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City Council (View All)

Study Session

Minutes
Monday, March 16, 2015

                                             MINUTES FOR THE STUDY SESSION
ASHLAND CITY COUNCIL
Monday, March 16, 2015
Siskiyou Room, 51 Winburn Way
                                                                                                                                            
Mayor Stromberg called the meeting to order at 5:35 p.m. in the Siskiyou Room. 
 
Councilor Lemhouse, Morris, Rosenthal, Voisin, Seffinger, and Marsh were present.      
 
1.         Public Input (15 minutes maximum) - (None)
 
2.         Look Ahead review
City Administrator Dave Kanner reviewed items on the Look Ahead.
 
3.   WISE Project Update
Steve Mason, program manager for Water for Irrigation Streams and Economy (WISE) explained WISE was a new irrigation infrastructure project that would pipe irrigation throughout the Rogue Valley. The Bureau of Reclamation owned half of the 35,000 acres of water including the Talent Irrigation District (TID).  Rogue Valley received approximately 30,000-acre feet of water from the Klamath Basin annually.  He explained water flow throughout the valley and provided a presentation that included the following:
 
Why Wise?
  • 2001 Water crisis in Klamath Basin
  • Protect Agriculture amid urban growth
  • Protect and restore local streams
 
How WISE?
  • Proactive approach
  • Inclusive partnerships
  • Think big
  • Long term solutions:  Technology, Economies, Regulations
 
WISE Project Goals
  • Increase summer stream flows
  • Improve water quality
  • Improve water temperature
  • Improved irrigation water reliability
  • Improved irrigation water availability
 
WISE Project Area Map
Possible Sources of Additional Water
  • Conserved Water:  Piped/lined irrigation canals
  • Increased reservoir storage capacity:  Agate
  • Pumped water
  • Regional Water Reclamation Facility
  • Lost Creek Reservoir via Rogue River
 
 WISE Piping Layouts Map
Specific Irrigation Benefits
  • Conserved water available for irrigation:  22,297 – 30,998 – 39710 (A/F)
Piping open canals would save 31,000-acre feet of water in a normal weather year.
 
  • Gravity pressure system
  • Reduced shortages:  77 – 4,674 – 8,019 (A/F)
  • Extended drought protection
  • More flexible water availability
  • Minimal moss and algae in system
  • Greatly reduced canal/pipe maintenance
  • Hydropower generation
 
Instream Benefits
  • More water instream
  • Potentially increased flows in tribs
  • 2,103 – 9,895 – 20,207 (A/F)
  • Stored water component in reservoirs
  • Conserved water from surface rights
  • Water exchange from reuse component
  • Elimination of mixed canal and live flows
  • Significantly improved water quality
 
Ashland Creek had a diversion accessed by the irrigation district.  The WISE project would eliminate the need for the diversion and the water would remain in the creek.  Water rights would stay the same.  Conversion reduction would significantly decrease fertilizers getting into the water.  People getting their water from the streams would have new laterals and require easements.
 
Issues
  • Stormwater management
  • Perceptions regarding use of Reclaimed effluent
  • Environmental impacts – vernal pools, wetlands, canal-side vegetation
  • Shallow wells  
 
WISE Project Timeline
  • 2010 – Complete Prefeasibility Study
  • 2012 – Begin Cost Benefit Analysis
  • 2014 – Being FS/EIS
  • 2015 – Complete CBA
  • 2015 – Construct WISE Pilot Project
  • 2016 – Complete FS/EIS
 
The project would pipe most of the canals coming from Immigrant Creek to Starlite Place.  From Starlite Place on there was a chance for Ecoli and unless the City piped, those influences would continue.  Mr. Mason confirmed no piping until the power plant.  They would line some of the canals coming from the mountain lakes.  Piping the water would not affect wildlife.  Currently, the canals were dry for six months each year already.  Riparian areas and wetlands would be significantly healthier and fish instream would do well.
 
Private water users would not see a change in their water rights.  Funding would from the Bureau of Reclamation, WISE, the state, developers and commercial growers.
 
4.   Ashland Conservation Commission – Community Climate and Energy Action Plan proposal
Conservation Commissioner Jim McGinnis provided the background on the Council goal for sustainability planning, the Conservation Commission’s framework proposal, and Council’s earlier request for the Commission to determine the steps needed to develop a climate and energy action plan.
 
The Conservation Commission reviewed several plans from other communities.  Highlights from the overall assessment was that both the community and city government were involved in the planning and implementation process that was sponsored and lead by city or county government.  They dedicated sustainability staff to lead the process, performed communitywide greenhouse gas assessments and set local emission targets to align with state emission targets.  Activities that would fit well in Ashland included community workshops and meetings, education on climate change, goals and strategies for the next 5, 20, and 50 years, and adaptation strategies integrated with mitigation strategies.  
 
