Slant: Short opinion pieces and rumor-chasing notes
Happening People: Awab Alrawe
EWEB LETS ARROWS FLY AT NUTRIA INFESTATION
EWEB is trying to rid its waterways of destructive nutria through lethal trapping along Waterville and Leaburg canals, live trapping in the Waterville pond, and the utility has successfully eradicated a number of the large semi-aquatic rodents by having them hunted by bow-and-arrow.
|photo courtesy of USFWS
Lyllian Breitenstein saw posted signs warning of the lethal traps near the waterways and became concerned that the traps could kill dogs or native wildlife like otters. “This is also not the way to control nutria. From what I have read, more will just take their place” Breitenstein says. She says a better way to control the non-native rats is by “making the canal a less attractive place for them to burrow” through methods such as vegetation control, increasing water levels in winter and decreasing levels in summer.
She says, “I realize nutria are not people’s favorite animal but it is not their fault that they were brought here and let go. Isn’t Eugene supposed to welcome diversity? Are any of us really native?”
Joe Harwood of EWEB says the utility originally planned to place the lethal traps below the waterline at the pond as well as the canals, and place warning signs in the area. But EWEB changed its mind, as the lethal traps potentially would be too dangerous to kids and pets. “You don’t want to hurt someone, or hurt someone’s pet that they’ve had for a long time,” says Harwood.
He says there are lethal traps in areas that are closed off to public access along the Leaburg and Walterville canals. The canals divert water from the McKenzie River to generate power at Walterville and Leaburg hydroelectric plants.
EWEB began the program to eliminate the nutria, according to Harwood, after a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission inspection noted burrowing tunnels in the banks of the power canals. The nutria’s tunnels can weaken banks and earthen dams, leading to potential failure. FERC ordered EWEB to repair the existing burrow damage and keep the embankments free of future damage.
According to EWEB memos, the utility hired Johnson Wildlife Services to manage the nutria, which are native to South America. ODFW classifies them as “unprotected nongame wildlife,” which means they can be trapped or shot. They cannot be relocated or released after trapping and must be euthanized.
EWEB commissioner Joann Ernst has looked into the nutria program and says, “It is horrible that we have to do this to an animal that never asked to be brought here. Having said this I think EWEB is doing what they have to do to meet regulations and keep reliable electricity in the most humane way possible.”
Harwood says in addition to the lethal traps in the non-public areas, live traps have been placed along Walterville pond. He says according to Oregon law, the traps must be checked every 48 hours. The pest management firm checks the traps at least every 24 hours, partly because there has been “a lot of mischief out there. Folks have been letting the nutria go.”
Breitenstein isn’t sure the traps are being checked often enough. She says she noticed one live trap “was tripped and several were partially under water on New Year’s Eve and nothing was touched or changed Saturday late morning.”
In addition to the live and lethal trapping, EWEB used an archer armed with a compound bow from early August through October to shoot nutria. Ernst says the firm determined the best way to kill the nutria was with bow and arrow, as shooting guns in the area was thought to be too dangerous.
The archer was assisted by a spotter who lit the rodents with a bright light. The archer and assistant went out “two to three nights per week for four hours,” Harwood says. “It was really successful.”
Harwood says between the trapping and the shooting, “we haven’t had any non-nutria kills.”
Ernst says in addition to the lethal methods, she met with EWEB’s environmental department to make sure prevention methods were also used to address the nutria problem. She says, “One suggestion I had was lining the sides with an impermeable material like screening. They were going to look into this and come up with other ideas.” — Camilla Mortensen
DOWNTOWN PROJECT TOURS THIS WEEK
The city of Eugene is hosting open houses and virtual walking tours of eight potential downtown projects this week. Some of these projects would potentially involve urban renewal district (URD) spending. City staff has recommended a renewal and expansion of limits on URD spending downtown.
The URD is controversial in that millions of dollars in future tax revenues that would normally go to support schools and other public services would be diverted to a fund that the city staff could use, or borrow against, to subsidize development. City voters in 2007 turned down Measure 20-134, a URD spending cap expansion that would have subsidized national chain stores downtown that would have competed with local businesses.
“Right now we are focusing on downtown revitalization projects,” says Laura Hammond of the city Planning & Development Department. “The council will be discussing tools to fund the projects at its Jan. 11 work session.”
The first of the two events this week was held Wednesday, Jan. 6. The second is from 6 to 8 pm Thursday, Jan. 7, at DIVA, 110 W. Broadway.
The open houses include a “virtual” walking tour of potential project sites and information stations where participants can learn more about the project details, job creation, costs and timing. The eight projects include LCC’s new downtown center, a new VA clinic, downtown safety improvements, business assistance and housing, an arts and entertainment district, the Beam development, green infrastructure and downtown parking improvements.
“We know that no single project will solve the challenges downtown all at once,” says city project manager Amanda Nobel Flannery in a press release. “But together, these projects could work to generate jobs and create an active downtown center that feels safe and welcoming for everyone. We are looking forward to hearing what people think.”
