News Briefs: Field Fire: Phase Out or Full Stop | EWEB Eyes Steam Plant Shutdown | Will Fish Get Passage on EWEB Dam? | Looking for 7 Dimensions | SOA Watch Founder Here | Activist Alert | War Dead | Lane Area Herbicide Spray Schedule |
Slant: Short opinion pieces and rumor-chasing notes
A Tale of Two Conventions
One was a block party. One was an angry country club. Neither was great for free speech
Happening Person: Bev Soasey
FIELD FIRE: PHASE OUT OR FULL STOP?
Gov. Ted Kulongoski’s field burning phase-out plan was unveiled to Lane County commissioners in Eugene last week, but there’s no way to know whether that plan will make it through this legislative session. Rep. Paul Holvey’s bill to end field burning died in committee last year, and many of those affected by field burning smoke want an end to the burning, not yet another phase out.
|Stephanie Jorgensen, mother of a 1- and 3-year-old, took this photo in her backyard.|
“It’s time to stop playing politics with public health,” says attorney Charlie Tebbutt of Western Environmental Law Center in Eugene. Tebbutt says WELC will “continue to ask the Oregon Environmental Quality Commission (EQC) to do the right thing in case the Legislature doesn’t.” WELC’s Campaign to End Field Burning has received complaints not only from people in the Eugene/Springfield area, but from folks in the rural areas that are “sacrifice zones” for the smoke on field burning days.
Last year, the commissioners demanded that the EQC put an emergency ban on field burning, but the EQC didn’t ban the burn. “I don’t agree with their basic position that they don’t have the power to do this,” says Commissioner Pete Sorenson. The members of the EQC are appointed by the governor.
Holvey still intends to introduce his own bill that would put an immediate end to field burning. Sorenson points out that Kulongoski’s plan is a “two legislative session phase down,” and that if the plan were to be enacted in the 2009 session, it could be un-enacted by the 2011 session.
Kulongoski’s bill could also be defeated by a so-called “poison pill,” says Sorenson, if the bill includes a plan for a study of all smoke in the state of Oregon. The “poison pill” is “intended to rile up other interests and kill the phase down,” he says.
Grass seed farmers say there is no market for their grass seed straw, leaving no alternative but to burn the fields, but there has been an increase in forage prices and the beginnings of a demand for straw for cellulosic ethanol. The Oregon Grass Seed Council, which represents the farmers, is working on a collaborative project to determine other uses for the straw, including using the straw as a construction material.
Tebbutt says, “2008 should be the last time you’ll ever see a field burn.” — Camilla Mortensen
EWEB EYES STEAM PLANT SHUTDOWN
Eugene Water & Electric Board is building operations facilities across town and will eventually sell off part of its excess riverfront land, including its aging, gas-fired steam plant. Closing the plant will force some 78 longtime customers to find an alternative source of space heat and hot water.
EWEB staff met with commissioners Sept. 2 to outline a possible timeline for decommissioning the plant, look at the impact on EWEB steam customers and the community and examine the environmental issues involved. Miles of underground pipes, some with asbestos, need to be considered, according to Commissioner Bob Cassidy.
A draft board policy is on the commissioners’ agenda Sept. 16. The policy says the shutdown is proposed due to the recent increase in the cost of natural gas, an eroding customer base and the high cost that would be required to upgrade and maintain the aging plant. EWEB had 109 steam customers in 1990, and several of the current 78 are looking at switching to other fuels for heating and hot water.
In late August, according to an EWEB memo, a private company called MidTech Energy voiced interest in buying the steam plant and converting it to a bio-fuel operation. The plant was originally built to operate on sawdust and other mill waste. Meanwhile, the future of the steam plant site is being discussed in meetings of the Citizens Advisory Team appointed to develop recommendations for EWEB’s riverfront property.
