One of the most isolated areas of Oregon is northern Lake County, and Terry Crawford typically knows what’s going on there. She chairs the county planning commission, runs the Christmas Valley Chamber of Commerce, and creates a monthly newsletter. However, she first learned of plans to erect Oregon’s biggest dump among the sagebrush she calls home just a few weeks ago. On Facebook, she discovered a post about it.
As early as January 2021, Lake County officials, state representatives, and a private consultant met in a number of closed-door sessions to discuss a new regional landfill. However, even as they take measures to buy property, individuals behind the project have neglected to release important facts about where it would be built, how many people it would employ, and how it might damage the environment.
Even less information has been made public regarding the group of investors who have pledged to finance and profit from such a landfill. Don Jensen of Salem, the group’s public face, won’t reveal who his financial backers are. With the exception of an Idaho landfill with a history of regulatory infractions, Jensen has no experience siting new landfills. While landfills around Oregon are anticipated to close in the coming decades, Lake County’s plan comes as many municipalities look east for someplace to send waste from future generations.
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Although specific closure dates can vary, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency projects that at least seven landfills in Oregon will close by 2050. Since the state last approved a facility in the Willamette Valley, which is home to the majority of its citizens, nearly 30 years have passed. Shane Latimer, an environmental planner in Portland who specialises in landfill permitting for SCS Engineers, explained that this is due to the region’s highly moist weather.
Local governments all around the state are choosing to send their trash to a number of sizable regional dumps. In Oregon, there used to be more than 100 smaller landfills, but now there are only a few regional facilities, according to Latimer. both communities that are close by, like the neighbouring counties of Klamath and Deschutes, and those that are hundreds of miles away, like Marion County and the Portland metro region, is part of Lake County’s vision.
The developer Jensen has suggested purchasing roughly 8,000 acres, of which about 1,000 are originally approved for the landfill. It would be the biggest landfill in Oregon or Washington at this size. Mark Albertson, a commissioner representing Lake County, sees a chance to develop local employment in a region of Oregon that is severely lacking in business.
Regarding the project, Albertson emphasised its significance. A million and a half dollars (in annual host fees), together with any additional funding we can secure to offer services across the county, is crucial. a shuttered storefront in Lakeview, Oregon. A new regional landfill is expected to help the area’s struggling economy, according to local politicians. July 6, 2022. a shuttered storefront in Lakeview, Oregon. A new regional landfill is expected to help the area’s struggling economy, according to local politicians. July 6, 2022.
According to him, agricultural and the forestry industries provide the majority of the county’s 8,000 citizens with a living, but declines in these sectors have drastically reduced job prospects for locals. Albertson pointed to a row of vacant stores while seated in his office in the county seat of Lakeview. Some of the storefronts had newspaper covering their windows, while others had posters that said, “I believe in Lakeview.”
According to emails sent to county authorities, Jensen and his lawyer created a draught of the agreement a month earlier to prevent a more open process. On significant projects, governments often ask for competitive bids so that businesses can submit open offers for those contracts. In this instance, the county is not paying Jensen anything, and Jensen said that since he is taking on the financial risk, no bid is required.
Albertson claimed that he is still unaware of Jensen’s business partners. Additionally, despite numerous requests from both his office and Oregon Governor Kate Brown’s office, he has not yet received a business plan. There aren’t many ties between Jensen and the garbage sector in Oregon. The Simco Road Regional Landfill, located outside of Boise, Idaho, was the only landfill he had ever used before. He claimed to have been in charge of that facility’s new section’s 2014 opening.
Multiple times, the dump in Idaho caught fire. For numerous infractions in 2019, the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality fined it $20,000. In 2018, “it seemed free liquids were being dumped into a dump truck bed, which then released the liquids to the landfill,” according to one source.
His personal finances seem to be a mess of overdue bills. After owing the IRS, as well as state and local governments, hundreds of thousands of dollars in past taxes, Jensen declared bankruptcy in 2010. According to the Statesman Journal, he also didn’t pay back a small business loan he obtained in 2006 for his movie production company, Dirtpoor Films, costing tax payers around $50,000.