Feedback, in addition to the open houses, can be through www.vibranteugene.org The website has project descriptions, online surveys and an online community discussion board. — Ted Taylor
NEW LAWS GO INTO EFFECT THIS WEEK
Several new laws go into effect with the New Year, according to Oregon Sen. Bill Morrisette of Springfield, who sponsored some of the new legislation in the Senate.
• SB 734 requires private health insurers to cover up to $500 for the cost of tobacco use cessation programs for persons over 15 years of age. Options include counseling, medications, or a combination of both. Smoking is the leading cause of death in the U.S. and about 28 percent of teens smoke. “Insurance companies did not oppose this legislation because they realize it saves them and society money in the long run,” says Morrisette.
• SB 348 actually went into effect on July 1 and is called “Max’s Law,” named after Max Conrad, who suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) playing football at Waldport High School in 2001. “The law sets high school football standards that colleges and even the NFL are struggling to develop,” says Morrisette. “It requires school districts in Oregon to ensure that coaches receive training on recognizing symptoms of a concussion and how to seek proper medical treatment.” SB 381, a companion bill, went into effect Jan. 1 and addresses the lack of insurance benefit plan coverage for brain injuries and requires insurers to include coverage in their health plans.
• Morrisette sponsored SB 795 which requires persons under 16 to wear protective headgear when skateboarding, riding a scooter or using in-line skates.
• SB 528 bans most field burning in the Willamette Valley.
• SB 355, the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program, “is expected to have a big impact on health, by curbing prescription drug overdoses and illicit sale of prescription drugs, when it becomes fully implemented,” says Morrisette.
“It is also important to remind consumers of prescription drugs of major discounts available through past legislative action,” he says.
• The Oregon Board of Forestry meets at 8 am Jan. 7 in the Tillamook Room in Building C at ODF headquarters, 2600 State St. in Salem. The meeting is a workshop with a public advisory group to continue its review of an administrative rule that guides management of the state forests. More information at www.oregon.gov/odf/board/
• Political author David Swanson will speak about his new book Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union at 5:30 pm Thursday, Jan. 7, at Canyon Way Bookstore in Newport; and at 7 pm Friday, Jan. 8, at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Corvallis, 2945 NW Circle Blvd., in Corvallis. See http://davidswanson.org/book
• State lawmakers from Lane County will be discussing the February special session and answering questions on Ballot Measures 66 and 67 from 9:30 to 11:30 am Saturday, Jan. 9, at the Eugene City Council Chambers, 777 Pearl St. The public meeting will include Sens. Chris Edwards, Bill Morrisette and Floyd Prozanski; and Reps. Phil Barnhart, Terry Beyer, Paul Holvey, Val Hoyle and Nancy Nathanson.
• A Single-payer vigil and educational outreach will take place, 1 pm Sunday, Jan. 10, at the Eugene Public Library. “Scrap the health care deform bill and start over with single payer,” say organizers. Sponsored by Industrial Workers of the World and Health Care for All Oregon. Contact email@example.com
• Sociologist Scott Coltrane, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the UO, will talk about his research on fatherhood at noon Wednesday, Jan. 13, at the Erb Memorial Union Gumwood room on campus. Sponsored by the UO Center for the Study of Women in Society, the free event, “Men and Family Work: What’s Changing, What’s Not,” is part of a luncheon series.
• An academic analysis of President Obama’s first year in office is being planned in a series of talks at UO Jan. 13 and 15, March 4, April 9 and 29. All talks are at 7 pm at 110 Knight Law Center on campus, sponsored by the Wayne Morse Center and UO Political Science Department. On Jan. 13 the speaker will be Sidney Milkis, University of Virginia, on “Barack Obama, the Presidency, and the Enduring Quest for Reform.” Future speakers are Robin Jacobson, Leslie McCall,
David Cole and Mark Peterson.
• Eugene Rising Tide 2010 kickoff: “Confront the root causes of climate change and resource depletion,” at 7 pm Wednesday, Jan. 13, at Growers’ Market, 434 Willamette St. Free and open to the public. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
• Phone banking and canvassing for passage of Measures 66 & 67 continues. Contact Joy Marshall at email@example.com or Keith McAleer at (715) 864-1045. Stand for Children canvassing will meet at 10 am Monday, Jan. 18 (MLK Day), at Oregon Community Credit Union, 11th and Ferry in Eugene. Phone banking continues in late afternoon and evening shifts Jan. 19 and 20.
• In our Dec. 24 “Just Give It!” collection of worthy nonprofits, the Lane County Arts Council should have been just Lane Arts Council. The organization is not affiliated with Lane County government.
