Oak Grove Victory
On February 14, 2008 the Department of State Lands (DSL) issued a “cease and desist” order to Mr. Mark Waletich, operator of the proposed Foster Farms chicken operation. The letter sent from the DSL stated the following:
“Under the Oregon Removal-Fill Law (ORS 196.800 – 196.990), removal, filling, or alteration of 50 cubic yards or more of material within the bed or banks of the waters of this state or any amount of material within waters designated as Essential Salmonid Habitat or State Scenic Waterways requires a permit from the Oregon Department of State Lands (DSL). Waters of the state include the Pacific Ocean, rivers, lakes, most ponds and wetlands, and other natural water bodies.”
It has come to our attention that certain removal-fill activities occurred in a wetland on your property (Township 4S, Range 2E, Section 19, Tax Lot 1800; 12310 South Oak Grove Road) without the authorization of a state removal-fill permit. We are aware that the ditch maintenance activities are considered to be exempt under the Oregon Removal-Fill Law. Other removal fill activities, including the construction of a new ditch, filling of an existing ditch, removal and filling for a conduit pipe, removal and filling for “test holes” and the deposition (filling) of roadside ditch dredged material, have occurred; the cumulative amount of cubic yards removed and/or filled in wetlands appears to be equal to or greater than 50 cubic yards. These activities do not appear to qualify for Oregon Removal-Fill Law exemptions. This letter serves as formal notice to cease removal-fill activities unless DSL determines that such activities are exempt from permitting requirements.”
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In June, the residents of S. Oak Grove Rd. in Canby – who traditionally enjoy a quiet summer on their rural road working in the garden, riding horses, and tending to livestock had a rude awakening. They discovered that a Washington man working with the California-based Foster Farms chicken company, was proposing to build a factory farm that would raise 1.5 million chickens per year on a marshy piece of land in the middle of their community.
Concerned about their families, their property, and their quality of life, the residents of this rural Clackamas community sprung into action. They studied up on industrial chicken production, held community meetings and worked to ensure that all community members had an opportunity to speak their feelings about the proposed factory farm.
On June 28th, over 75 concerned residents attended a public hearing held by the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA), to voice their opposition to the operation.
That night a variety of concerns were aired as to why this 1.5 million chicken operation should not be sited on S. Oak Grove Rd. Neighbors were concerned about how the ammonia would harm their health, how their quite rural road would be able to handle semi truck traffic, and how the facility would devalue their property.
However, the overwhelming concern expressed by residents that night was that the operation is proposed to be built on a piece of land that is wet 8-9 months out of the year. Siting an operation of this magnitude in a wetland would not only contaminate surface water that drains to the Molalla River, but could also significantly degrade neighboring wells. Residents who have lived on this road for years have experienced flooding when the winter rains come.
On July 9th, at the closure of the public comment period the ODA received over 500 comments from citizens who opposed the siting of this industrial chicken operation on S. Oak Grove Rd.
On July 10th, because this operation is proposed to be sited on a piece of land that should be designated a wetland, the Department of State Lands (DSL) stepped in and issued the ODA a Wetland Notification Form. The DSL is requiring a removal-fill permit application for this proposal, which includes submitting a wetland delineation report. The ODA is unable to permit this operation until the operator satisfies the DSL with the appropriate permit.
However, this hasn’t stopped the operator from digging around in a wetland. The residents of S. Oak Grove road have witnessed heavy equipment in the wetland and despite calls of concern to the DSL and the ODA, not a single person from either agency has taken action to prevent this Washington man from illegally digging in a wetland.
Through this process it has become abundantly clear that our state agencies are working to promote out of state, corporate agribusiness rather than defending the rights of family farmers and rural residents from the pollution that these operations generate.