Categorized | Junction City News

City’s take on wetland issue

Posted on 07 November 2012 by admin

JC staff and officials expound on local wetland regulations

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JC staff and most officials feel comfortable about their recommendation to place partial wetland protection on three ditches running through town. Some feel it’s for the good of the people, but some don’t.

By Vera Westbrook
For the Tribune

JUNCTION CITY – Local residents have voiced their disapproval of the city council’s decision to add local regulation of three canals running through town that were part of a wetland inventory in JC’s 20-year Comprehensive Plan update. But city staff and planning commissioners still feel their recommendation for some protection is valid.
City Planner Stacy Clauson’s reasoning for recommending additional city regulation of wetlands to already existing state regulations is because the state requires local protection of locally significant wetlands, as presented in statewide goals.
Goal 5 states, “Local governments shall adopt programs that will protect natural resources . . . for present and future generations.” View the goal online at www.oregon.gov/LCD/docs/goals/goal5.pdf.
To comply, JC updated its Comprehensive Plan with a local wetland inventory, which gives cities some flexibility in allowing uses that conflict with the resource if well-supported findings exist.
“JC policymakers decided to allow some conflicting uses, such as roads, utilities, flood control and maintenance and repair to existing structures within the wetland, but limited other types of development, such as new construction or filling in the wetland, that would have negative consequences to the wetlands and to surrounding properties,” Clauson said.
Although the state already has rules about wetlands, the city passed an additional wetland overlay district to protect the canals’ ability to convey stormwaters.
To make some changes, property owners might have to consult with the Department of State Lands (DSL) and the Army Corps of Engineers. The city said it would be happy to partner with property owners in making those changes, but some requests could still be denied.
“A culvert built in the canals would be difficult to build as it would likely interfere with the stormwater functionality and wetlands within the guidelines set by DSL,” City Administrator Kevin Watson said. “But technically, it could be done if engineering said it could be done.”
Planning Commissioner Jeff Haag agreed with local regulation and believes the commission gave more rights to landowners by removing the 20-foot overlay and moving the setback to the crest of the ditch. He also added that the city did not create the wetlands. They were taken off existing aerial photographs and were already there.
“We didn’t want anybody to lose any property rights at all, and by allowing some local protection, it actually allows people to do more with their property than having no local protection,” he said. “Nothing really changed, as all the existing uses are still permitted. You can’t build within the waterway no matter what, and the city has nothing to do with that.”
But not all councilor’s agreed with the council’s decision to control councilors Jack Sumner and Bill DiMarco voting in favor of removing city control over the canals.
“I didn’t think we needed more control over something that was already controlled by a state and federal agency,” Sumner said. “The city council didn’t listen to the people, but its’ the city council’s right to do so—it’s called government—you don’t always get what you want for the people.”
The city submitted its Comprehensive Plan to the county for approval with a public hearing scheduled with Lane County Commissioners on Dec. 4.

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