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Hells Canyon Journal
Halfway, Oregon
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April 27, 2011     Hells Canyon Journal
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April 27, 2011
 

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SMALLTOWNPAPERS 217 WEST COTA STREET SHELTON WA 98584 ooo0 HelLs Call 75 Per Copy Easter Eggs for All Photo by Rose Clark OVER 50 YOUNGSTERS from around the area found brightly colored Easter eggs and other treats on the campus of Pine Eagle School District last Saturday at the Halfway Lions Club's annual Easter Egg Hunt. A few hours later, a similar group of children hunted for Easter eggs at Eagle Valley's Hewitt Park under the watchful eye of the Easter Bunny. Draft Repo'rt Says Projected Cost of $133 Million Outweiqhs Expected Benefits E!ast Pine Reservoir Not Recommended by Bureau of Reclamation by Hayley Sanders of the Hells Canyon Journal In the Eastern Oregon Water Storage Appraisal Study Draft, released this month by the Bureau of Rec- lamation, the Bureau an- nounced it does not recom- mend the East Pine Creek Reservoir Project for further feasibility study. Of 95 different water stor- age project possibilities in the Burnt River, Powder River, and Pine Creek Basins, only four were selected for an ap- praisal study. The East Pine Reservoir, which would in- volve construction of a large earthen dam five miles north of Halfway, was one of the projects considered. The Hardman Reservoir on the Burnt River, and enlarKe- ment of the Thief Valley Dam and construction of a North Powder Dam on the Powder River were the other Baker County projects selected for the appraisal study. Projects were picked and studied in- dividually, based on good po- tential for water supply and proximity to need, along with an assessment ofhydropower capability and environmen- tal issues. None of the four sites were determined to have met the federal objectives for the study. The Bureau determined that each storage facility could have a water surplus at the site and there was need for the surpluses, and also concluded that each facility has potential for both hydro- electric power and improv- ing seasonal stream flows. But, several issues would need to be reSolVed before any of the projects could go forward. Among other prob- lems, all of the projects would require roadway re- locations and mitigation for adverse impacts on utilities and other facilities. Each 00['rescribed Burning Planned for [VWNF as Weather Turns Springlike The Wallowa-Whitman National Forest will begin spring prescribed burning projects as snow melts and warmer, drier weather ar- rives. Burning is planned at lower elevations first in many project sites. Prescribed burning is done to reduce dead and down fu- els, selectively thin under- story trees in dense forest stands, stimulate fire resis- tant plant species, enhance forage and browse, reduce the risk of large stand-replace- ment fires, and restore fire in controlled manner as a dis- turbance factor in these landscapes. Prescribed burns can range from a few acres to several hundred acres in size. In most areas, prescribed burning is the last of a series of treatments for vegetation and fuel reduction projects. Burning often follows harvest or other thinning activities that remove some trees while retaining the largest, healthi- est trees of the most fire-re- sistant species, such as pon- derosa pine and western larch. Smaller trees (ladder fuels) are removed so stands will be less susceptible to crown fires. Prescribed burn- .*3,. _ HELLS CANYON , JOURNAL Po Box 648 "Halfway' OR -_ ._ 97834 .,,541-742-7900 L_8 ing completes the treatment by consuming the surface fuel accumulation. Fire history studies have shown fire was a dominant natural process in the Blue Mountains, which helped maintain a more open and park-like condition through- out low to mid-elevation for- ests. Low-intensity surface fires burned throughout these drier forests and grass- lands, perpetuating open, park-like stands of fire-toler- ant tree species such as pon- derosa pine, Douglas-fir, and larch. Hazardous fuel reduction is not without impacts. Smoke associated with prescribed burning is a major compo- nent and the hardest to fore- cast in the implementation planning process. Prescribed fire managers work closely with the Oregon State Smoke Forecast Center in accor- dance with the Oregon Smoke Management Plan to deter- mine when, where and how much is burned on a daily basis. Smoke dispersion mod- els looking at volume of smoke, direction of spread, and mixing heights are de- termined prior to each burn. Prescribed fires that may have a significant impact to a sensitive area or community are rescheduled until there is a more favorable weather forecast. We advise forest users to be aware of burning activi- ties as they travel in the For- est, said Bret Ruby, Fire Manager Officer. These ac- tivities may temporarily cre- ate smoke and increase traf- fic on forest roads. There are approximately 5,000 possible acres planned" for this spring's burns. Ac- tual acres burned will be de- termined by weather and fa- vorable smoke dispersion forecasts. Favorable smoke dispersion refers to days smoke is not forecasted to enter Smoke Sensitive Recep- tor Areas or SSRA's. Oregon State DEQ has determined local SSRA's to be Baker City, Enterprise, John Day and La Grande. Planned Prescribed Burns Whitman Ranger Dis- trict (541-523-4476): Burnt- Powder Fire Zone - Baker, Pine and Unity, approxi- mately 3,270 acres total. Foothills- in the Baker City Watershed, 300 acres Jack and California - Whitney Valley area, 1,000 acres Deer - in Sumpter Valley, 520 acres Woodtick - north of Unity Reservoir, 300 acres Dry Creek, East Pine, and Barnard - in Pine Valley near Halfway, 900 acres South Fork of Burnt River - near Unity, 250 acres