Monthly Update 2020
Remote but Together.
Executive Director’s Letter
We are all working in new ways—without being able to gather together, not being able to meet directly with our landowners or our agency partners, learning to use new technology tools for remote offices. Zoom, Go to Meeting and other platforms help maintain contact but we all look forward to when we can get back together safely.
The legislative world keeps turning in spite of the pandemic. Agencies normally have to turn in their legislative concepts in early April for the 2021 legislative session, but most have bought some time by calling their concepts “placeholders” which allows them until June 5 to come up with language to flesh out their concepts. OACD is involved in stakeholder groups with various state agencies reviewing concepts. We will be discussing those with our Advocacy Committee members once more information is available and then sharing with the membership for your feedback. The next Advocacy Committee meeting is May 15th at 11:00 a.m. If you are interested in joining the committee, please contact the committee chair, Stan Dean: firstname.lastname@example.org or call (530)-902-7415.
Agency budgets are also in process. Given the dramatic downturn in the economy expected to be revealed in the May 20 state revenue report, we are likely to see budget cuts. The lottery is still in difficult straits as machines are closed during the pandemic. (See the pandemic update including the governor’s reopening guidelines, sent to members April 23rd.) Congress is preparing a corona virus #4 piece of legislation. There has been a lot of pressure to add local governments to the various funding packages that were provided to businesses and nonprofits earlier. We continue to work with our Congressional representatives in supporting that funding.
Jan Lee, Executive Director
Districts in Focus
The US Department of Agriculture Partnership is investing nearly $15 million in partner-driven projects that protect natural resources in Oregon. NRCS announced that it is investing $7.3 million in Oregon through its Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP). NRCS will leverage an additional $7.5 million in partner contributions. Oregon State Conservationist Ron Alvarado was quoted as stating “Through collaboration and aligning our resources toward a common goal, we’re making an impact for natural resource conservation that could never have been realized on our own.” Nationally NRCS is investing $205 million in 48 partner-driven projects in 29 state, leveraging $300 million in partner contributions.
Two of the three projects include two of our soil and water conservation district members, Gilliam SWCD and Polk County SWCD.
Polk County Soil and Water Conservation District
The Polk County Oak Habitat Restoration 2020 project is led by the Polk County Soil and Water Conservation District. The project will enhance and restore oak habitat and associated wildlife species on private lands in the county. The partners will match USDA’s $1.7 million to create habitat corridors traversing the county and add increased wildlife forage with unobstructed travel from and between neighboring counties. The partners also plan to acquire three permanently conserved tribal ancestral lands through the Willamette Wildlife Mitigation Fund and to instill a deeper commitment to maintaining oak habitat among private landowners.
Gilliam Soil and Water Conservation District
The Lower John Day Canyons Restoration Initiative is led by Gilliam Soil and Water Conservation District. The project will enhance over 40 miles of Mid-Columbia Steelhead habitat in the Lower John Day Basin. The installation of fences, a manufactured beaver dam structures and riparian plantings will improve native fish habitat. In addition to the NRCS $3.9 million, the partners will contribute over $4 million to the project.
Welcome to Ken Masten, New OACD Board Member.
The board appointed a replacement for the vacted statewide at-large position at its March 26th meeting. We welcome Ken Masten, a board member from the Klamath Soil and Water Conservation District. Ken is a farmer/rancher and also owns 12 Ranch Winery outside of Klamath Falls. Ken has benefitted from water and power savings after implementing conservation measures and wants to support the sharing of and implementation of those programs through both the work of Klamath SWCD and OACD. “Conservation must be a priority to stay profitable in business,” Ken stated.
New Water Quality Manager at Oregon Department of Agriculture.
Marganne Allen has recently joined ODA’s staff as the Water Quality Program Manager. Her mission and that of her team is to build strong SWCDs by providing superior assistance and service. Her role is to ensure ODA maintains strong relationships with the Districts and the Soil and Water Conservation Commision, to serve as the primary contact for SWCD program partners, to coordinate government and legislative issues, and to coordinate delivery of the Agricultural Water Quality Management Program. She looks forward to meeting District staff all around the state, even if the best that can be done for now is a telephone call.
Marganne came to this role after almost 15 years of working with private forest landowners while at the Oregon Department of Forestry. She has worn a variety of hats at the Salem ODF office and has a passion for working with private landowners and helping them navigate and balance the expectations of government policy. While her background is in forest management, hydrology, and soil science, she is enjoying learning about the field of agriculture and the unique issues those landowners face.
OACD meets with Marganne, Barba Boyer (chair of the Soil and Water Conservation Commission) and Eric Nusbaum of ODA monthly to coordinate information and activities.
