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Moon Pit site chosen as citizen advisory committee’s recommendation for Deschutes County’s next landfill

(Update: Adding video, comments from committee)

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) – After two years of in-depth analysis, projections and input from government agencies, organizations and the public, Deschutes County’s Solid Waste Advisory Committee unanimously recommended to commissioners Tuesday that the “Moon Pit,” an aggregate mine east of Bend, become the county’s next landfill when Knott Landfill is full and closes in coming years.

The discussion and analysis for many months had focused on two finalist sites – Moon Pit and a site called “Roth East,” farther east of Bend, which had greater wildlife impact concerns and also would add to the cost of transporting the county’s trash.

"Overall, because Moon Pit is a site that's closer to Bend and on the edge of the of the Badlands Wilderness just east of it," said SWAC committee member and Bend City Councilor Mike Riley. "Because it's already a disturbed, active industrial mining site, it makes the most sense."

The citizen committee, county staff and the consultants from Parametrix began the process by looking at over 200 potential areas of interest.

A coalition of three environmental groups – the Oregon Natural Desert Association, Central Oregon LandWatch and the Oregon League of Conservation Voters – submitted a letter not in favor of either site for the purpose, due to wildlife and other impacts, such as recreation.

But they recommended a “robust” mitigation program for any new landfill site, and that became part of the SWAC recommendation to commissioners for what the conservation groups said will be the first landfill developed in the state in three decades.

While it’s a milestone in the process, county Solid Waste Director Tim Brownell made clear, “This is the beginning of what will really probably be five years or more before we potentially see a new landfill in Deschutes County.”

Riley said, "It's a 50-plus-year decision for the community, so it was important to tackle this. What are we going to do with our garbage? But now we get to focus on how do we reduce this overall, right? How do we reduce what's going to the landfill?"

Along with the likely far more political process of a county commission decision comes parallel tracks of the various approvals and permits from state regulatory agencies.

The timeline, if all goes as proposed, would have construction begin in 2027, after three years of approval and permits, and it would go into operation in 2028.

Beyond site selection, the committee also is urging commissioners and the county to press harder for Warm Springs tribal involvement in the process, concerned that they had not weighed in on the process so far, despite being invited to do so.

Going around the table (including those online), each SWAC member said they were leaning toward Moon Pit, as it is an active gravel mine and a shorter distance from the trash-generating population centers.

One SWAC member called both “poor sites,” compared to other candidates left behind early on, but also said the pit presents less potential disturbance to wildlife than the Roth East site, where state wildlife officials raised greater concern about impacts such as on the threatened greater sage grouse.

The up-front costs are higher for the closer-in location, but looking out the likely half-century or longer of a new landfill operating, they become come more similar, with a projected impact on the average household’s garbage bill of about $2-4 a month.

Committee member and Bend City Councilor Mike Riley urged equal attention to waste prevention and diversion strategies, drawing support and inclusion in the recommendation to county commissioners.

At last week's county commissioner candidate forum, incumbent Phil Chang also called the Moon Pit site his "personal favorite," as there "is already a very large hole in the ground." Others in the running generally agreed.

Article Topic Follows: Deschutes County

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Isabella Warren

Isabella Warren is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Isabellahere.

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Barney Lerten

Barney is the digital content director for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Barney here.


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