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Economic Development Challenges

Clatsop, Tillamook and Western Washington counties have long depended on traditional Oregon industries of forestry, logging, farming and commercial fisheries to sustain economic vitality and livelihoods. However, over the past two decades or more, logging and commercial fishing have declined amid federal regulations and global market forces. At the same time, other industries have sustained substantial growth, including forest products, food processing, healthcare and tourism.

Also, over the last two decades, Oregon’s population has risen sharply, with statistics showing the state consistently in the top 5 places where people choose to live. Coupled with the fact that the Oregon Coast is a popular retirement location and second-home vacation area, pressure is being placed on the availability and affordability of housing for the workforce that supports the growing industries.

Employers are doubly challenged. While Clatsop and Tillamook Bay community colleges are stepping forward with customized training programs to meet the needs of the growing industries, the workforce situation is immediate – good paying jobs are going unfilled. Yet without available housing, companies can’t find or retain skilled workers. Hospitals and schools are short-handed. Businesses must limit hours because they don’t have the needed employees to cover shifts.

This workforce/housing issue is threatening local economies and communities. In Tillamook County we took advantage of SB 1533, which allows a county to impose a 1 percent construction excise tax on new building and remodel permits. The tax would have allowed us to hire a Housing Coordinator who would have worked with the NW Oregon Housing Authority and the Community Action Team to provide incentives to developers willing to provide workforce housing.

The Tillamook County voters did not approve the 1 percent tax. We are continuing our effort to find solutions. We have instructed our planning department to find land suitable for workforce housing and finding ways to streamline the permitting process.

As a Legislator I would look for customized training and additional programs to encourage subsided workforce housing.

Off Shore Drilling

The Trump administration has plans that would open up 90 percent of the country’s outer continental shelf to oil and gas leasing, including an area off the coast of Oregon and Washington.

Fortunately Oregon and Washington’s outer continental shelf is not considered to be a rich source of offshore fossil fuel. One lease sale was held in 1964 for the Northwest area. Twelve exploratory wells were drilled, with no commercial discoveries. There are no existing leases and there haven’t been any federal lease sales off the California, Oregon or Washington coasts since 1984.

The current Obama era federal plan put 94 percent of the outer continental shelf off limits to oil and gas drilling. Trumps plan amounts to a 180 degree shift in policy and has the potential of being very damaging to our coastal economies including the northwest fishing industry during a time when we need to be developing new sources of energy that are not carbon-based.

We need to work closely with our federal delegation to insure that Trumps outer continental shelf proposed oil and gas leasing policy is not enacted.

Healthy Forests

Forest fires will never be eliminated; however prescribed burn emissions are far less toxic than wildfires. Roughly 25% of the sequestered carbon within the timber resource is released during a wildfire. The other 75% of the sequestered carbon is released over the following years as the resource decays.

Over $400 million dollars were used in fighting Oregon fires in 2017 alone. These costs increase every year. Utilizing prescribed burns on our Federal Forest Lands would help produce more resilient forests while assisting in mitigating life threatening smoke and protecting habitat, residents, property, the environment, industry and our communities.

Healthy forests soak up a good share of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Helping forests act as “carbon sinks” long into the future will require thinning out young trees, clearing brush in parts of the forest and utilizing controlled burning in our federal forests. The remaining trees draw a greater share of the available moisture and sunlight, so they grow and thrive, restoring the forest’s capacity to pull carbon from the air.

The result is healthy, disease resistant trees that are better able to fend off bark beetles. The landscape is rendered less combustible. Even in the event of a fire, fewer trees are consumed.

Woody material removed from the forest is locked away in the form of solid lumber or is burned as biofuel in vehicles that would otherwise run on fossil fuels.

Our Federal Forest Partners need to understand the vital part forests play in storing carbon.

 

 

Rural Airports

Recently the Oregon Department of Aviation (ODA) Board approved the Critical Oregon Airport Relief Program (COAR) grant requests. There was a total of $6 Million in requests – including the Astoria Regional Airport.  There were three Oregon airport categories applying for the $2 million that was available. Category two and three airports did not receive any grant funding.  Even within the category one airports, there was not enough grant funds available to meet all of their needs.  Two category one airport grant requests were not funded. Fortunately, the Astoria Regional Airport request was granted.

There is no other available funding source for these airports now that there is no Connect Oregon grant dollars for the foreseeable future. If programs such as Connect Oregon are not reinstated, all Oregon airports would be impacted. 

The Astoria Regional Airport in Warrenton has an estimated $20 million in deferred maintenance right now. Most airports are eligible for FAA grants for runway projects that often run into the millions and require a ten percent match. With the Connect Oregon grant program no longer available, the ten percent matches are not feasible. With COAR grants now being the only grant source, Oregon’s rural airports are in deep trouble.

The Legislature needs to refund the Connect Oregon grant program. Oregon’s rural airports are an economic lifeline. If elected, funding Connect Oregon will be one of my highest priorities.

Timber Policy

Many sawmills have closed throughout Oregon due to policy changes and seemingly endless litigation surrounding what are arguably already some of the healthiest, most productive, and most sustainably managed forest in the world. Our forests are being managed in an environmentally responsible manner. If we curtail the harvest of our timber, we will need to purchase logs from countries that don’t have the same level of environmental protections that we do.

The average wage of Oregon’s sawmills is about $24 per hour or about $50,000 a year, which is far above the average wage in Oregon’s rural communities and double that of the average recreation and tourism sector job. Wood manufacturing also creates opportunities for career development in the trades through in-house electrical, millwright, mechanical and leadership training.

These jobs are still incredibly important to rural counties. To use Clatsop County as an example, the forest industry accounts for 30 percent of the economic base in the county, and 12 percent of the employment, all while providing for a multitude of recreation activities and excellent water quality and wildlife habitat.

Clatsop County and the county taxing districts have recently received $20 million in annual direct revenue from the Clatsop State Forest. If harvest levels drop consistent with those that preceded the Elliott State Forest’s insolvency, rural education, health services and public safety will be greatly diminished along with overall economic resilience in the county.

Healthy Forests

Forest fires will never be eliminated; however prescribed burn emissions are far less toxic than wildfires. Roughly 25% of the sequestered carbon within the timber resource is released during a wildfire. The other 75% of the sequestered carbon is released over the following years as the resource decays.

Over $400 million dollars were used in fighting Oregon fires in 2017 alone. These costs increase every year. Utilizing prescribed burns on our Federal Forest Lands would help produce more resilient forests while assisting in mitigating life threatening smoke and protecting habitat, residents, property, the environment, industry and our communities.

Healthy forests soak up a good share of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Helping forests act as “carbon sinks” long into the future will require thinning out young trees, clearing brush in parts of the forest and utilizing controlled burning in our federal forests. The remaining trees draw a greater share of the available moisture and sunlight, so they grow and thrive, restoring the forest’s capacity to pull carbon from the air.

The result is healthy, disease resistant trees that are better able to fend off bark beetles. The landscape is rendered less combustible. Even in the event of a fire, fewer trees are consumed.

Woody material removed from the forest is locked away in the form of solid lumber or is burned as biofuel in vehicles that would otherwise run on fossil fuels.

Our Federal Forest Partners need to understand the vital part forests play in storing carbon.