An EWEB survey of its current steam customers indicated the average size of the buildings served is 36,682 sq. ft., the average age of the buildings is 60 years and the average floor area served by steam is 86 percent. Many steam customers do not have a backup source for heating. — Ted Taylor
WILL FISH GET PASSAGE ON EWEB DAM?
It’s an old question in Oregon: What comes first? The electricity or the fish? And EWEB is facing that issue right now as it seeks to produce electricity while also supporting threatened fish species. EWEB’s Smith Dam does not have a fish ladder, and the utility has applied for a waiver to avoid building one. EWEB is seeking comments on that proposal until Sept. 19.
Oregon’s threatened spring Chinook salmon and cutthroat trout populations were here first, but when with hydropower, there’s a balance between the dams that provide the electricity that turns on the toasters of thousands of Eugeneans in the morning and the fish that swim in the McKenzie and Willamette rivers. Power-producing and flood-controlling dams along Oregon’s rivers prevent fish from moving upriver to spawn in the areas they historically reproduced, unless means for fish passage were put into place when the dams were constructed or added later. None of EWEB’s hydropower dams were constructed with fish passage facilities.
EWEB is going through a relicensing process for the Carmen-Smith Hydroelectric Project. The original license is from 1958 and it expires on Nov. 30. While the Army Corps of Engineers is the dominant damming force in the U.S., EWEB’s dams in the region include three dams: Trail Bridge Dam and Carmen Diversion Dam located on the upper McKenzie River and Smith Dam on the Smith River.
EWEB has proposed mitigation efforts such as adding gravel for spawning habitat and adding woody debris (putting trees in the river) to protect available habitat. The efforts would also include improving flow management and adding a turbine bypass for the fish at Carmen Power Plant. Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) has made an “initial determination” that if EWEB made these improvements, it would provide a “net benefit to migratory fish” compared to building a fish ladder to allow the fish to pass the Carmen-Smith Dam.
Comments are being taken until Sept. 19. The proposal can be downloaded from the ODFW website at www.dfw.state.or.us/news/2008/august/082908.asp and comments can be submitted in writing at Ken Homolka at ODFW, 3406 Cherry Avenue NE, Salem, 97303, or by email to Ken.Homoka@state.or.us — Camilla Mortensen
LOOKING FOR 7 DIMENSIONS
|Large Hadron Collider (LHC)|
It’s common in physics that experiments predict the existence of previously unknown particles, and that those predictions are later confirmed by more experiments, says Jim Brau, Knight professor of natural science at the UO.
When the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) — which opened near Geneva, Switzerland Sept. 10 — smashes together beams of subatomic particles called protons, another particle scientists expect to see resulting from the collisions is the Higgs Boson, an experimentally predicted particle that gives matter its mass.
Brau and fellow UO physics professors Graham Kribs and Eric Torrence will discuss their work with the LHC in a free public lecture at 7 pm, Sept. 12 at 150 Columbia Hall on the UO campus.
The LHC is an underground tube forming a circle approximately 17 miles around. Inside the tube, two beams of protons are smashed together with a combined force of 14 teraelectronvolts. This is about seven times more powerful than the LHC’s precursor, the Tevatron at Fermilab in Batavia, Ill.
About six million interactions happen each second during the LHC’s collisions. Brau and others at the UO are developing a computer program that will help the LHC’s computer focus on the most important of those interactions.
Brau said the LHC is also expected to aid in finding how the weak nuclear force, which is involved in radioactive decay, is related to electricity and magnetism — just as electricity and magnetism, once thought to be separate, were found to be closely related about 150 years ago.
“Ultimately, the goal of physics is to see if we can’t unify all forces into a single description,” says Brau.
String theorists are trying to create a single set of laws that explain the universe. Currently, they predict that the universe is actually 10-dimensional but say that only three of those dimensions fully expanded after the Big Bang. Perhaps the other seven could be seen in the LHC, Brau says.
