Lane County fleet vehicles are continuing to become more efficient and clean. by Pat Farr

Tuesday, March 8th, 2016
Lane County is a World Class place to live and visit

Lane County is a World Class place to live and visit

As a County operation, Fleet is a significant fuel consumer and greenhouse gas emission producer. Over the past 15 years, Fleet has tested numerous methods for both reducing fuel consumption and reducing emissions.

1.  Renewable diesel pilot project. In conjunction with our partners at EWEB, the City of Eugene and City of Portland, Lane County started a renewable diesel pilot project in the Fall of 2015. This was the first wide-spread adoption of renewable diesel in Oregon. To date, this pilot program has been a complete success with no negative impacts noted due to use of renewable diesel and has resulted in a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of over 65% for diesel powered equipment. Using a regular gallon of diesel fuel (ultra-low Sulphur diesel) emits more than 30 pounds of greenhouse gases into the air. Using a gallon of renewable diesel emits fewer than 10. Renewable diesel is much easier on vehicle engines and diesel particulate filters and is expected to reduce maintenance costs and equipment down-time. Renewable diesel background. Renewable diesel is a broad class of fuels derived from biomass feed stocks including oils or animal fats that is processed in the same fashion as traditional petroleum based diesel. Renewable diesel offers several benefits over biodiesel including reduced waste and by-products, higher energy density and improved cold flow properties. Renewable diesel can be used exactly like petroleum diesel with no special logistics or blending limitations. Renewable diesel has major benefits over petroleum and biodiesel in areas of greenhouse gas emission and air pollution reductions as well as reduced equipment maintenance. Known obstacles to renewable diesel use. The technical results of renewable diesel use have been outstanding with no known negative impacts. The major obstacles in widespread adoption of the fuel are supply chain and economic issues. Currently, the renewable diesel used in Oregon is shipped from Southeast Asia to California (where the fuel is widely used) and then barged to Portland and trucked to end-users. As demand for BCC Report Climate Change Agenda Memo 03 08 16 (5).docxPage 5 of 6 renewable diesel increases this supply chain will be severely limiting. Current prices for renewable diesel are less than B20 biodiesel and if this pricing parity is maintained then renewable diesel will be economically feasible for wide-spread adoption.

2.  Hybrid vehicle technology. Beginning in the early 2000s, Lane County Fleet has been purchasing hybrid vehicles such as Toyota Prius and Ford C-Max. Initially these vehicles cost significantly more than standard vehicles and even when gas prices were high, economically they were more expensive for County operations than more traditional technology. More recently, the cost for these vehicles is more in line with standard equipment and they are equitable in terms of economic function while being far superior in terms of emissions and consumption.

3.  Charging Stations. Electric charging stations were installed at Fleet and the Customer Service Center and have been functioning routinely for the past three years. It is envisioned that additional charging stations be installed at the Public Service Building (PSB) as well, but there is currently no funding source or formal plan to implement this step.

4.  Other fuel alternatives. County forklifts are powered with propane, lowering emissions and running the equipment more economically. Alternative fuels continue to be explored by staff for opportunities to both reduce County impact on the environment and to reduce costs. CNG (Compressed Natural Gas) has been used in municipal fleets in many areas in the US and its use is growing; however, after significant research, it is not yet feasible for Lane County. The initial infrastructure capital expenditures for CNG would cost in excess of $2 million and there is no current funding for these capital costs. This would include siting and installation of tanks, manifolds, and distribution assemblies. Fleet maintenance facilities would need major retrofitting to accommodate this lighter than air fuel. For example, all electrical installations would need to be replaced with explosionproof or vapor-proof installations (every switch, outlet, light, and control panel). Tools used for maintenance would need to be replaced with tools less likely to cause sparks such as rubberized or brass. Additionally, Fleet would need to begin purchasing vehicles that can use CNG. An additional limiting factor is that County Waste Management and Road vehicles operate in a distributed environment across the County and there are no available distribution facilities in Florence or Oakridge, for example. Biodiesel and Ethanol. County fleet vehicles are all compatible with biodiesel (e.g. B20) and ultra-low sulphur diesel. Additionally, many older pieces of County equipment have been retro-fitted with particulate traps to reduce emissions. While the costs for the retrofits have often been subsidized through grants and special programs, ongoing maintenance costs have increased due to the traps. County gasoline powered vehicles all run on E10 ethanol blends (mandated by the State). While the County has some flex-fuel vehicles capable of running on higher percent blends of ethanol, availability of the fuel is extremely limited within the County. Additionally, the fuel itself is less efficient leading to less power and higher consumption rates.

