Katie Anderson, youth services consultant for the Oregon State Library, attended the regular meeting of the Harney County Court July 19 to present the 2016 Outstanding Ready to Read Project Award to Harney County Library staff.
Each year, five out of 133 libraries are awarded in recognition of the services they offer using Ready to Read grant funds. Ready to Read is a grant program that distributes state general funds to public libraries throughout Oregon. Libraries may use the grant to fund early literary services for young children, ages 0-6, and/or summer reading programs for youth ages 0-14.
The Harney County Library uses its Ready to Read funds to provide story times for babies, toddlers, and preschoolers at the library. The funds are also used to support the library’s popular and well-attended summer reading program.
Children’s Services Coordinator Lisa Moody also takes story time on the road to the Early Childhood Center, local preschools, and every class at Slater Elementary. She also visits the Kids Club of Harney County and Burns Paiute Tribe’s Tu-Wa-Kii-Nobi youth program. Additionally, Moody rides along with Channon Rebeiro, who is the free lunch program leader, once a week to bring books and crafts to kids in the parks.
“The outreach, in combination with what you’re doing at the library, meant that most youth and their primary caregivers that participated in the summer reading program last year achieved the desired outcomes for the Ready to Read grant program, which are children maintain or improve their literacy skills over the summer; children choose to engage in reading and learning; and parents engage with their children around literacy activities,” Anderson said. “So congratulations on the great work that you guys are doing.”
Steve Beverlin, forest supervisor for the Malheur National Forest, attended the meeting to provide an update on the Blue Mountains Forest Plan Revision.
The Blue Mountains Forest Plan Revision is an ongoing effort to revise the land and resource management plans (forest plans) for the Malheur, Umatilla, and Wallowa-Whitman National Forests, which are collectively referred to as the Blue Mountains National Forests. The plans will guide how the Forest Service manages approximately five million acres of public lands in Eastern Oregon and Washington.
Beverlin said the Forest Service is working diligently with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service on the consultation part of the plan, and a draft biological assessment has been submitted. He added that, because the consultation is time-consuming, the final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and draft decision probably won’t be available until this fall.
“We can’t have a final EIS out before we get a final consultation — until we get at least a letter from the services saying, ‘What you submitted is sufficient, and we can move forward.’ So that’s kind of where that final EIS’s timeline is,” Beverlin explained.
He added that, once the draft decision is released, the 60-day objection period will begin for those who have standing.
Harney County Commissioner Mark Owens asked whether the court would be informed about any changes that might occur through consultation, and Beverlin replied that he’s committed to keeping Harney and Grant counties updated.
Beverlin also reported that the Forest Service recently released the last in a series of newsletters regarding different components of the plan. The most recent newsletter addresses grazing, and its available online at https://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/fseprd550093.pdf
Owens thanked Beverlin for the grazing newsletter, stating that it was informative and clarified some of the misconceptions that he had.
Owens also stated that the county, which has standing to object, will advocate for site-specific evaluations for permittees.
Additional information regarding the Blue Mountains Forest Plan Revision can be found online at https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/wallowa-whitman/landmanagement/planning/?cid=stelprdb5247447
Beverlin and the court also discussed the Malheur National Forest Schedule of Proposed Actions for Summer 2017.
They discussed the Emigrant Creek Ranger District Hazard Tree Removal Project, which would remove hazard trees from roadsides and campgrounds throughout the district.
“It looks like that’s going to be funded,” Beverlin said.
Owens explained that the project was the result of a collaborative effort among the Forest Service, Oregon Department of Forestry, loggers, and the county.
“To me, that’s a great example of the Forest Service wanting to work with us,” he said.
Beverlin and the court also discussed the Malheur National Forest Travel Management Plan, which will analyze and designate the appropriate system of roads, trails, and areas open for motorized travel across the forest. It will also analyze the potential for game retrieval, dispersed camping, and seasonal closures to address resources issues and social concerns.
“Every forest in the nation is mandated to do that, and we’re one of two forests that haven’t yet. So we’re going to start spring of 2018,” Beverlin said. “In preparation for that…I’m going to come back to the court, and I’m going to present maps of what we consider our open road system to be, so that we can pass those out and make it available to the public, so they can help us with that.”
They also discussed funding, road closures, preparations for the upcoming solar eclipse, and consistency between the county and Forest Service.
Oregon Water Resources Department (WRD) Planning Coordinator Harmony Burright attended the meeting to update the court regarding community-based water resource planning efforts in Harney County.
Burright explained that WRD is pilot testing a new, community-based, locally-led approach to water planning in the state of Oregon that is more balanced, integrated, and bottom-up. The goal is to understand and meet the water needs of the community, economy, and environment.
The planning effort is co-convened by the Harney County Court (represented by Owens) and the Harney County Watershed Council (represented by Brenda Smith).
“The co-conveners in that role are serving in a neutral capacity to bring together these diverse interests to really examine water and start thinking through how we might work collaboratively to better manage the resource,” Burright said, adding that her role is to provide support.
Owens said a significant amount of time was spent building the collaborative, and participants represent a diverse range of interests.
Now that the collaborative has been built, Burright said participants “are starting to dig into some of the technical content.”
During its meeting on July 19, the collaborative discussed working agreements and the work plan. Additionally, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and Oregon State University educated the collaborative about water science in the closed basin.
Subcommittees are being formed to gather information and make recommendations to the full collaborative. The water availability working group is the first subcommittee that was formed.
Regarding WRD, Burright said, “We really, really want to see this program succeed, and we really, really want to see Harney County succeed in developing a plan that works for your community.”
Burright also discussed the Groundwater Study Advisory Committee.
She explained that the Greater Harney Valley area was designated as a Groundwater Area of Concern, and no additional water rights can be granted in that area.
In cooperation with the USGS, the WRD launched a five-year groundwater study, and WRD and Harney County Court are co-convening a Groundwater Study Advisory Committee made up of a diverse range of interested parties.
Burright said the group, which currently boasts 14 members, is currently focused on collecting data. The next step will be to review and analyze the data.
Owens reported that the groundwater study has been funded through the next biennium.
“I’m glad that we can follow through on our commitments here,” Burright said.
In other business, the court:
• approved the Personal Service Contract between Symmetry Care and Harney County for mental health services;
• was thanked by Marjorie Thelen for allowing the Democratic Party of Oregon to hold part of its quarterly meeting at the courthouse;
• revisited its conversation concerning flooding in Harney County. The next meeting is scheduled for Aug. 15 at 10 a.m. at the courthouse;
• received four request for proposals for economic development services. All four candidates will be interviewed during an executive session July 26, starting at 10 a.m.;
• reviewed water use requests;
• received correspondence from the Forest Service regarding the Dove LP SBA timber sale.
The next regular meeting of the Harney County Court will be held Wednesday, Aug. 2, at 10 a.m. in Harney County Judge Pete Runnels’ office at the courthouse.