Critics of the LHC brought a complaint against the project to the European Court of Human Rights, on the grounds they fear black holes created from the particle collisions would expand and suck the Earth inside out, as reported in U.K. newspaper The Daily Telegraph. A similar complaint seeking a court order against the operation of the machine was taken to a federal court in Hawaii, according to The New York Times. The Telegraph later reported that a MIT scientist involved in the project had received death threats from people concerned about the LHC’s safety, in spite of a report released earlier this month by the LHC Safety Assessment Group confirming the LHC is safe.
Brau said black holes produced in the LHC would be microscopic, not giant, and would disappear instantly. He said such black holes are not dangerous because the Earth is constantly bombarded by cosmic rays equivalent to the LHC and because black holes inside the LHC would happen in a controlled environment. — Eva Sylwester
SOA WATCH FOUNDER HERE
|Father Roy Bourgeois. Photo: Linda Panetta/www.opticalrealities.org|
Fr. Roy Bourgeois, founder of the SOA Watch, will speak in Oregon Sept. 15-17 about new efforts to stop more troops from attending the Pentagon’s School of the Americas (SOA), renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC).
Bourgeois will speak at 7 pm Monday, Sept. 15, at St. Andrew’s Catholic Church, 815 NE Alberta St., Portland; 7 pm Tuesday, Sept. 16, at the First United Methodist Church, 1376 Olive St., Eugene: and 4 pm Wednesday, Sept. 17, at Willamette University, Library Hatfield Room, Salem.
The title of his presentation will be “Grassroots Organizing for Peace and Justice in the Americas.”
The U.S. Army’s SOA/WHINSEC is a combat training school for Latin American soldiers, located at Fort Benning, Ga. Originally founded in Panama in 1946, the school was relocated shortly thereafter to the U.S. More than 60,000 troops have been trained at the school since it opened, focusing on counter-insurgency techniques, commando and psychological warfare, military intelligence and interrogation tactics, all of which is paid for by U.S. taxpayers. Graduates of the SOA/WHINSEC have been involved in every major human rights violation in Latin America. Victims have included educators, union organizers, religious workers, student leaders and leaders working for the rights of the poor.
Bourgeois will talk about the SOA Watch Latin America Project, which began in Venezuela in 2006 and has served to connect grassroots movements in Latin America and the U.S. The Latin America Project has been credited with Argentina, Uruguay and Venezuela no longer sending their soldiers to the SOA/WHINSEC. Presently, Nicaragua and El Salvador are reviewing whether or not they will continue sending troops to SOA/WHINSEC.
Local contact for the event is Scott Miksch, LASC coordinator. 485-8633 or email email@example.com
• A series of “Fireside Conversations On Global Warming” at the UO continues with Gabriel Eckstein speaking on “Climate Change Implications for Negotiating International Transboundary Water Agreements” at 5 pm Thursday, Sept. 11, at the Bowerman Center for Environmental Law in the UO’s law school at 15th and Agate. For more info, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 346-1395.
• Erik Peterson of the Army Corps of Engineers will speak on the impact of the 13 federal dams in the Willamette Basin on species listed under the Endangered Species Act. Peterson will address the Middle Fork Willamette Watershed Council which meets from 6:30 to 8:30 pm Wednesday, Sept. 17, at the ODF Building at 3150 East Main in Springfield.
• A gathering in support of Mayor Kitty Piercy is planned at 5:30 pm Friday, Sept. 19, at Tsunami Books, 2585 Willamette St. Refreshments and music are planned. RSVP to email@example.com or call 344-9933.
Since the U.S. invasion of Iraq began on March 20, 2003 (last week’s numbers in parentheses):
• 4,150 U.S. troops killed* (4,150)
• 30,636 U.S. troops injured* (30,636)
• 145 U.S. military suicides* (145)
• 314 coalition troops killed** (314)
• 1,123 U.S. contractors killed (accurate updates NA)
• 94,626 to 1.1 million civilians killed*** (94,562)
• $550.4 billion cost of war ($549.5 billion)
• $156.5 million cost to Eugene taxpayers ($156.2 million)
* through September 1, 2008; source: icasualties.org; some figures only updated monthly
** estimate; source: icasualties.org
*** highest estimate; source: iraqbodycount.org; based on confirmed media reports; other groups calculate civilian deaths as high as 655,000 to 1.1 million.
