The Blue Mountain eagle. (John Day, Or.) 1972-current, February 07, 2018, Page A10, Image 10

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Blue Mountain Eagle
Wednesday, February 7, 2018
Oregon lawmakers weigh in on
need to bridge digital divide
Letter requests
$40B for
By George Plaven
EO Media Group
Members of Oregon’s
congressional delegation are
joining the call to close the
so-called “digital divide,”
extending high-speed inter-
net access to citizens in rural
parts of the U.S.
Democratic Sen. Ron
Wyden joined 16 colleagues
from across the country in
sending a letter last week to
President Donald Trump, re-
questing at least $40 billion
in infrastructure spending
for rural broadband develop-
“In an increasingly inter-
connected world and global
economy, we must include in
our discussion of infrastruc-
ture not just roads, bridg-
es and waterways, but also
high-speed internet access,”
the letter states.
According to the Federal
Communications Commis-
sion, 39 percent of Ameri-
cans who live in rural areas,
or roughly 23 million people,
lack high-speed internet ac-
cess, versus just 4 percent of
Americans in urban areas.
“While the vast majority
of Americans have access
to high-speed internet ser-
vice, there is a stark dispar-
ity between urban and rural
America,” the letter contin-
ues. “This digital divide puts
many rural Americans at risk
of being left out of critical
technological advancements
and economic gain.”
Oregon’s lone Republican
congressman, Greg Walden,
has also honed in on the dig-
Contributed photos
Sen. Ron Wyden
Rep. Greg Walden
ital divide, leading a hearing
on broadband solutions last
week in Washington, D.C.
Walden, who is chairman
of the House Energy and
Commerce Committee, rep-
resents most of rural eastern,
central and southern Oregon.
He stressed the need to re-
duce what he described as
“unnecessary roadblocks”
to siting new broadband in
rural areas, saying the envi-
ronmental review process to
build on federal lands is es-
pecially burdensome.
“I run into this issue all
the time on siting,” Walden
said. “We’re trying to get
broadband out there, and
we’re trying to get three-
phased power in some of our
communities that have wait-
ed three years to get an (envi-
ronmental impact statement)
to get four power poles on
BLM land. So I think there
is an issue here with siting.”
Closing the digital divide
has made headlines early in
2018 after Trump signed a
pair of executive orders in
January to cut red tape for
rural broadband deploy-
ment. Both orders are in-
tended to make it easier for
private companies to build
broadband infrastructure,
such as radio towers, on
federal property.
A coalition aimed at
bridging the digital divide,
called Connect Americans
Now, also launched in Janu-
ary and is focusing on new
technologies to deliver high-
speed internet in rural Amer-
ica. Specifically, the group is
pressuring the FCC to make
TV “white spaces” available
as part of the solution.
When asked about TV
white spaces, Walden said
he thinks they could be har-
nessed by internet providers,
but he wants to make sure
they do not interfere with ex-
isting users.
“You don’t want to create
unintended consequences,”
Walden said.
Last year, the National
Association of Broadcast-
ers opposed TV white space
technology under develop-
ment by Microsoft, saying
it would threaten millions of
viewers with loss of TV pro-
Both the Oregon Farm
Bureau and Oregon Cat-
tlemen’s Association have
joined the Connect Ameri-
cans Now coalition, saying
internet is crucial for farmers
and ranchers to use precision
farming tools and remain
competitive in the market.
A General Practice Law Firm
• Wills, Trusts, and Estates
• Divorce and Family Law
• Contracts, Real Estate, Business
• Personal Injury
• Criminal Defense
Born and raised in John Day, Attorney Donald Molnar is
honored to return home and serve the residents of Grant
County. Mr. Molnar is a graduate of Grant Union High School,
Lewis and Clark College, and Lewis and Clark Law School.
He has been an attorney in private practice since 2005.
The Law Office of Donald J. Molnar
118 S. Washington Street, Canyon City, OR 97820
Telephone: (541) 620-5127 •
A Bell Huey helicopter hired by the Grant Soil & Water Conservation District sprayed
weeds on 7,776 acres in the district since 2014.
Conserving water and
soil, protecting habitat
By Richard Hanners
Blue Mountain Eagle
Protecting water quality
and habitat for threatened or
endangered species is part of
the mission of the Grant Soil
&Water Conservation Dis-
trict, the Grant County Court
learned from District Man-
ager Jason Kehrberg Jan. 24.
Kehrberg thanked the court
for its support as he present-
ed an update of past activities
and future plans.
Established in 1956, the
Grant Soil &Water Conser-
vation District operates un-
der the state Department of
Agriculture with no taxing or
regulatory authority. It pro-
vides technical, financial and
educational resources to assist
landowners conserve soil, wa-
ter and related resources.
The district’s 4,031-square
mile service area is divided
into three zones and encom-
passes 89 percent of Grant
County, of which 60 percent
is public land. The district’s
staff of 10 includes engineers,
technicians and a program as-
sistant to handle the numerous
grants it depends on, along
with two full-time and two
part-time workers in the weed
The district’s mission is
divided into four primary
programs — rural landowner
risk management; landowner
conservation clearing house
for financial, technical and
education assistance; noxious
weed control; and the federal
Conservation Reserve En-
hancement Program to help
landowners protect riparian
habitat by fencing, replanting
riparian areas, weed control
and alternative livestock wa-
ter storage. The district re-
ceived $28.6 million in fund-
ing for these four programs
over the past 15 years.
