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Court discusses grasshopper control

Representation on LCDC considered

During the regular meeting of the Harney County Court on Oct. 5, Harney County Judge Steve Grasty provided an update regarding ongoing efforts to control the grasshopper population.

Paul Blom, an entomologist for the Oregon Department of Agriculture, and Harney County Farm Bureau President Thurston “Rusty” Inglis attended the June 22 county court meeting to discuss a major grasshopper outbreak around the Malheur Lake area in southern Harney County.

During that meeting, Blom explained that, “The scale of the current outbreak (so far surveyed in and around the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge) is of unusual magnitude and needs both an immediate response as well as planning for the following years.”

During the Oct. 5 meeting, Grasty reported that funds will need to be gathered to address the grasshopper problem, and land owners are partnering to seek federal assistance.

Inglis asked whether the county could hold and disburse these funds, and Grasty said he doesn’t see an issue with the county accepting this role as long as exact direction is given. Blom will send information regarding the county’s obligations.

Inglis also asked the county to help send letters to affected landowners regarding a planning meeting that will be held in December. The exact date is yet to be decided.

Harney County Commissioner Dan Nichols added, “I called the refuge, and they’re still on board with being involved and being a participant.”


The court continued its conversation concerning representation on the Land Conservation and Development Commission (LCDC).

Cheryl Smith, who is part of a local group of concerned citizens, said, “I just want something to be changed to make [representation] more equitable across the state. It’s not just Eastern Oregon. That’s my thinking anyway, and the rest of the group seems to be kind of getting there too.”

The LCDC is the seven-member volunteer citizen board that guides the Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development. In addition to adopting state land-use goals and implementing rules, LCDC assures local plan compliance with the goals, coordinates state and local planning, and manages the coastal zone program.

Grasty said he was invited to meet with Rep. Cliff Bentz and Sen. Ted Ferrioli to discuss the matter, and Bentz suggested including Dave Hunnicutt who is the president of Oregonians In Action (OIA).

According to its website, OIA “has fought in the legislature and courts to protect Oregon property owners, urban and rural, from excessive state and federal regulations that limit Oregonians’ rights to own and use private property” for almost 30 years.

The site adds that Hunnicutt “has been at the forefront of nearly every one of these battles.”

Grasty reported that Hunnicutt said he’d love to participate in the meeting, and Smith said she thinks it’s a good time to have a conversation with him.

Smith said she’s also considering sending a letter to each of Oregon’s 36 counties to inform them about the movement and invite them to participate in the meeting.

The local group of concerned citizens will determine the meeting date.


Grasty provided the court with a report regarding county employees’ possible exposure to asbestos during the installation of the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system.

He explained that construction for the new HVAC system created dust (particularly in the assessment office, courthouse lobby, and circuit courtroom), and several employees questioned the dust and asked about the possibility of asbestos exposure. He reported that two employees voluntarily chose to go home to prevent their exposure to the dust, and employees also asked about the possibility of lead paint.

Grasty said he sent three samples into Bullseye Precision Analytical & Environmental Services to check for asbestos, and two of the samples came back negative, while the third showed asbestos material. He said the positive sample was from a ceiling tile that contained mastic adhesive, explaining that the asbestos was in the mastic.

Grasty contacted the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to discuss steps for continuing the project.

Additionally, Pacific Technologies Inc. (PTI) conducted an air quality test, which indicated that the air is clean. An additional test for lead in the paint came back negative.

Dee Dee Lytle, owner of PTI, also explained how the county can avoid any further exposure of asbestos from the mastic adhesive.

Grasty recommended that the court require contractors to review the reports by Bullseye and PTI prior to working on any future construction projects in the courthouse, adding that further analysis or asbestos surveys may need to be conducted.  He also referenced a 2011 report for the record.


In other business, the court:

• reviewed Resolution 2016-17 in the matter of declaring local disaster and requesting to declare a state drought emergency for Harney County.

The court will revisit the matter during its next meeting;

• was addressed by Angela Lamborn, Harney County Senior and Community Services Center executive director, regarding the 2017-2020 Senior Center Harney County Area Plan.

A digital copy of the plan can be found on the county’s website ( under “Current Events, Information and Links;”

• learned from Harney County Planning Director Brandon McMullen that a Goal 5 meeting was held Oct. 5. This was a wrap-up of the public input meetings;

• was addressed by McMullen regarding a report titled The Future of Oregon’s Agricultural Land.

The report, which discusses succession planning for Oregon farmers and ranchers, can be found online at

The court also discussed placing a paper copy at the Harney County Library;

• was addressed by Susan Christensen of Greater Eastern Oregon Development Corporation regarding the Small Business Succession Planning Workshop that will be held Oct. 19 from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the Harney County Community Center;

• learned from Grasty that there are currently three vacancies on the South East Area Commission on Transportation;

• received an update from Harney County Roads Supervisor Eric Drushella;

• upon recommendation from Justice of the Peace Donna Thomas, approved a court order in the matter of appointing Kathy Stinnett Harney County justice of the peace pro-tempore;

• approved Phillip Singhose’s application for an approach on Miller Canyon Road.

Drushella has reviewed the project and requested additional work, which will be completed by the applicant;

• approved an Order of Appointment in the matter of appointing a pool of members for the Harney County Board of Property Tax Appeals.

Hilda Allison and Harney County Commissioner Pete Runnels were appointed to the chairpersons pool, and Allison, Robert Oswald and Mardy Stewart were appointed members of the non-office-holding pool.

Runnels abstained from the vote;

• approved changes to the Harney County Library Internet Use Policy;

• received public comments from Mary Ausmus, Paul Hyland and Mitzi Defenbaugh;

• received correspondence from the Vale District of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) regarding an environmental assessment for proposed invasive plant management;

• received correspondence from the Vale District of the BLM regarding plans to implement emergency stabilization and rehabilitation actions in the areas burned by the 2016 Juntura Complex and Cherry Road wildfires;

• received correspondence from DEQ regarding the landfill compliance inspections that were completed at the Diamond, Frenchglen and Fields disposal sites;

• received a copy of the letter that Oregon Gov. Kate Brown wrote regarding a hearing that was held to examine the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s limited role in local land use development decisions;

• reviewed water use requests;

• held an executive session at 11:45 a.m.

No decisions were made, and the court adjourned at 12:15 p.m.

The next regular meeting of the Harney County Court will be held Wednesday, Oct. 19, at 10 a.m. at the courthouse.

Samantha White
Samantha White was born and raised in Harney County, and she graduated from Burns High School in 2005. After high school, she attended the University of Oregon where she earned a bachelor of arts degree in magazine journalism. White was hired as a reporter for the Burns Times-Herald in September 2012.

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