LANE AREA HERBICIDE SPRAY SCHEDULE
• Near Fox Hollow and Lorane Highway area: Transition Management Inc. (484-6706) will ground spray 71 acres with Triclopyr ester, glyphosate, Imazapyr, Metsulfuron/Sulfometuron plus Induce and Crop Oil adjuvants near Doak, and Preacher Creeks starting Sept. 16 (ODF Notification #50765), and 78 acres with the same chemicals on a nearby unit north of Fox Hollow Road and Lorane Highway starting Sept. 16 (#50766).
Call Robert Johnson at the Western Lane District Office of the Oregon Department of Forestry at 935-2283 for more information.
Compiled by Jan Wroncy, Forestland Dwellers: 342-8332, www.forestlanddwellers.org
• Ah, the Eugene Celebration is once more upon us, promising a lively good time downtown for all ages. It’s an election year, so expect lots of political statements and a few surprises in the big parade Saturday morning. Feeling politically scrappy but don’t have your own entry? One great thing about the Eugene parade is that folks can join in at the last minute or even crash some parade entries along the way. You might not want to put on a tutu and leap in among the dancing kiddies, and the guy with the crown of thorns carrying the cross might not want your help, but the Lane County Democrats will welcome you to march along with local and state candidates. Want to hook up with the Kitty Piercy entourage? Show up at 12th and High around 9 am or look for a flock of folks decked out in blue. The parade begins at 9:30 am at 11th and Pearl.
• Last week in this column we reported on rumors that our embattled police chief is looking for work in the Sacramento area, and sure enough, he’s applied for the chief’s job in Elk Grove, Calif., a fast-growing Republican-dominated city of 136,000 recently cobbled together from several small towns. Elk Grove has only had its own cop shop since 2006, so if Lehner gets the job he’ll be setting the tone for public safety and maybe even building the department. What he likely won’t be facing in Elk Grove is an entrenched and reactionary police union, a history of police violence and secrecy and a university community that demands transparency and justice. Regardless of where he ends up, we hope he’s learned a few things about accountability here in the Emerald City. Otherwise, he’ll end up directing traffic in Lodi.
• What’s up with Jim Torrey trying to revive half the West Eugene Parkway? He knows it can’t be done for a number of legal and practical reasons. We figure he’s just trying to keep the WEP alive as a campaign issue. Torrey keeps kicking this political football even though it deflated years ago. The freeway through federally protected wetlands would never have been built, and environmental obstacles involved both halves of the WEP. We need to thank Mayor Piercy for putting the WEP to rest, along with Mary O’Brien, Jack Roberts and others from both sides of the political divide, who form the West Eugene Collaborative, a much more productive process for dealing with traffic congestion in west Eugene. The collaboration would not have happened with the WEP still under discussion.
• And speaking of Piercy, we were happy to see the mayor joining others helping a city crew fill potholes last week. It’s a symbolic action showing that the city is making progress on street repairs, despite a lack of funds and a huge backlog of street work leftover from former Mayor Torrey’s eight years in office. Ironically, Torrey has made potholes a major campaign theme, and we hear rumors he’s going to have some kind of pothole entry in the Eugene Celebration Parade Saturday.
• Finding a parking space at the busy Oakway Center off Coburg Road is a bit like playing musical chairs — in hell. The new NikeStore that opened last week is adding to the congestion. We’re hearing rumors that some kind of parking structure is on the drawing boards. We do see bikes parked outside of Trader Joe’s and in the courtyard, so shoppers can pedal to Oakway by way of the DeFazio Bike Bridge and our bike path system. But it’s tricky competing with cars and SUVs in the parking lots. And Coburg Road is damned unfriendly for bikes and pedestrians.
