Owners of property with Sensitive Lands designations have lost property value, have had the use of their property restricted and have been exposed to some of the most onerous regulations in our city. No changes, no going back, no secure rights to one’s own backyard and no financial compensation for the negative effects of the regulations.

The Lake Oswego City Council is currently in the process of crafting a revised Sensitive Lands program that will protect the environment at the same time it protects individual property rights.

It was a shock last week to find a ticking bomb buried inside an obscure report from Lake Oswego to the State Department of Environmental Quality on surface and storm water pollutants. The report, the Total Maximum Daily Load Implementation Plan, suggests increasing regulations on properties with Sensitive Lands designations. The contents of the TMDL were discovered only by accident a week before the report was to be completed.

The hot button issue is solar radiation pollution. The proposed TMDL acknowledges that streams within the city currently have about 75 percent shade cover which helps keep water cool — and that at this level, Lake Oswego has consistently met DEQ temperature standards. Why then, does the TMDL propose to use the city’s Sensitive Lands program as an implementation tool to not only preserve existing shade cover, but to increase it to 85 percent to 95 percent?

The increase in shade cover (more trees) would further encumber property with Sensitive Lands designations, and might also include more private property as time went on. Further, the DEQ has a rule that once an implementation practice is in place, there can be no going back. This isn’t a slippery slope, it’s a tightening noose.

What possible explanation is there for expanding an illegitimate environmental program to support regulatory standards that we already meet? This does not appear to be a scientific document but more a political mandate to increase regulations on private property.

If this TMDL were accepted by the DEQ, Lake Oswego would be headed on a path of no return that is in opposition to the direction of City Council’s efforts and any relief for property owners. Before the City Council could even get a chance to present any alternatives to the Sensitive Lands program, the TMDL would have already undermined the whole effort. And nobody would have even known until it was too late — if one person hadn’t been watching.

It’s time to wake up to what is happening to our city, and who or what might be the problem.

Dianne Cassidy is a 40-year Lake Oswego resident.

Contract Publishing

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