

The event is the main fundraiser for the Master Gardeners program. Organizers say they normally raise more than $30,000 every year at the sale, which goes to operate their Discovery Garden at River Forks Park. Durick said it takes a lot of money to run the garden and the five greenhouses in which the Master Gardeners work all year, growing the plants that are sold at the sale.

“We raise everything that we sell here,” Durick said.

An estimated 3,000 people attended the sale Saturday.

“We came to support Master Gardeners and we’re ready to plant our garden,” said Sara Raynor of Roseburg.

“The vegetables here are really strong and herbs are ready to be planted, so that’s why we’re here.”

Durick said about 100 of the 240 members of the Douglas County Master Gardeners worked on the event.

Durick said the group always picks up a few new members during the plant sale when people find out what the organization does.

More information on the Douglas County Master Gardeners program can be found by calling 541-236-3052, or in the internet at

Ore. Republicans to shut down Senate over tax on businesses

SALEM — Senate Republicans in Oregon fled Salem on Monday to avoid a Tuesday vote on a $1 billion per-year funding package for schools.

Minority Leader Herman Baertschiger told reporters Monday that Republicans have been left out of the school funding conversation and that they are opposed to the proposed half a percent tax on businesses with sales over $1 million. The proposed tax would fund school programs trying to boost student performance and decrease class sizes.

“Republicans have taken this dramatic stance because this is the only tool we have being in the super minority to draw attention to the injustices of this type of legislation,” he said.

Only two Republicans appeared on the floor Monday, just barely giving the Senate a quorum. Baertschiger, from Grants Pass, said that “members are gone,” and that Republicans won’t return until the funding package goes back to committee for changes.

The session was scheduled for 11 a.m. on Tuesday. If enough Republicans didn’t show up to the Capitol, they would deny the Senate a quorum, meaning there won’t be enough people for a formal vote to continue. Baertschiger insinuated some members may have left the state, and that he wasn’t sure when Republicans would be back.

Although the minority leader didn’t elaborate what changes Republicans are seeking in the school funding package, he said that the state’s spiraling public pension liability had to be addressed before any other legislation can move forward. The state’s Public Employees Retirement System— which covers teachers, police officers and public officials— is facing more than $25 billion in pension debt and counting.

“Until we have a permanent fix to PERS we will not be able to fund schools adequately,” said Baertschiger.

Gov. Kate Brown introduced her own PERS solution last month that would shield teachers from the brunt of rate hikes by cobbling together one-time funds from different streams of revenue. The Speaker of the House and Senate President are working on their own plan that would benefit all public agencies paying into the system.

Baertschiger “there’s some stuff” in the governor’s proposal that Republicans are considering, but he maintained that simply “throwing money” at the education system won’t actually help students. He said the only way the legislature can truly dedicate revenue to schools is through a constitutional amendment, otherwise Democrats could raid the proposed revenue source to fund other priorities in times of recession.

The House approved the tax package last week after a five-hour discussion, with Republicans arguing the proposed tax on a business’ gross receipts would be passed onto the consumer as a defacto sales tax.

Tuesday’s Senate vote would have come a day before tens of thousands of teachers across the state are set to walk out to press lawmakers for more funding.

Rep. Barbara Smith Warner, the Portland Democrat behind the bill, said schools urgently need the $1 billion in extra funding to expand services and boost graduation rates, which are some of the worst in the nation.

While PERS reform is necessary, she said, so is injecting funds into the classroom.

“We still don’t have dedicated revenue for schools,” she said. “This whole pound of flesh idea where we have to fund pensions before anything else makes no sense to me. This is about changing the trajectory of our school funding formula and finally providing our educators with a steady source of revenue.”