• What do Hillary Clinton supporters think of Sarah Palin? We’ve been asking around and got a response from Eugene City Councilor Betty Taylor. “If this is an attempt to substitute Sarah Palin for Hillary Clinton, it is ridiculous — and insulting in the implication that one woman is as good as another,” she tells us. “Hillary’s attributes are experience, intelligence, knowledge and wisdom. I have heard nothing to indicate that the governor possesses any of these. She embodies the worst aspects of the Republican Party in her disregard for the environment and her lack of concern for peace and economic responsibility. The choice would be laughable if it weren’t potentially dangerous.”
Any other Hillary fans care to weigh in?
• The Internet and list servers are teeming with absurd made-up political statements that sound legitimate. Check out their accuracy at snopes.com. One letter making the rounds that appears to be real is from Wasilla, Alaska resident Anne Kilkenny talking about Sarah Palin, a friend of her family since 1992. The issues Kilkenny raises are likely to come up in the debates. For example, Kilkenny writes: “Sarah campaigned in Wasilla as a ‘fiscal conservative.’ During her six years as mayor, she increased general government expenditures by over 33 percent. During those same six years the amount of taxes collected by the city increased by 38 percent. The huge increases in tax revenues during her mayoral administration weren’t enough to fund everything on her wish list though, borrowed money was needed, too. She inherited a city with zero debt, but left it with indebtedness of over $22 million.” Google “Anne Kilkenny” to find the full letter.
• This week’s EW hits the streets on the anniversary of 9/11. It’s been a rough and exhausting last seven years for the U.S., and we suspect that was the intention of Osama bin Laden and the mostly Saudi hijackers who dreamed up and carried out the terrorist attacks. The hijackings and assaults were criminal acts by fanatics, but our heavy-handed military response has cost us dearly as a nation. We’ve squandered our soldiers’ limbs and lives, depleted our treasury, damaged our international reputation and economic clout, and created millions of enemies in the Muslim world. Oil companies, arms dealers and mercenaries have plundered us like pirates. This did not have to happen; under more enlighten leadership we could have survived 9/11 stronger and more united as a nation.
It’s obvious to anyone, liberal or conservative, who looks beyond the White House propaganda that our attack on Iraq was not in self defense. It was part of a larger strategy to pacify, liberate and stabilize the Muslim world, install more cooperative democratic governments, free up oil reserves for American use, and take some of the military pressure off Israel. The attacks on 9/11 provided an excuse to invade Afghanistan and overthrow the Taliban. The “success” in Afghanistan would be duplicated in Iraq, and then Iran and other Muslim nations would be intimidated into meek and peaceful cooperation. It was an arrogant scheme that defied logic, cultural understanding and the lessons of history. The plan was doomed to failure and as a nation we have ended up less secure from weapons of mass destruction than before 9/11. The recommendations of the 9/11 Commission have been largely ignored. And now McCain and Palin are eager to carry on the Bush and Cheney legacy of failure.
“I’ve always loved art,” says Bev Soasey, director of the Jacobs Gallery at the Hult Center. “When I was 5, I thought I would be a cartoonist.” Soasey came to Eugene in the early 1970s, after high school in Rogue River and a hitchhiking adventure in Europe. “Being in school was psychedelic,” she says. “I experimented with psychology, sociology and anthropology, as well as art.” She also got married, raised two sons and began exhibiting fiber art at the Opus 5 Gallery. When her marriage ended in ’87, Soasey studied graphic design at LCC. She interned at Funk and Associates, got hired and stayed on for 18 years. “I was ready for a change,” she says of her current two-year tenure at the Jacobs Gallery, a half-time job most of the year but full-time for the last month, leading up to the Mayor’s Art Show. For 20 years, Soasey has traveled to art workshops in foreign locales, gathering inspiration and materials for her unique mixed-media assemblages. An exhibit of brand-new work opens at the Opus6ix Gallery this Friday, Sept. 12, and runs through Oct. 26.