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Oregon Agencies Disagree About Validity of Farmland Preservation Measures

October 4, 2010

On Sept 28, the Oregon Department of Land Conservation & Development (DLCD) rejected multiple objections filed by the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) against Metro’s designation of Urban and Rural Reserve areas.  Urban Reserves are lands designated for inclusion within the Portland-area Urban Growth Boundary over the next 50 years.  Rural Reserves are designated off-limits for such inclusion.  ODA directed its objections at Washington County, which had designated 150,000 acres of Rural Reserves.

Most of ODA’s objections referred to the relative weight that the County gave to various factors designated by the State for Rural Reserve designation.  For example, the agency argued that the County gave too much weight to “availability of water for irrigation,” failing to appreciate that many high-value crops can be grown without irrigation.  DLCD staff upheld the county’s reasoning that water availability is “a significant factor in preservation of farmland over the long-term.”

ODA also accused Washington County of some cynicism in its Rural Reserve designations.  Washington County designated far more Rural Reserves than did Clackamas County.  ODA suggested that this was simply a ploy to obscure the fact that it also designated far more Urban Reserves than did Clackamas.  Again, DLCD refused to second guess Washington County on this point.

DLCD staff forwarded its recommendation to the full seven-member Land Conservation & Development Commission, which is expected to make its decision to approve or reject the Rural Reserves shortly.

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