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‘We’re getting there’: Deschutes commissioners back Moon Pit site for new landfill, but formal vote awaits more details

It's not a quick process, siting a new county landfill
Deschutes County Solid Waste
It's not a quick process, siting a new county landfill

They want more info on water rights, rock's potential value, wildlife/recreation mitigation plans

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) – With no real opposition arising during a public hearing, Deschutes County commissioners indicated Wednesday they will choose the recommended “Moon Pit,” an aggregate mine east of Bend, as the location for the county’s next landfill.

But they held off on a final decision for a few weeks to get more details about a few issues: water rights, the value of the rock on site and mitigation plans to ease impacts on wildlife and recreation.

Two years of data gathering on those many details led the county’s Solid Waste Advisory Committee this spring to unanimously recommend the Moon Pit, owned by Hooker Creek, over the other finalist site, called Roth East, farther east of Bend.

If all the pieces come together as intended, the new landfill should be ready when Knott Landfill in southeast Bend is expected to be full in 2029. If so, it would be the first new landfill cited in Oregon in some 30 years, a pointer to how tall the political and other hurdles can be.

County Solid Waste Director Tim Brownell and consultants with Parametrix went through the details about the pros-cons comparisons of the two finalists. The 440-acre Moon Pit site has no homes within a mile and just one within two miles, but borders the Badlands wilderness area and Horse Ridge, very popular recreation spots.

Commissioner Patti Adair pointed out that all the trash trucks that visit streets throughout the region won’t be heading out east; officials said Knott would likely become another transfer and recycling station, and 35 county garbage trucks would visit the landfill daily, averaging four an hour, with limited access.

SWAC committee member Robin Vora said she wished the county had not passed over so quickly two other possible sites, on Highway 97 and Rickard Road, which had the promise of costing less, but if too late to revisit that, she supported the Moon Pit choice,

There are many processes and procedures to come in coming years before any garbage heads east. Central Oregon LandWatch Executive Director Ben Gordon said their organization and others will be “paying close attention,” especially as commissioners are being asked to promise “robust mitigation measures” to ease the impacts on both wildlife and the recreating public.

Deschutes Junction-area property owner Tony Aceti – who has been involved in many a county land-use struggle over the decades, even now – heard the nearly $16 million expected acquisition cost for the Moon Pit site, some $10 million more than Roth East, and advised, “maybe you should ask Hooker Creek to drop it down. … ask them to lower their price.” Adair seemed ready to ask for that.

Colleague Tony DeBone also pointed to the potential future use as open space of the current landfill, once it is closed and safely capped.

Colleague Phil Chang urged a tapping of the brakes, which led to keeping the written record open for a couple of weeks.

One question he had was whether the land-use groups consider what’s planned “robust” mitigation, and “if not, what does that translate to in dollars and cents?” He also had questions about the water rights transfer from Hooker Creek and how to determine the value of the mineral resource (the aggregate/rock) on the site, and how the county could make best use of the to help fund the project and landfill.

DeBone said he was leaning toward closing the records and making the decision, noting the county is committing to robust mitigation.

Chang said, “I do agree with you, if we are making a verbal statement – ‘robust mitigation’ – I would support that as well. But words are cheap. Actual mitigation – we don’t know what it’s going to cost.”

DeBone said that and much more will be dealt within a permitting and approval process expected to take another six to eight years. “Today we point to a map, start the process. … All these negotiations are going to have to happen one way or the other.”

Adair also wants to know more about “what kind of water rights are we getting.”

Brownell said the $15 million purchase cost doesn’t include water rights or water lease fees, but those are built into the projections as an operating expense.”

Consultant Ryan Rudnick said transferring a small portion of Hooker Creek’s water rights to the county, 10 or 15% might be enough.

Chang said “given all the uncertainty” at present about water in the region, “I can appreciate a long-term agreement. I would prefer for us to have whole rights for the site,” rather than lease them.

And he said he hopes the county and Hooker Creek can share in the risk or reward, as the value of the aggregate is determined, which Rudnick said is based as much on timing and circumstances of what it’s used for, “not just, ‘How good is that rock?’”

Chang said despite the long timeline, “once we make a decision (on which site), we have foreclosed other options. I believe some of the risk for the county, preparing for a very complicated permitting process could possible be resolved, taking a little bit of time to get to a good mitigation plan now. ‘Go slow now to go fast later’ is what I’m thinking.”

Commissioners voted 3-0 to keep the written record open for two weeks and schedule more deliberations shortly after, when staff has time to put together a report on what was learned.

“There we go – we’re getting there,” DeBone said after the vote.

Here was the presentation they received:

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