Global Climate Change – Oregon Plans for a Warmer, Wetter 21st Century

By August 13, 2009Uncategorized

In 2007, the Oregon legislature found that:

“Global warming poses a serious threat to the economic well-being, public health, natural resources and environment of Oregon” ORS 468A.200(3)(2007)

In particular, the legislature highlighted the detrimental effects of global warming on “Oregon’s largest industries” and risks posed by rising sea levels, reduced snowpacks and stream flows, impacts to forest health, and an increase in vector-borne diseases. ORS 468A.200(4) & (6). In recognition of these risks, the legislature set targets for reductions in greenhouse gas emissions calling for an arrest in growth of emissions by 2010, a 10% reduction below 1990 levels in 2020, and a 75% reduction below 1990 levels by 2050.

In July of 2008, the nonprofit group Oregon Shores Conservation Coalition (“Oregon Shores”) petitioned the Oregon Land Conservation and Development Commission (“LCDC”) to adopt a new Statewide Planning Goal 20 to address “Global Climate Change – Sea Level Rise.” Most of Oregon’s current land use system is based on a series of 19 Statewide Planning Goals. These Goals cover everything from Citizen Participation (Goal 1) to Agricultural Lands (Goal 3) to Urbanization (Goal 14) and Ocean Resources (Goal 19). [] Comprehensive plans for Counties and Cities must be consistent with these Goals.

The proposed Goal 20 would make a number of changes to existing laws. It would require the Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries to map a 100-year storm surge line based on predicted sea level rise and a 53-foot horizontal storm surge.[] The proposed Goal would bar state agencies from expending monies to develop, construct, or reconstruct structures or public facilities within this 100-year storm surge line. Other provisions of the proposed Goal would require the Oregon Department of Transportation to relocate Hwy 101 and other state-funded local roadways landward of the 100 year Surge line.

For private property owners, the proposed Goal 20 provides a system of transferable development rights. These would permit private property owners effected by sea level rise to trade the value of their development rights on their effected property for increased density within the Urban Growth Boundaries throughout the state. For example, this might permit a seaside property owner in Florence to develop a property in Eugene that’s zoned for one or two houses for an apartment building or other higher density use.

LCDC considered Goal 20 at is January 15, 2009 meeting. LCDC postponed its determination on the proposed Goal, and requested that its staff present it with a range of options for addressing climate change in Oregon.

In June of 2009, staff presented a detailed analysis of global climate change issues, a proposed strategy and a range of potential options for consideration. This proposal included a number of different potential measures from reducing traffic and air pollution through the use of compact growth, to carbon sequestration, and protection of communities from the impacts of flooding and sea level rise. Staff included a range of potential options including those that could be accomplished with a modest redirection of funds and existing staff, up to those that would require reassignment of staff and new rulemaking by LCDC. Staff has since revised those options into a work plan, and recommended that LCDC not adopt the proposed Goal 20, but instead to focus on an interim strategy utilizing the options available under the existing land use system.[]. The work plan focuses on working with state and federal agencies to develop data about global climate change and its impacts, reducing emissions, carbon sequestration and community engagement.

At the time of this writing, LCDC is scheduled to consider both the interim strategy and the proposed Goal 20 at its meeting in Brookings on July 31, 2009.

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