Stices Gulch - 10 mile south of Baker, 300 acres La Grande Ranger Dis- trict (541-963-7171) - Ap- proximately 1409 acres total Bald Angel - Junction of road 70 and 7050, 153 acres Medical Springs - south east ofLa Grande, 250 acres Dark Meadow - north of La Grande, 450 acres Horse Fly - northwest of La Grande along road 5100, 500 acres Mt. Emily - face of Mt. Emily, 75 acres project also had to address habitat needs for species protected under the Endan- gered Species Act. The study noted the East Pine facility was especially sensitive to environmental impacts, because it is in a watershed designated as critical bull trout habitat. Since building the East Pine Reservoir would cost an esti- mated $133 million, and the main use would be for irriga- tion, the benefit]cost ratio of hydropower generation and other uses was also not in its favor. In light of these problems, the Bureau of Reclamations recommended that, "none of the alternatives analyzed as water storage projects for ir- rigation should be considered for further study." The study also suggested that "stake- holders could consider fur- ther study of projects focused on hydropower generation within the basin." Peggy Browne, a consult- ant for the county's Water and Stream Health Commit- tee that supports the East Pine Reservoir project, said it was important.tozmnsider that"this is just a draft." The Bureau of Reclamation has to make sure that whatever project it works on meets fed- eral goals and objectives. If the cost/benefit ratio does not equal one, they have to deter- mine that it is not in the public's interest to pursue the project. With a cost/benefit ratio of 0.25, the East Pine alternative "didn't quite meet that one requirement." Ac- cording to Browne, several aspects of the project had not been taken into consider- ation, however. For example, there was no data on the dif- ference in value for pasture land versus land that could be used to grow crops such as alfalfa or potatoes with the available water. "After people get done sup- plying the Bureau with com- ments and new numbers, I think you will see a very dif- ferent report from the draft document," said Browne. "The recommendations could completely change." The final appraisal study is expected to be available in mid-May. To read the East- ern Oregon Water Storage Appraisal Study Draft, visit http://www.usbr.gov/pn/pro- grams/srao_misc/ storagestudy/index.html. Local Projects Included in County Economic Strategy Meeting Northeast Oregon Eco- nomic Development District (NEOEDD) will hold a county-wide prioritization meeting on Wednesday, May 11 at 11:00 a.m. in the Baker City Council Chambers. The purpose of the meeting is to discuss and update the eco- nomic project list for Baker, Union and Wallowa counties and determine vhich projects are high priorities, and iden- tify which may be eligible for federal funding. Anyone who is sponsoring one of the projects or is interested in setting project priorities is encouraged to attend. Projects must be demon- strated to have a public ben- efit and be sponsored by a government or non-profit or- ganization. They are placed in the categories of infra- structure, community facili- ties, technical assistance or energy. Projects that have a direct or indirect impact on job creation will have greater priority. All three counties have several projects already on the agenda. Some of the projects of note in Baker County and the Halfway/ Richland area that will be discussed are: Energy Projects Mason Dam Hydroelectric Project - Installation of two small turbines at the base of Mason Dam. Renewable en- ergy would be sold to Idaho Power. Sponsored by Baker County (1 direct job). Baker County Boiler Con- version Project - Install/ret- rofit existing environmen- tally unsound fossil fuel heating systems with re- newable biomass energy boilers in key public build- ings. Sponsored by Baker City (10 construction jobs, 10 direct full time jobs, 160 indirect jobs). Infrastructure Projects Resort Street Improvement Project - Building a bicycle and pedestrian path, off- street downtown parking and streetscape improvements. Sponsored by Baker City (30 direct jobs). Halfway Waste Water Col- lection System Improvements - Implementing inflow/infil- tration improvements and correcting algae growth in treatment ponds. Sponsored by City of Halfway (50 indi- rect jobs). Halfway Security Fencing - Installing an electric secu- rity gate and fencing around the sewer lagoons. Sponsored by City of Halfway. Richland Wastewater Lift Station Upgrade- Sponsored by City of Richland. Halfway Parking Lot - Purchase land and construct a downtown parking lot for parking and snow storage. Sponsored by City of Half- way. Community Facilities Riehland Elementary School Project - Convert school into low-income senior housing, community center and maintain library. Spon- sored by Pine Eagle Develop- ment Corporation. Baker Higher Education Center- Construction of an additional wing to the armory building and expand the cam- pus with additional build- ings. Sponsored by Baker County. Richland Commercial Kitchen - Acquire the rights to utilize and upgrade the kitchen at the Richland School for business and com- t munity use. Technical Assistance Water and Stream Health Initptive - Construct water studies and environmental reviews in preparation for construction of reservoirs for flood mitigation, irriga- tion, recreation, and power generation. Sponsored by Baker County. United Community Part- ners - Develop and obtain funding for projects priori- tized at the vision and ac- tion rallies in March 2007 in Halfway. Sponsored by UCP. The complete list is avail- able at www.neoedd.org. To add a project to the list, con- tact Jeff Moss at jeffmoss@ neoedd.org by Friday, April 29 with the project's name, description, budget, funding sources, timeframe and sponsor priority, j