“I expect to get more
CREP money in the future,”
Kehrberg told the court.
In 2017, the district re-
ceived $1.7 million in funding
from 12 sources, including
Grant County and various
state and federal agencies. A
quarter of its funding came
from the Oregon Watershed
After a concrete diversion dam was removed from Beech
Creek, the naturally flowing stream no longer blocked
fish passage, but the irrigation headgate remained.
Enhancement Board. The
Bonneville Power Adminis-
tration was the second largest
source, providing 18 percent.
Landowners provided 7 per-
cent, and Grant County pro-
vided 5 percent.
Weed control
The district’s weed con-
trol program alone received
$2.5 million in funding from
2011 to 2017. That includ-
ed $610,821 from the Grant
County Road Department
and $905,205 from the Title
II Secure Rural Schools pro-
gram. During that time, 6,613
acres of roadway and ease-
ments received bare-ground
weed-control treatment in
Grant County and a small por-
tion of Wheeler County.
A total of 9,129 acres were
treated by the district for
noxious weeds from 2013 to
2017, including 2,493 private
acres. Another 7,776 acres
was treated since 2014 using
a Bell Huey helicopter. Dis-
trict staff also average 10 to
15 biological-control releases
per year.
“If left untreated, we could
be seeing $84 million in state-
wide impacts per year, based
on the top 25 weeds alone out
of 128 on the list,” said Matt
Wenick, the district’s nox-
ious weed program coordi-
nator. “Every dollar invested
in weed control gives a $34
Noxious weed infestations
often can be human-caused,
Wenick noted — spread by
contaminated seeds used by
ranchers to seed rangeland,
contaminated hay eaten by
livestock, or contaminated
gravel used on roadways.
“We have no regulatory
tool to prevent theses types of
infestations,” Wenick said.
Wenick said plans have
been made for weed control
in the wilderness areas. The
district, which began weed
spraying on the Malheur Na-
tional Forest in 2016, works
with Forest Service botanists
and invasive-species manag-
ers in developing projects,
Wenick said.
In related work, the dis-
trict has treated 6,320 acres
of juniper and seeded 2,264
acres of private rangeland.
A total of 137,800 pounds of
seed was used to restore 4,100
acres of private land burned
by the Canyon Creek Com-
plex fire.
The district provided de-
tailed maps and data to the
incident commander during
the fire to assist in planning
for access, evacuation and
deployment, Kehrberg said.
District staff also assist Grant
County’s Firewise program
by updating maps and sup-
porting fuel-reduction work
in the Pine Creek area.
In a collaborative effort
with a number of agencies, the
district has begun to restore
grass and protect aspen stands
in the Phillip Schneider Wild-
life Area near Dayville to pro-
vide wildlife habitat. This has
included about 7,000 acres of
seeding and 4,413 acres of
rangeland weed spraying.
Stream projects
As part of its mission to
protect fish in area streams,
the district enhances ripar-
ian habitat by fencing out
livestock and promotes fish
migration by improving irri-
gation diversions. The district
installs 20 to 30 miles of ri-
parian fence each year. It also
restored stream and floodplain
function to Alder Creek by re-
claiming a 25-acre wet mead-
“We used small impound-
ments to create this riparian
areas,” Kehrberg said.
To enhance local fisher-
ies, irrigation infrastructure
that present a barrier to fish
migration are replaced with
flash-board or rock-riffle di-
versions. In the Berry Creek
drainage east of Canyon
Creek, four adjacent diver-
sions were consolidated into
one connected to a pump sta-
“We’ve done several of
these,” Kehrberg said.
The district also has in-
stalled an alternative live-
stock-watering system in
Logan Valley that included
3.5 miles of pipeline to 20
troughs. Solar-powered pump
systems for livestock have
been installed in the McClel-
lan Creek and Izee areas.
Kehrberg said district staff
must deal with difficult legal
hurdles at times when making
changes to streams, including
water rights claims and the
Endangered Species Act.
Monitoring the success
of stream improvements can
be difficult and require addi-
tional funding, Kehrberg said
— especially when monitor-
ing fish. Gage stations can be
set up in streams to measure
streamflow, or vegetation
growth can be measured with
LIDAR — an advanced aerial
surveying method that uses la-
sers instead of radar.
Using LIDAR on a three-
mile long section of the main
stem of the John Day River
upstream from Prairie City, the
district found that vegetation
volume increased 188 percent
from 2004 to 2017 following
riparian restoration work.
2018, the district plans to
spend $183,000 on two irri-
gation diversions, $74,000
on maintaining eight diver-
sions, $205,000 restoring
natural streamflow in Big
Creek impacted by mine tail-
ings, $450,000 installing 30
miles of riparian fencing and
$198,000 on four livestock
watering systems. The dis-
trict also plans to spend about
$450,000 on the first year of
a five-year juniper thinning