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Wetlands bill—action needed today

The Wetlands Conservancy. by Mike Annes

Wetlands need your help—here’s how to take action

ACTION ALERT – HB 2436B Headed to House Floor. Oregon’s wetlands and waters need your help!

ACTION NEEDED: Please contact your state legislators TODAY and urge them to oppose HB 2436B. Communication with your Representative should be the first priority because the house floor vote is TOMORROW (Tuesday) at 10 am.

COLT ‘s Government Relations Committee voted to oppose House Bill 2436B because it undermines existing protections for wetlands and gives the Director of the Department of State Lands (DSL) egregious power and deference to grant dredge and fill permits in a manner inconsistent with the public interest. In a back door attempt to roll back laws that have been in place for 40 years to protect Oregon’s wetlands, estuaries, rivers, and streams, recent amendments introduced without public process have made a bad bill even worse.

Suggested Talking Points: Please urge your representative to:

  • — Oppose HB 2436B.
  • — Stand strong behind the existing law, which has been in place for 40 years.
  • — Act as stewards of natural resources instead of allowing bills that fast track their destruction.
  • — Show they are serious about combating climate change by upholding existing laws that safeguard carbon-sequestering wetlands critical to Oregon’s climate change resiliency.
  • — Stand up for the tribal communities and endangered species that must be consulted under existing federal laws.

More about HB 2436B: Most development projects that affect the waters of the state require a removal-fill permit from the Department of State Lands. Current law requires DSL to make findings that the public need for a project affecting wetlands, estuaries, and streams outweighs the harm from the loss of wetlands or other water resources that the fill/removal permit would cause. In making this determination, DSL must make findings specific to a number of standards. The -10 amendments to HB 2436 introduced last week would upend this process by allowing DSL to issue a permit no matter what they found under required standards.  DSL could ignore information about harm that they currently would have to consider when making a final decision on a permit application. This bill will affect DSL decisions on all kinds of developments that affect Oregon’s waters, including but not limited to mining, liquid natural gas pipelines, agriculture, urban development – the list goes on.

Furthermore, the bill will eat up crucial state resources by directing DSL and a raft of other state agencies to prepare a “proposal, including recommendations for legislation to be introduced during the 2020 regular session of the Legislative Assembly, for partial assumption by the department of the authority to administer permits for the discharge of dredge or fill materials under section 404 of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act [AKA Clean Water Act]….” Assumption of federal permitting authorities would likely lead to less consideration of a permit’s effects on tribal communities and endangered species, nixing the protections provided by consultation under federal law. In combination with the DSL Director’s newly created discretion for permit approval, the likely negative impacts on Oregon’s communities, wetlands, waters, and species will be tremendous.

Please contact us if you have any questions about this bill or the larger legal landscape that it alters.

Kelley Beamer, Executive Director and Gordon Levitt, Legislative Coordinator

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