Letters -- May 22

Festival kudos

I would like to congratulate Kaye White, Dollie Rasmussen, Jean Godfrey, Tommye and Dick Ware, and all of the festival volunteers who worked so hard to make last weekend’s Pear & Wine Festival such a great success. Thanks to the Hood River Fruit Loop Group for developing the Festival into a premier event that will not only help to expand the target audience of Hood River’s tourism industry, but will leverage the benefits of tourism to help provide a boost to the agriculture industry in our area.

The Pear & Wine Festival provides an opportunity to educate a broad section of the public on the healthfulness, beauty, and delicious versatility of pears. It encourages people to change their shopping habits to include pears and pear products (and Oregon wines) on their grocery lists. And finally, it illustrates what a gracious and helpful industry tourism can be. While it could never be expected to be the solution to the current crisis in our area’s agriculture industry, tourism can certainly bring some welcome dollars to local family farms in a sustainable and manageable way.

When the Hood River County Chamber of Commerce first conceived the Pear & Wine Festival idea in 1999, these were precisely the goals and hopes we had for the event. The Hood River Fruit Loop Group, under Kaye White’s direction, has achieved all of these goals. This is precisely why the Hood River County Chamber of Commerce awarded the Fruit Loop $2,600 in start-up funding in 2001 and the Visitors Council awarded a $5,000 grant to support this year’s Festival, with a total of $12,800 in grant funding to support the Fruit Loop’s 2002 projects. Our congratulations and continuing support to the Fruit Loop Group for making the Festival all that it should be and more.

Genevieve Scholl

Hood River County

Chamber of Commerce

Hood River

Diligent efforts

I have worked at Luhr Jensen for the past 20 years. During that time, part of my job has been to evaluate and upgrade manufacturing systems throughout the facility. Over the period of time I am aware, Luhr Jensen has voluntarily eliminated solvents from cleaning lines, by substituting water base cleaners (soaps), improved ventilation and filtration systems, as well as monitor and reduce waste streams. Luhr Jensen was a founding member and participant of the local Green Smart Program and donated time and efforts to help other businesses in the area adopt environmental procedures and recycling. I personally, and Luhr Jensen as a company is proud of the results. It would be foolish and short sided not to protect the resource that supports fishing.

It comes as a great shock and surprise that Luhr Jensen has been accused of less than diligent efforts to follow rules and regulations. I have studied the details and firmly believe the problem lies in a misunderstanding over the function of the safety systems and technical jargon (semantics). It has always been and always will be the philosophy of Luhr Jensen to find the most environmentally friendly means to manufacture our products. At no time has any material been released into a waterway. The alleged violation materials were properly collected and disposed of, or directed to the waste treatment plant.

David Lind

Supervisor of Engineering

Luhr Jensen & Sons

Hood River

No harm done

As much as I hate being in the middle of a dispute with governmental authorities and being thrust into a position of “public entertainment,” by making headlines in our local newspaper, I feel that this recent spate of negative publicity about my company and its employees suggests the need for comment.

1. The allegations made by the Oregon State Dept. of Environmental Quality were made in response to their perceived violations of the handling of paper work and procedures. There were no charges against any actual act of pollution, — nor was there any.

2. Luhr Jensen readily agrees with the mission and the goals of the DEQ. Further, Luhr Jensen admits that what the DEQ inspector saw, was ... what he saw. However, Luhr Jensen absolutely disagrees with the inspector’s understanding of Luhr Jensen’s physical structures and the safety procedures that we have used for the past 25 years.

3. Luhr Jensen’s activities regarding environmental concerns have always been at the highest level of concern possible. Our record will show that we have consistently made physical changes, and procedural changes to make constant improvements to our abilities to deal with the waste water and other hazardous materials that our manufacturing processes may generate.

4. Luhr Jensen has never done any activity with “intent to harm” — nor has Luhr Jensen been guilty of any “actual harm” to the environment. Again, the challenges of the DEQ are about “paperwork and procedures.”

5. Luhr Jensen will, of course, appeal these allegations — at a cost of time and money. I am angry that our DEQ inspector (“who has never lost a case”) has the power to start a very serious action like this, with the blithe response that the company certainly has the “right to appeal.”

I would like to know how it is possible to appeal and to absolve our company from the damage done by the headlines that resulted from his perceptions and his subsequent allegations.

Phil Jensen, owner

Luhr Jensen & Sons

Hood River

Changes come soon

My suggestion to John Alley (“Boy, I’m Insulted,” letter May 15) is don’t sweat it. Fortunately this is a nation of laws not people. What we have is primarily a land use issue. First, I think we all can agree that the laws of the land must be followed. In this case the dispute is questioning whether the laws are being followed.

If the citizens’ representatives, the County Commission, decide to support amendments to the present laws and allow the needed conditional use permits, then Mt. Hood Meadows can proceed with the resort development, carefully following the conditions imposed. But the trade-off will be the eventual demise of the agricultural economy.

When I was in grade school the three major driving economic forces in Oregon’s economy were timber, agriculture and salmon. You can check that out in Salem when you visit the legislature. Look at the carpets in the chambers: salmon, wheat and trees are repeated in the designs. I am sure when the dams tamed the Columbia no one expected that we would have traded off our world-renowned salmon industry for energy. Yet 67 years later we realize that’s what happened.

Obviously change is the only constant, but with land use planning laws, change is a more economic and orderly process. In this case, it will be an either/or choice. There will be trade-offs of significant consequences, and it won’t take 67 years for it to happen.

