Soil, Water Conservation Tax Up for Vote

Article excerpt

Byline: Jack Moran The Register-Guard

When it comes time to cast your ballot for the November election, you might find yourself wondering, "What the heck is the East Lane Soil and Water Conservation District, and what does it want from me?"

The answer in short: The district exists to help landowners and other residents of Lane County protect soil and water quality throughout the upper Willamette River watershed.

What it wants from the average homeowner is $5 to $10 a year to expand its work.

Voters in November will decide a measure that would raise nearly $900,000 annually for the district, which encompasses all of Lane County between the crest of the Cascades and the peaks of the Coast Range.

The tax would cost the owner of a home assessed at $150,000 a total of $7.50 a year.

Creation of a permanent tax base would result in a substantial increase in the level of technical services offered by the district, which now has an annual operational budget of about $100,000.

The district relies solely on federal and state grants to conduct work aimed to enhance the watershed. The grant money can only be used on specific projects.

"We're somewhat constrained in what we can do, and we need local money to do local tasks," said Paul Reed, a rural Lane County landowner and farmer who serves on the district's board of directors.

"If you enjoy having clean water to drink, or you like to go swimming in a river or a lake and you want the water to be clean, or you want to have healthy fish in the streams, then you have a vested interest in protecting and enhancing the waters of the state."

District officials say they would use some of the tax funding to hire a district manager and three full-time staff members to oversee programs ranging from public outreach and education to wetland restoration, control of invasive weeds and management of agricultural water.

The district has not set a specific list of projects to be funded.

Some of the money generated by the tax measure would be distributed among four local watershed councils in the district for their own outreach and education programs. …