Move Jefferson County to Idaho?
Wednesday, Feb. 17, Jefferson County Commissioners will discuss the possibility of moving the county into Idaho along with most of rural Oregon east of the Cascades and south of Eugene.
"The county commissioners did not come up with this idea," says Kelly Simmelink, chair of the Jefferson County Commission.
In fact, voters in Union and Jefferson counties voted in November to require their county commissions hold meetings twice a year, three times a year in Union county, to discuss the possibility of merging with Idaho.
The man heading up the Move Oregon's Border campaign, Michael McCarter of La Pine, says Wednesday's meeting will be largely a fact-finding mission, "because Jefferson County is a complicated county."
Three things complicate moving Jefferson County. The Deschutes River creates the suggested border for the proposed Greater Idaho, dividing the county in two. It's unclear how the Warm Springs Reservation factors into the plan. And the county gets its water from the Deschutes watershed, which, with a move, means Oregon would provide water across state lines.
Moving the state border is McCarter's answer to the classic urban/rural divide. "Because of our traditional rural beliefs, people in Central and Eastern Oregon want to align ourselves with Idaho and similar thinking people. We would like to have the choice to say which state governs us."
Simmelink understands the frustration with the more populous urban districts dominating policy decisions in ways that don't fit rural communities. "This session of the legislature feels like a full-on sport against agriculture and water, issues that are important to us."
He'd rather improve cooperation than draw a new state line. "We need to work harder to try to build better government."
The Move Oregon's Border discussion is on the Jefferson County Commissioner meeting agenda for 10 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 17.
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