I refer you to one of the most fertile and prosperous agricultural valleys in the country, the Santa Clara valley. What is it now? Wall-to-wall houses. A similar Oregon adaptation of this scenario could eventually be repeated here. The answer is coming soon to our county neighborhood.

Nancy Moller

Hood River

Good stewards, too

I’d like to give public thanks to the Hood River County Recycling and Transfer Station. When the Earth Club did a clean-up of Post Canyon on April 27, we dumped $70 worth of garbage at the transfer station. When we got there, the workers hadn’t known that we were coming, and when we asked if we could dump our garbage for free, they couldn’t say “yes” because it hadn’t been okayed by their manager.

However, they did what it was in their authority to do; they helped us cull the four truck-loads of waste down to about one and a half loads by separating the recyclable metals, paper, bottles and cans from the tires and other trash. When Erwin Swetnam, District Manager of the transfer station, found out that we had paid to dump the trash, he immediately sent us cash to reimburse us for what we’d spent, assuring me that in the future, when we’re doing a community clean-up, we should call ahead and arrange for free service. He also told me that it wasn’t Jeff Blackman’s letter (May 4) to the editor that convinced him to reimburse us, but that Waste Connections, Inc. has always been community-minded. When SOLV and other local organizations have cleaned up trails, they have been allowed to dump for free. “After all,” he said, “I live in this county, too.” Thank you, Erwin, for helping us to be good stewards.

Eleanor Bard,

Advisor, Earth Club

Hood River Valley High School

Hood River

Truth be heard

As a local citizen of Hood River, and a proud citizen of the United States, I am once again appalled by our news media and bureaucratic system. I love this country and the beauty that we are so blessed to live in. Luhr Jensen & Sons is an outstanding supporter of this community and its environment, and would never knowingly do anything to negatively impact it, its fish, the wildlife or the environment on which we so depend for our livelihood. For the media and/or any agency to suggest otherwise is ludicrous. I can only hope and pray that the truth will be heard. That the media will accurately tell the facts, and that the local, state and federal agencies will not allow the heavy handed hammer of injustice fall that our forefathers fought so hard against.

Roger Jensen

Hood River

Land swap wrong

I am alarmed at the decision made by a majority of the Hood River County Commissioners to trade land to Mt. Hood Meadows and give away over $1 million cash in county funds in the bargain. The value of the land was estimated at an artificially low value of less than $350 per acre. My short one-half acre lot in that area is valued for tax purposes at $80,000 — more than $160,000 per acre.

The intention of the Mt. Hood Meadows Corporation has been transparently clear since last summer. They plan to develop a destination resort that will bring traffic problems, pollution, and water shortages to an unspoiled area of the mountain and the Upper Valley.

I would hope that future decisions of the Hood River County Commission will be open and more informed. I think that the $1.1 million could have been better spent providing marketing assistance or tax breaks to the growers in the Upper Valley who still produce the best pears and cherries in the world.

Edward Simmons

Newberg

Credibility damaged

My Name Is Ed Farrell. I work for Luhr Jensen & Sons. I’ve worked for this company since 1996. I’ve been responsible for Luhr Jensen & Sons’ maintenance department functions in Hood River for the past three years.

About one year ago we connected a new machine that uses water for coolant, it produces a small amount of clean waste water. It was my decision to send this water into the floor area of our plating department. I thought it was just another drain. I was wrong. This area, it turns out, is a containment for any chemicals that might escape our plating processes. My company paid $10,000 to send this water and the stuff it mixed with to a waste treatment plant. Now DEQ fines us $18,000 for holding on to this stuff for eight years. I don’t believe I understand these allegations.

I don’t feel that issues regarding companies’ internal troubles should be publicly aired. We have done nothing to endanger the public environment. It makes me cringe, to think how much damage these erroneous allegations could do to the environmental credibility of this company.

Ed Farrell

Maintenance Coordinator

Luhr Jensen & Sons

Hood River

Made every effort

I have worked for Luhr Jensen & Sons, Inc. for over 25 years. I was dismayed by the article in the May 18 edition of the Hood River News regarding the hefty fine charged to Luhr Jensen by the DEQ. To the uninformed reader, it must sound like we have toxic waste spewing out constantly. Let me assure you that this is not the case. We are a conscientious company, and have made every effort to contain and/or eliminate hazardous substances. But we are a manufacturing company, and our metal and plastic fabrication processes necessitate the use of some very noxious chemicals. We feel that we manage those noxious chemicals in a responsible manner.

For a number of years, we have employed an environmental manager, who has made every effort to comply with the myriad city, county, state, and federal laws and regulations.

It is our intent, and always has been, to maintain earth-friendly business practices. We are more than willing to work with the DEQ on any issues that need to be addressed, now or in the future.

Eileen Thomas

Luhr Jensen & Sons

Hood River

We fix it

I have had the privilege of working for Luhr Jensen for the last four years in the capacity of Production Coordinator, and in that time have been very pleased with the level of our ability to work through any difficulties, as challenging as they might be. I am proud to work for a company that cares about the environment, and is so involved (and yes, has a vested interest in) in keeping the river clean. I was sorry to see that the tone of your recent article did not demonstrate this. While not completely conversant in all aspects of chemical or environmental engineering, I do know, that when we have a problem in any other area, we react to it accordingly, and fix it. As a company, we pride ourselves on our diligence, and ability to work through our breakdowns and bottlenecks. We may dispute some of these charges, but if there is something wrong, we’ll rectify it. That’s what we do. What we don’t do, is dump hazardous waste in the river. We fish, boat, swim and windsurf in the river. We work and live here, and hopefully will be able to continue to do so. Respectfully,

Lisa Shirk

Production Coordinator

Hood River

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