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Ocean-policy council gets green light

After a standoff, environmentalists remain displeased

The Associated Press
August 19, 2004

A yearlong standoff has been resolved between coastal communities and Gov. Ted Kulongoski regarding the makeup of an advisory panel that will tackle the contentious issue of whether to create marine reserves in state waters.

However, environmentalists are not happy with the compromise or the overall slate of nominees to the Ocean Policy Advisory Council.

Coos County Commissioner John Griffith, the unanimous choice of southern coastal counties to be their representative to the Ocean Policy Advisory Council despite Kulongoski’s refusal to appoint him, has agreed to serve in a nonvoting position.

“Being the agreeable and collaborative fellow that I am, I saw a way to alleviate their situation when asked,” Griffith said of the offer from Kulongoski’s office.

Kulongoski will nominate Griffith to the post representing the Coastal Zone Management Association, natural resources adviser Jim Myron said.

The Senate Rules Committee will consider the nominations Sept. 15, with the full Senate voting later that week.

“I think everybody at this point wants to put this behind us and move on from here,” Myron said. “Leaving it stalemated didn’t serve anybody’s interests.”

Environmentalists see the compromise as a broken commitment by the governor to keep Griffith off the council, said Susan Ash, conservation director for the Audubon Society of Portland.

Ash said she thought that the overall slate of 14 voting members was unfairly weighted toward commercial fishermen and the south coast, with only five or six who could be counted on to vote in favor of establishing marine reserves, as the council did in 2002.

“Even though John would not be a voting member, his history on OPAC and the fact he was asked to leave OPAC by the former governor because of disruptive behavior only contributes to our real worries behind this process,” Ash said.

Kulongoski had refused to appoint Griffith since signing the bill a year ago because Griffith was kicked off the old council by Kulongoski’s predecessor, former Gov. John Kitzhaber, after a vulgar e-mail complaining that marine reserves likely would be created against the coastal communities’ objections.

The impasse was broken through the intercession of state Rep. Wayne Crier, R-Gold Beach, who worked with Griffith on the bill that reconstituted the council to increase the power of coastal communities after the council recommended working toward establishing a network of marine reserves within state waters.

“We’ve got a new OPAC,” Krieger said. “We want to move ahead. I’m looking forward to the fact that it’s a pretty diverse OPAC, not unbalanced in one way or another.”

Griffith said that the only reason he agreed to the compromise was that Krieger asked him. Krieger had carried the council reorganization bill through the Legislature.

Griffith, a former logger and newspaper reporter who has been an outspoken critic of federal environmental laws such as the Endangered Species Act, said he thought he still would be able to have an impact on the council despite not having a vote.

Griffith said he would demand that relevant scientific reports, not only pronouncements from advocacy groups, support the council’s decisions and make sure the various user groups, such as fishermen and coastal residents, are fully consulted.

In 2002, coastal communities and fishermen were outraged when their objections to marine reserves were not taken into account by the old council, dominated by state agencies loyal to the governor. The council recommended establishing a limited network of marine reserves to evaluate their effectiveness in maintaining healthy marine populations.



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