Heceta PUD Measure on the ballot; Lane County voters will decide jail levy; Effects of Japanese tsunami debris unknown; Gas prices… no help this week

Coast Radio News
Local News

6 March 2013

Heceta PUD on the Ballot

Voters in the Heceta Water District will be asked to decide whether or not to convert to a “People’s Utility District” in May.  The move won’t impact the day to day operations of the agency, but, says chief petitioner Ron Gerber, it will provide protection from an eventual erosion of district territory as the City of Florence expands.  A majority yes vote would trigger the transition.

Ron Gerber – “The result of a favorable election would be that the existing board suddenly becomes trustees and as trustees their duty is to transfer the assets of the district to the PUD.”

Voters will also be asked to select leadership for the new PUD.

Ron Gerber – “That will take place in the same election so people who want to run for the PUD board need to be getting in contact with election officials or seeking information from the water district about how is it that I put my name on the ballot.”

Gerber said the process to this point has been difficult.

Ron Gerber – “This was not easy.  This has not been done very often, a conversion.  There are five other water districts that are PUDs but only one of them has gone through a conversion process which probably didn’t cross all the Ts and dot all the Is that it should have.”

Elections officials approve the official ballot measure this week.  Gerber credited West Lane Commissioner Jay Bozievich and the county attorney with helping them essentially blaze a new trail.

Jail Levy to be Topic on Our Town

Voters in Lane County are being asked to approve a five-year $75-million property tax levy that officials say would nearly double the amount of jail beds available right now.  The special operating tax levy would also increase the amount of space for juvenile offenders; and provide more substance abuse treatment and counseling.

Facing a steadily diminishing amount of general fund money to pay for public safety, officials went through a lengthy process last year in an effort to discern what voters would support.  That effort resulted in a levy seeking 55-cents per thousand dollars of assessed valuation.  The median value of a home in Lane County is just over $155-thousand.  The additional tax on that value would be $85 per year.

The levy would guarantee a minimum of 255 jail beds and includes a requirement of an annual audit verifying the extra money is being spent only on what it is intended.

Lane County Commission Chair Sid Leiken and West Lane Commissioner Jay Bozievich will be on KCST’s Our Town this afternoon to talk about the levy request and public safety funding.

Gas Prices Continue Upward Drive

There was some relief at the pump this week in much of the nation… but not in the northwest where Oregon’s average price for a gallon of regular unleaded jumped by 5 ½ cents to $3.79.

In Florence the average increased by a penny to $3.72.

That compares to a four cent drop at the national level according to Triple-A.  The national average is at $3.74 a gallon.  Three states have average prices above the four dollar mark:  Hawaii, where the average is $4.40; California is at $4.22; And in Alaska the average priceis $4.04.

Idaho is 48th on the list with an average price of $3.45.  Wyoming has the lowest average price… $3.30 a gallon.

Scientists and volunteers scrape marine organisms from a large chunk of a Japanese dock that washed up on Agate Beach near Newport in June 2012. (Oregon Dept. of Fish and Wildlife Photo)
Scientists and volunteers scrape marine organisms from a large chunk of a Japanese dock that washed up on Agate Beach near Newport in June 2012. (Oregon Dept. of Fish and Wildlife Photo)

Tsunami Debris and Invasive Species

Scientists from Oregon State University have been able to examine more than three dozen pieces of confirmed Japanese tsunami debris from the March 2011 disaster.  All of it had some sort of marine organism attached, most had several varieties.

A few of the barnacles, mussels and other organisms on the debris can be found in North America and Asia.  But, which of the species from Asia might gain a toehold in the Pacific Northwest and what potential damage it may bring is nearly impossible to anticipate.

John Chapman is a marine invasive species specialist at the Oregon State Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport.  He says ecologists have a “terrible track record of predicting what introduced species will survive and where”.

But, he adds, the debris fallout from the Japanese disaster will provide scientists with an unprecedented experiment on species introduction.