I'm the government, and I'm here to help
The proposed Wallace Bridge project — an international equestrian center near the intersection of highways 18 and 22 – likely is dead at that location. Developer J.W. Millegan is scouring the area for a different rural site, clearly a tall order.
Without recounting the whole affair, suffice to say that all-powerful federal agencies rolled over every effort to work out a win-win-win-win scenario for the project, the community, the environment and economy.
We know the federal bureaucracy is too powerful for mere citizens, but it’s discouraging to see that it’s too formidable for our elected representatives. It’s especially sad to see influential political leaders equivocate behind ghostwriters to avoid confronting the bureaucracy.
For example, consider the form letter going out from U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden’s office to constituents who raise concerns about Wallace Bridge:
“I appreciate hearing from you on this important issue,” it begins. Well, not important enough to actually do anything.
“Ever since its proposal, supporters of the resort anxiously anticipated the prospect of a project that could bring jobs to the area and boost the local economy. However, the proposal hit a snag when the US Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), which owns the proposed Wallace Bridge property, notified the developer, J.W. Millegan, that there is a conservation easement on the property.”
A snag? On property owned by the NRCS? Well, it was more like a swamp than a snag. The next iteration of Sen. Wyden’s form letter should correct the misstatement on property ownership, and recognize that Millegan knew about the conservation easement when he lease-optioned the land.
Continuing: “Back in December I, along with Senator Merkley and Representatives Schrader and Bonamici … asked the NAD (National Appeals Division) to ensure that NRCS use their authority to approve the modification … if adequate mitigation measures could be taken.”
It’s nice of the senator to clarify that the combined effort of Oregon’s congressional delegation cannot budge the bureaucracy. Perhaps the next letter should acknowledge that after December, the NAD reneged on all efforts to help Millegan’s project. The one government person who actually tried to help disappeared from the NAD’s ranks.
As with all political form letters, there’s the big finish: “Please be assured that I will continue to monitor this issue closely … . Please do not hesitate to contact me in the future if I may be of further assistance on this or any other matter.”
Drum roll; fade to black.
Jeb Bladine can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 503-687-1223.