• Will ex-county commissioner Jerry Rust run for his old post now that Bill Fleenor has dropped out of the race? Rust held the West Lane position for 20 years starting in 1976 and was known as a strong environmental and social issues progressive, and a fiscal conservative. Rust is noncommittal at this point, but when we asked, he referred us to the Bard: “There is a tide in the affairs of men. Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune.” That particular bit of wisdom from Julius Caesar continues, “And we must take the current when it serves, or lose our ventures.” We’ll hang on a little longer and see if Rust decides to go with the flow and jump into the growing candidate pool, which includes Jay Bozievich, Tony McCown and Anselmo Villanueva.
• The UO unveiled its John E. Jaqua Academic Center for Student-Athletes this week. No one knows how much the glowing glass cube and its moat cost to build or how much workers were paid to build it — Phil Knight leased the land and paid for it, including its finer details like the “No food, no drink, no Beavers” icons on the walls that freshman guys are sure to guffaw over on their way to the café.
If the UO thinks that making the first floor of the athlete Taj Mahal available to the rest of campus will prevent other students and faculty from feeling a little bitter, then maybe it should take a look at some of the classrooms non-athletes are occupying. Students are crowded into spaces with not enough desks and 1980s-era technology, and learn from underpaid faculty and adjuncts. We Eugeneans love our Ducks (despite the Rose Bowl loss) but we’d love to see the rest of the university get more love as well.
Parking at the Taj is a whole other issue, and rumors are flying about faculty losing parking spaces, and the unfairness of athletes getting priority parking permits. Stay tuned.
• A decision on banning gas-powered boats on Waldo Lake is on the agenda of the Oregon State Marine Board at 9 am Thursday, Jan. 14, at the Portland Expo Center (see www.boatoregon.com) and we urge the board to approve the ban. Complex legal issues remain regarding which agency has the power to regulate boating on Waldo, but the legal squabbles are incidental to far greater concerns for protecting the lake’s unique and fragile purity. Older two-stroke engines can discharge as much as a third of their oil/gas mixture unburned into the water, according to the California Air Resources Board. A few drops of motor oil can contaminate thousands of gallons of water. Even relatively clean four-cycle outboard motors blow exhaust and hydrocarbons underwater. Fortunately, only a small percentage of Waldo boaters use outboard motors, so the damage has been negligible — so far. But motor usage can increase in the future, boats can capsize and spill fuel, and motors can fall off and sink to the bottom to ooze gallons of toxic gas and oil. Let’s take the next logical step and ban gas-powered motors for good on pristine Waldo Lake.
• The San Diego Taser case ruling before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is painfully familiar. A Coronado, Calif., police officer used a Taser to subdue an agitated man who was not physically threatening. The man was injured and won his lawsuit. This latest litigation should rein in Taser-happy cops, but reforming policies does not appear to be a priority for the Eugene City Council, Police Commission or EPD. Will it take a serious injury or death from a Taser, followed by a multi-million dollar lawsuit, to bring about policy changes?
• On a more upbeat note, we hear our free “I Saw You” ads were used in our Dec. 17 issue to locate a young woman who accidentally left a fat packet of cash at metalworker Margaret Weller’s booth at Holiday Market. Gotta love happy reunions and honest merchants. Our “Lost and Found” ads are also free.
• Wall Street mega-banks are looking back at a record year of profits in 2009, thanks to taxpayer bailouts and government guarantees, while small community-based banks are struggling along. What can we do as individuals to equal the playing field in 2010 and bolster our local economy? The Huffington Post last week had a suggestion. If you have a money market account, retirement fund or other kind of deposit in one of the greedy, corrupt Wall Street banks, move it to a local bank or credit union. Check out http://wkly.ws/2y to see how it works. The idea is inspired in part by the citizens rescuing a local bank in the holiday classic film It’s a Wonderful Life.
Born during the first Gulf War, UO freshman Awab Alrawe grew up in downtown Baghdad. “A kid in my school had a fight with the president’s nephew,” he recalls. “Four bodyguards came in and he disappeared forever.” Alrawe’s mother, a petroleum engineer, left her job when he, and then his sister Danya, were born. His father, a geologist, quit his job when his pay was cut to $3 a month in 1997. The family house had to be sold. “The war was a tough time. You never knew when you’d be killed,” says Alrawe. “I kept going to school. The worst year was 2006, maybe three days of school a week.” His mother returned to work at the petroleum ministry in ‘05, but death threats in ‘07 pushed the family to Syria, where Alrawe finished high school and discovered the Iraqi Student Project, a non-profit that puts Iraqi youth into U.S. colleges. “I worked with the project in Syria for a year,” he says. “We volunteered with the U.N., the Red Cross, the Red Crescent, many different activities.” In Eugene since September, Alrawe lives with host parents Mark Siemens and Jacquie Travis. “Next term I’ll take poli-sci, French, and Spanish,” he says. “I love languages. I’ll be teaching Arabic in language circles at the EMU.” (An earlier story on Alrawe and how to contribute to the Iraqi Student Project can be found in the EW online archives, Nov. 19, 2009.)