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Gorge wins Oregon funding for urban planning

Oregon and Washington share equally in funding the Columbia River Gorge Commission under federal law, meaning sometimes money from one state or the other has been left on the table when the other state didn’t budget as much, but Oregon’s Legislature found a way to avoid that common situation this year.

On Monday, the joint ways and means committee provided an end-of-session boost in the form of an $80,000 special-purpose grant for the “continuation of work on urban planning issues in the Oregon portion of the National Scenic Area.”

Oregon’s 2013-2015 biennial budget included an additional $150,000 for gorge commission operations over the next two years. But the Washington legislature approved only a $62,000 increase.

The $80,000 pass-through grant was a bargain engineered with the help of local legislators, including Rep. John Huffman and senators Chuck Thompson and Bill Hansell, who worked with the Oregon Department of Land Conservation and

Development (DLCD) to arrange a grant through the agency’s local government planning grants program.

This isn’t the first time one of the states has used grant funding to bypass the equal funding provision for a specific project. The same happened in 1999, when Washington gave the commission $30,000 to address potentially crippling Y2K computer problems.

In 2012, gorge stakeholders identified urban area planning among the top needs in the National Scenic Area.

“We appreciate Oregon’s continued commitment to help build efficient, livable communities and to work together as stewards of the gorge,” said Gorge Commission Director Darren Nichols. “The National Scenic Area is recognized as a world-class landscape; this grant from Oregon’s DLCD gives us an opportunity to help build world-class communities within this stunning landscape.”

DLCD director Jim Rue added, “We are pleased to be able to support local planning efforts in the gorge communities.”

The additional Oregon funds enable the Commission and DLCD to make a significant positive step toward a vibrant, sustainable future for gorge communities and gorge resources.

“We remain hopeful that Washington will recognize the value of investing in regional planning for communities on both sides of the Columbia River,” remarked Commission Chair Carl McNew. “The long-term success of the National Scenic Area depends on the commission’s ability to implement the purposes of the Gorge Compact to protect our resources and support healthy communities.”

The gorge commission and DLCD will now work with gorge communities and stakeholders to develop a scope of work to meet the needs of the cities and enhance the National Scenic Area.

The enrolled version of HB 5008: https://olis.leg.state.or.us/liz/2013R1/Measures/Text/HB5008/A-Engrossed Information on the Columbia River Gorge Commission is available on the web at www.gorgecommission.org.

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