State Agency Happenings
Oregon Department of Agriculture
Barbara Boyer, Chair of the Soil and Water Conservation Commission, led the April 14th virtual meeting and announced the next meeting will be held in Salem on July 6th and 7th. Marganne Allen, the new Water Quality Program Manager, reported that there are 16 district water quality programs completed and 4 are pending at this time. Courtney Shaff of OWEB reported that the capacity funding for SIAs now in progress is assured but that funding for September projects will be delayed during OWEB’s funding pause unless applications now on hold are approved (see OWEB report following).
Margaret Matter, Agriculture Water Resource Specialist at ODA, discussed “water reservations” from groundwater sources. In 1987 when the instream water right law was enacted, part of that law allowed for reserving water for future economic needs to balance those needs with instream uses. A few reservations exist in some areas of the state, but the tool has not been used often; only 5 reservations have been implemented.
While reservations were enacted with surface water storage in mind, applications for groundwater storage are now being considered and there is a question as to whether new rules need to be implemented to be able to process applications, such as the one for the Baker Valley SWCD.
Meta Loftsgaarden, Director of OWEB, shared the reasons behind the funding pause (see OWEB article below) as the lack of lottery funds availability. Ron Alvarado, Oregon NRCS Conservationist, reported that 3 new RCPP grants were approved in Oregon (see Districts in Focus in this newsletter). The Water Resources Department representative indicated that a drought declaration was approved April 13th for Klamath County and other declarations are anticipated this year.
DEQ’s representative indicated program 319 funding is still set at only $300,000 per year for Oregon and will likely not be raised until the legal suit on TMDLs in Oregon is resolved. There was an agreement between the timber industry and environmental interests to come to compromise on an issue affecting the TMDLs but the bill to adopt that agreement failed due to the truncated short session this year. Hopefully, it will move in the 2021 session. Oregon has to redo TMDLs in about ¾ of the state’s streams within 7 years or less.
Barbara Boyer reported that a committee has now been identified and will meet in late April to start work on the “board eligibility concept” relating to a House bill that was introduced but not enacted in the 2019 session that would set eligibility standards for whom could run for district boards. Jan Lee presented a report on OACD activities during the meeting.
Stephanie Page, Director of the Natural Resources Program for ODA, reported that there will be 4 program funding requests made to the legislature in 2021, including one for SIA water quality projects. A provision will be included that allows some of the larger SWCDs to be consultants with smaller less funded districts to provide services for those smaller districts for technical support, similar to how the CREP program is currently implemented. Positions to lead a soil health program and a coordinator for aquatic invasive species will be requested. A bill relating to the Umatilla Basin groundwater that failed to move forward in the 2020 session will be reintroduced in 2021.
Jim Johnson, Land Use and Water Resource Coordinator, shared discussion of the Board of Agriculture resolutions. The controversial resolution on agriculture tourism is still being reviewed in a working group. All rulemaking on land use bills from the 2019 session is delayed due to the pandemic. Jim reported that an analysis of farmland losses by state is near completion as developed by the American Farmland Trust. OACD will provide the link to the report when it is available.
Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board (OWEB)
OWEB’s virtual board meeting was held April 21st. The major topic of the meeting was to have been the approval of about $15 million in open solicitation grant offerings from the fall 2019 applications. Recommendations were made in early April, but due to the pandemic significant loss in lottery funds from closure of businesses where lottery machines are located, the agency’s lottery funding is significantly down. OWEB is funded 70% from lottery funds and 30% from other funds such as the federal Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund program. OWEB will schedule a June meeting at which time further consideration of funding of the grants will be considered based on the state’s revenue forecast schedule for May 20 and the lottery distributions at that time.
Grants already approved will continue to receive their funding but all new grants are on pause. Grant applications for the Spring 2020 cycle are due May 11th but will be on pause until funding is available. See FAQs regarding the pause can be found here.
One of the agreements scheduled to be approved was an additional $58,200 to OACD to support the four districts who are developing monitoring reports to be submitted to the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to protect landowner plans (CCAAs). Those landowners working with the districts are providing management practices to protect sage grouse habitat. The OWEB grant is a match for the $100,000 already provided by USFWS for the districts’ work (Crook, Harney, Lakeview, and Malheur SWCDs). We are hopeful of getting the grant approved soon as the monitoring work has seasonal requirements.
OWEB Director Meta Loftsgaarden also updated the board on Oregon’s Water Vision. A sum of $800,000 was requested in the 2020 legislative session to develop data to move the program forward but due to the session not proceeding because of the walkout, the funding did not get addressed.
New rules were adopted for monitoring grants and for the water acquisitions program (available at OWEB’s website).
Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife
Derek Palmore, an intern at West Multnomah SWCD, recently wrote an article relating to two of ODFW’s programs moving forward as the result of a four SWCD consortium (excerpts following):
- Riparian Lands Tax Incentive Program (RLTIP) created in 1981 providing incentives for improving or maintaining qualifying riparian lands
- Wildlife Habitat Conservation Management Program (WHCMP) passed in 1997 rewarding landowners for stewardship of native wildlife and habitat on their lands.
The Lower Willamette SWCDs (Clackamas, West Multnomah, East Multnomah, Tualatin and Polk) partnered in 2019 to fund two intern positions at ODFW to support the program. Yamhill and Marion SWCDs will be joining the effort. The intergovernmental agreement between the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife will complete the assessment of the current status and future viability of the two private landowner tax incentive programs administered and regulated by ODFW.
ODFW had lost the capacity to implement and regulate the programs due to a loss in staff funding, which had left the current status of both programs uncertain and ODFW was unable to accept new enrollees. As an intern, Derek worked with ODFW to go through database files and worked with the 7 counties’ assessors’ offices to correct discrepancies in the records. By October, enrolled plans in both tax incentive programs had been mostly accounted for in orderly fashion for review.
The interagency group of Lower Willamette Valley SWCDs and ODFW have now finished the discovery phase of their agreement and are in discussions for the next phase, including what options there are for a permanent position to manage the programs.
NACD Assistance Grants
NACD is now accepting Requests for Proposals (RFPs) for projects that will increase the technical assistance capacity of conservation districts. There is a total of $6.5 million to be disbursed nationally. The funding is intended to build capacity and enhance districts’ ability to provide conservation planning and technical assistance to customers. These funds, provided by NRCS, we be administered by NACD to conservation districts in high-priority workload locations across the nation. Applications are due by 9:00 p.m. June 1, 2020. Applications will be reviewed by the Oregon team of NRCS and OACD, using NRCS’ Oregon strategic priorities as a guideline.
A portion of the funding is allocated to continuing projects. In Oregon, those projects include work underway with Curry and Harney SWCDs.
OACD held a webinar on April 16th for district participation in understanding the grant process. Ariel Rivers, Pacific Representative for NACD, and Jason Jeans of NRCS shared information with districts. A PowerPoint was presented (NACD Technical Assistance Grants – 2020). Additional information is available at NACD’s grant link.
OWEB Focused Investment Partnership (FIP)
See earlier article under agency reports from OWEB indicating a pause in OWEB funding.
Due to challenges associated with COVID-19 restrictions, the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board (OWEB) has extended the deadline for FIP pre-application consultations until May 14. The application deadline is June 30 at 5:00 p.m.
Any partnership interested in submitting an application in this biennium’s grant offering is required to participate in a pre-application process with OWEB staff. Consultations will occur between March 1 and May 14, 2020. A draft map of the initiative geography and list of partners are required prior to consultation. Consulting can be scheduled by contacting Kristi Primley at 503-986-0202 or Kristi.email@example.com. For more information about FIPs, go here.
This is a select list of upcoming events. See more on the OACD and Oregon Conservation Partnership (OrCP) websites.
COVID-19 and the Oregon Forest Sector: May 5, 3:00-4:30 p.m.
Featuring a panel with reporesentatives from OSU Extension, the Oregon Department of Forestry, Industy, and the Landowner Community. More details and registration here.
Next OACD District Call-In: May 21, 9:00 a.m.
Watch for our announcement of speaker confirmation.
OACD Virtual Board Meeting: May 21, 10:00 a.m.
Next OrCP Webinar: May 21
(Look for an announcement in early May as there is an anticipated time change to afternoon). The speakers will share resources for districts, councils and land trusts during the pandemic. Visit the OrCP website for archived webinars, including the April webinar featuring the Clean Water Coalition.
Oregon Invasive Species Council, Virtual Meeting: June 2, 12:30-4:30
Due to the pandemic, the meeting will be held virtually instead of taking place in Central Oregon. Minutes from prior meetings are available at the website.
Of Other Interest to Districts
Steamline is an entity providing support for websites, remote virtual meetings and other resources for local governments.
Several of our districts have recently been involved in their Zoom webinars to learn management techniques in running virtual meetings (at no charge). You can sign up for webinars at their site. You can see the archived Oregon section of their presentations here. Contact Maria Lara at (916) 900-6619 direct or firstname.lastname@example.org.
BLM Final Wildfire Plan The Bureau of Land management has finalized a plan to construct up to 11,000 miles of fuel breaks to control wildfire on federal land in six Western states, including Oregon. Local BLM offices will use a variety of methods, including prescribed burning, mechanical removal, chemical treatment, seeding, mowing and targeted grazing to remove trees and plants that could fuel wildfires along roads and rights of way. This will be particularly helpful in the protection of sage grouse habitat.