Winter Update

March 24, 2023


Arnold Irrigation District has begun preparation for fall construction of 3 miles of piping on Phase 1. A “Work Zone” has been staked out and trees within it are marked for removal.

Phase 1 of the project is the least densely populated with 28 properties, and yet almost 400 large Ponderosa Pines and other trees are marked (pink spray paint) for cutting by next fall. Phases 2, 4 and 4 will affect almost 400 properties, many of them facing destruction of their entire back yards.

Phases 2, 3 and 4 also have many more trees that will be at risk if the project is allowed to move forward according to current plans. Likewise, if the current method of choosing which trees to cut is followed, it’s likely that several thousand trees will be lost forever. There will be a large impact on the carbon offset, climate change, and wildlife if this mass destruction of the oldest trees is allowed to happen. Even guidance1 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, of which NRCS is a part, seeks to preserve large trees by maintaining all remnant late and old trees greater than 21 inches in diameter.

Here’s a video that shows only a small fraction of the number of trees marked in Phase 1 to give you a better understanding and the magnitude of this project and the impending consequences: 400 Trees are on Death Row in Phase 1 by Adam Brown

1 USDA Forest Plans Amendment, Forest Management Direction for Large Diameter Trees in Eastern Oregon and Southeastern Washington, January 2021.

Legal Action

SAC, as a non-profit organization, and three individual board members are named in the complaint that was filed against both Arnold Irrigation District and the federal Natural Resources Conservation Service in the late summer. (read the final complaint here)

There has been a bit of back-and-forth with AID’s attorney and ours, Brian Sheets (BRS-Legal, of Ontario, Oregon), since the complaint was filed with the upshot being that AID has filed a motion with the court to dismiss SAC as a plaintiff in the case against them, leaving only the individually named plaintiffs in the complaint. We have argued aggressively against this motion and now await the court’s decision. If this motion-to-dismiss is granted by the court, SAC’s position as a plaintiff in the federal portions of the complaint (the lawsuit against the NRCS) will remain in place. The court has 60-days from March 10th to rule on the matter.

Here’s a timeline of the arguments presented in US Federal District Court, Oregon Division, Eugene:

9-28-2022 SAC Complaint
1-27-23 SAC Amended Complaint
2-8-23 Federal Response to the Complaint
2-10-23 AID Motion to Dismiss
2-24-23 SAC Response to Motion to Dismiss
3-10-23 AID Motion to Dismiss

The resolution to this motion-to-dismiss will guide SAC’s next legal-action steps, especially as it relates to AID’s current activities in Phase 1 of the project—namely the marking of trees for removal ahead of piping. While AID District Manager Steve Johnson has spent a lot of time claiming that he and AID would be working with individual property owners to limit the amount of trees removed as much as possible the reality on the ground is that every single tree within an arbitrarily set swath has been marked for elimination in Phase 1. One property owner walked the entirety of Phase 1 and counted 383 trees market for removal, with over half of those being larger than 21-inches in diameter. As indicated in the photos and video, this is just the beginning of a vast amount of needless destruction that will occur unless we prevail in forcing a stop to the project as it’s currently proposed.

There are better ways to serve AID’s patrons and residents along the Arnold main canal while also supporting conservation efforts and farmers, and we are continuing to work hard to advocate for those more collaborative, less harmful solutions.

Thank you for your continued attention to this issue and your patience with the process.

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