Closed Mill Not Eager to Give Up Water Rights
Byline: LARRY BACON The Register-Guard
DUNES CITY - With or without a working mill, International Paper Co. has decided it's not interested in giving up its water rights to Siltcoos and Tahkenitch lakes.
"It's not looking like a negotiated settlement will happen," Dwight French, manager of the state Water Resources Department's water rights section, said.
International Paper was challenged earlier this year in its attempt to obtain permanent rights to store and withdraw a large volume of water from the two lakes. The company maintains dams on the outlets for the lakes and has held permits to use the water since 1960 for its paper mill operations at Gardiner.
The mill shut down in late 1998 and shows no signs of reopening, but IP has continued to regulate the lake levels. Several years ago, IP began paperwork to convert its water rights permits to certificates that would make the rights permanent. That would allow the company to sell them or gain tax advantages by donating them to a public entity.
The certificates were tentatively granted in February, but then several parties - including Siltcoos Lake residents, Dunes City officials and WaterWatch of Oregon - learned of the application and appealed the certificates' issuance.
The challenge gives Water Resources Department director Paul Cleary the right to schedule a hearing or rule on the matter without a hearing. However, department officials had said they hoped a negotiated settlement could avert a hearing and end the legal process.
IP officials earlier said they might be willing to negotiate. But in a letter to French earlier this month, the company said it sees no need for a hearing and believes that Cleary should move ahead with confirming the certificates. …