News for those who live, work and play in the Santiam Canyon

Commissioners praised for opposing solar project

 Troy Jones and Arnie Kampfer, representing a grassroots group opposed to the development of a solar energy park on 1,500 acres of prime farmland near Harrisburg, thanked the Linn County Board of Commissioners for opposing the project at its meeting Sept. 6.

The men are members of Friends of Gap Road and said the vast majority of their neighbors are opposed to the project, which would be constructed on land zoned Exclusive Farm Use and would have a life expectancy of 40 years. A company called Qcells, which has an office in California, but is based in South Korea, plans to lease the properties about eight miles south of Brownsville.

According to Oregon land use rules, solar panels can be placed on EFU lands. Developers say they also plan to allow sheep to graze on the property to reduce weed issues.

Alyssa Boles of the Linn County Planning & Building Department submitted a letter to the Oregon Department of Energy, detailing technical issues with the project and Board Chairman Roger Nyquist also submitted a letter opposing the project.

Nyquist’s letter pointed out that the landowners who are involved with the project may find they owe 10 years of back taxes if the properties fall out of the Exclusive Farm Use designation.

Nyquist reemphasized his opposition Tuesday by saying this project highlights how Oregon’s land use system is flawed, if not broken.

“This really isn’t just about 1,500 acres, it is what the valley floor will look like from Eugene to Canby in a few years,” Nyquist said. “It will affect what crops are grown here. We are already choking off two dams (Foster and Green Peter) by not producing electricity.”

Nyquist was referring to the lowering of the water level in Green Peter Reservoir by more than 200 feet for fish passage issues, which has eliminated power generation capabilities of the dam. Foster Dam has cut off power generation at night.

“The consequences of this decision could have very regrettable impacts on mid-valley residents,” Nyquist said. “I hope common sense wins out.”

Nyquist added that whenever the mid-valley economy is struggling, it is farmers and agriculture that have given it a boost in the arm.

“Our farmers spend their money locally and they support causes such as the local Boys and Girls Club auctions,” he said.

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