Conservation Commissioner Brian Sohl addressed the Eugene Climate and Energy Plan adopted by the City of Eugene.  The Plan contained four initial goals and targets.  Goal 1 was all city operations and facilities were carbon-neutral by 2020.  Goal 2 aligned targets for greenhouse gas emissions reductions with the state.  The third goal would reduce levels of fossil fuel use 50% by 2030.  Goal 4 identified adaptation strategies for climate change. 
 
City of Eugene staff identified six action areas that included Buildings and Energy, Food and Agriculture, Land Use and Transportation, Consumption and Waste, Health and Social Services and Urban Natural Resources.  Eugene established a Climate and Energy Action Plan Advisory Team and a public engagement process that involved each of the six action areas.
 
Eugene City Council endorsed the plan instead of formally adopting it due to the detail.  When the plan went into implementation, the City of Eugene hired another staff person.  Commissioner Sohl went on to explain how actions taken by two Eugene citizens group called Our Children’s Trust and the Youth Climate Action Now (YouCan) resulted in a climate recovery ordinance passed July 2014.  By 2030 the city organization, businesses, and residents living or working in Eugene will collectively reduce fossil fuels 50%. 
 
Conservation Commission Chair Marni Koopman addressed next steps, explained the plan needed to be community driven, collaborative, and recommended an oversight group with members from different sectors.  The group would deal with greenhouse gas emission, hunger, homelessness, air quality, water shortages, and traffic congestion.  Local experts would help set greenhouse gas emissions targets for the community.
 
Another important component of the plan was ongoing outreach.  The plan was iterative with reassessments occurring every three years.  The planet would already experience 30 years of worsening climate change.  Emission cuts would prevent the most serious consequences 50-100 years from now.  It would take a long time to change.  The Commission estimated the effort would require .5 FTE full time equivalent (FTE) in staff time or the equivalent in contractor assistance during this biennium to manage the development of the plan in year one and implement the plan year two in the spring of 2016.
 
The Conservation Commission would include the senior community for transportation input.  The education component would begin with the kick off in 2015.  They would use similar tactics used in the economic development strategy to form the committee and contact local experts.  If the committee formed through the City, the Mayor would participate in appointing members.
 
The Commission was not sure how the City would handle the consequences for missed goals.  Eugene City Council endorsed the plan and adopted the ordinance later.  The ordinance had three mandates that provided more flexibility.  The departments for the City of Eugene were responsible for meeting goals. 
 
City Administrator Dave Kanner explained a contracted .5 FTE was the better option for City staff.
 
Mr. McGinnis noted the STAR framework the Conservation Commission proposed to Council previously and explained the Commission would address the framework during the process. 
 
Mr. Kanner would include the plan in the budget.  A Council appointed committee made it subject to public meetings laws.  Staff could add the committee to the website.  The City would form the committee first then hire a contract consultant to facilitate the process. 
 
Council and Mayor expressed concern that the plan have actual actions the City and community could initiate and complete within a short period.  One comment suggested including the work the Ashland Forest Resiliency (AFR) performed as part of the plan.
 
5.   Discussion of utility billing surcharge for Ashland Forest Resiliency project
Councilor Marsh was interested in further developing a utility fee as a long term funding mechanism for the Ashland Forest Resiliency (AFR).   There was a significant nexus between watershed health that enabled the municipal water system and a utility fee.  The fee would be transparent and dedicated.  Increasing property taxes would not allow the City to dedicate specific funds to the watershed since the funds went into the General Fund.  There was concern the fee was regressive.  Councilor Marsh thought it could be structured to become less regressive.  This already occurred in the fee structure for storm water.  It would cost an estimated $1.50 per residential household with a gradation that implemented different fee structures for commercial and government.    
 
City Administrator Dave Kanner explained a utility tax had the advantage of bringing in revenue from a broader base because everyone depended on the watershed, but not everyone paid property tax.  Having a flat fee was regressive.  The City could use a methodology where larger water users paid more.  It would not be exact.  The City could look at meter size or charge a percentage of use but that was difficult to manage.  Another possible issue were individuals refusing to pay the surcharge.  Was Council willing to shut off someone’s water if that happened.  If Council approved a utility tax, he recommended it as a watershed maintenance fee instead of a fuels reduction fee. 
 
Forest Resource Specialist Chris Chambers addressed other funding options.  The US Forest Service hosted Collaborative Forest Restoration Partnerships that affected larger landscapes and consisted of $4,000,000.  It would require a mobilized regional effort to apply and was a possibility in the future.  The Merkley-Wyden bipartisan bill protected the existing money and did not create a new funding source.  The state had the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board grant that provided a smaller amount, approximately $3,700.
 
Mr. Kanner explained increasing the existing water fund fee 1% would produce $50,000-$60,000 in revenue. 
 
Council wanted to see more funding options, future grants, ways to make the utility fee more progressive, and the possibility of a two-year sunset on the fee with the potential to extend.  Other comments preferred a fixed amount on the utility bill and that it applied to everyone.
 
Meeting adjourned at 7:16 p.m.
 
 
Respectfully submitted,                                
Dana Smith
Assistant to the City Recorder

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