Oregon governor, congressional delegation, announce united plan to extend county payments

October 5, 2011

Oregon's congressional delegation and Gov. John Kitzhaber announced a united plan to extend county payments to Oregon beleaguered timber counties.

Several southern Oregon counties have recently warned the governor's office that they could be facing bankruptcy without action to extend the county payments program, known as the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self Determination Act, which requires the federal government to reimburse counties for federally owned timber land that cannot be sold.

Under the proposed legislation, the payments would continue for at least another five years, with reductions in the size over each year.

That includes Mt. Hood National Forest, which is a significant portion of Hood River County forestland.

"Our county is 70 percent forest," Hood River County Administrator David Meriwether said. He was unsure of exactly how much was inside the national forest, but estimated it to be "well over half" in comments in August.

The cuts to Hood River County would be substantial without an extension of the payments, but would not be nearly as dramatic as those facing Douglas and Lane counties, which currently receive around $35 million each in annual payments and would see their revenue plunge to around $7 million by 2017 when the payments end, according to Headwater Economics, a Bozeman, Mont., research firm.

"This gives us breathing room to figure out a long term solution on the ground," said a spokesman for Gov. Kitzhaber's office.

The plan received bi-partisan support across the delegation and legislation is expected to be introduced next week by Senate Energy Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D- NM).

"While passage of this legislation is not guaranteed, gaining Chairman Bingaman's support is an important step in our effort to get the job done. Part of that effort includes educating our colleagues in Congress on the unique challenges facing a state where the federal government owns more than 50 percent of the land -- as well as the historic commitment the federal government made to those communities," the Oregon delegation said in statement. "Our unified effort underscores how essential it is for Congress and the administration to honor that commitment and Oregonians can count on us to continue to work together to get the job done."

The Secure Rural Schools Act technically expired last Friday, and without renewal the last Federal payments would be made to counties in December.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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