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County to Take Control?

Everyone has boundaries, and some of us get a little hot under the collar when those boundaries are pushed. Lane County doesn’t want so much to push Eugene and Springfield’s boundaries, as it wants to control all the lands around the cities. One of the things that could be affected is water quality.

At 7 pm Tuesday, March 13, at Harris Hall, Lane County will hold a public meeting on ordinance PA1281, which is an amendment allowing the county to take jurisdictional control of the lands that lie in between the UGB (urban growth boundary) and the metro boundary, says Planning Commissioner Lisa Arkin. 

The Board of Lane County Commissioners is planning a vote on the amendment despite the Lane County Planning Commission’s vote against changing the way the lands are controlled. 

County Planning Commissioner Dennis Sandow says, “The first thing the public should know is that this will shift decision-making authority from a collaboration between Eugene, Springfield and the county to solely Lane County.”

If this ordinance passes, 81 percent of Springfield’s drinking water would be under the county commissioners’ decision-making authority, Sandow says. The Springfield Utility Board (SUB) gets much of the water it supplies from wells located in these lands. Springfield has a drinking water protection plan; Lane County does not. 

“Lane County has no history or capability or knowledge of how to protect drinking water,” Sandow says.

An attempt by the county in 2010 to protect Eugene’s drinking water failed, and despite a recommendation by the Planning Commission to bring the water protection issue up again, the conservative board majority has failed to do so.

Arkin adds that residents should consider that often these lands get zoned for industrial, commercial or transportation uses, and the wells and the quality of water could be affected by changes in land use.

The changes in land use would be determined by the county commissioners. This could weaken Springfield citizens’ control over their drinking water, Sandow says. He says the county claims it will create an intergovernmental agreement with SUB to protect the water, but as of yet, no such agreement appears to exist. 

These boundary changes are all part of changes to the Eugene-Springfield Metropolitan Area General Plan. Later on, handing over control of the lands outside Eugene’s city limits to Lane County will also be voted on, as the Envision Eugene process wraps up.

Citizens can come give public comment to the commissioners before their vote on PA1281 at the March 13 Harris Hall meeting. For more information go to wkly.ws/13n