5.  Facility Retrofits. Numerous facilities have gone through major remodels and less ambitious retrofits. For example, the Data Center in the PSB went through a major remodel. This was designed not only to improve the functionality of this major information infrastructure, but also to dramatically reduce energy consumption. Additionally, particularly in the PSB but also other County facilities, lighting controls and lamps have been retrofitted with more energy efficient technology. Staff believes that the County should experience a reduction in energy costs around $60,000 as compared to costs two years ago.

Lane County continues to be a leader in exploring reliable, sustainable and well-researched alternatives for combining efficient and effective government with responsible stewardship of its natural resources.

Open Lane County’s Forest Work Camp to stage forest fire fighters? I made the decision and I’ll stand by it. by Pat Farr

Monday, August 10th, 2015

 

On a steamy and still summer night in 2014 at about three o’clock in the morning my phone on the night stand beside my bed rang…I picked it up with appropriately and predictably blurry eyes and an equally blurry brain.  I had been dreaming about fishing on a calm lake in the high Cascades and suddenly I was brought back into reality by the sound of  “Time keeps on slippin’ slippin’ slippin’…”

Forest fire central command was established at Lane County's mothballed forest work camp

Forest fire central command was established at Lane County’s mothballed forest work camp

When I say my phone rang, what I actually mean is that my iPhone woke up and played my ring tone, Steve Miller Band’s “Fly like an Eagle.”

The tone and identity of the voice on the other end of the phone cleared my eyes and my brain within about five seconds, “Commissioner Farr, this is Sheriff Turner.”

Holy cow, the sheriff is calling me in the middle of the night.  How many people ever—ever get a call from the sheriff in the middle of the night?  In that it is not a regular occurrence for me, my newly cleared mind began racing to answer the question, “What is wrong?”

Because nothing right could be coming from this call.

And my assessment was correct.  “We have a big fire…”  So why was Sheriff Tom Turner calling me about a fire?

“The Forest Service has crews coming in and they need a staging area…we have a building in Alma and I need permission to let them in…”

I said, “OK, go ahead and open it…”  I was hoping he did not expect me to have a key.

As is turned out the “building in Alma” was our mothballed Forest Work Camp, which is quite a bit more than a building.  It’s about 30 acres of dormitories, commissaries, classrooms and service buildings.  And opening it did not mean turning the key and swinging the door.  It meant turning the facility over to the firefighting command and letting them bring in equipment, helicopters, hundreds of fire fighters and occupying the entire property as a central command point for a lot of fires that had started to erupt in one of the hottest, driest summers on record.

And as it turned out I did not have the authority to say, “OK.”  But I did and I would again, a hundred times, given the same set of circumstances.

What progressed was an efficient and dynamic command center that saved millions and millions of dollars’ worth of timber resources and irreplaceable recreation land and wildlife habitat.  Having a well-located and well-equipped command center very likely saved lives.

The next day I had to answer for my actions…”That was not your call…”

Well, I begged to differ.  I did in fact receive the call and if I had taken time to think the request through instead of making a split-second decision I would have drawn the same conclusion a hundred times:  fight the fire—I’ll handle the paperwork details later…

Aftermath of my decision was not just the saved timber and resources but Lane County began to reevaluate its emergency plan.  Another benefit was that the Forest Service completely cleaned up the camp, knocked down the brush and breathed new life into the Alma Forest Work Camp.

It will never again be a work camp for inmates, but its new life may include residential training, veterans support, farming…

and, oh, yes, a command center for forest fires.

How is Lane County doing its job?

Tuesday, July 21st, 2015

How well is Lane County doing in the following areas:

– Fighting crime
– Maintaining roads
– Spending its budget
– Supporting economic growth
– Protecting the environment

For complete poll results, click here.

Visit one of the most picturesque places in Oregon…Buford Park. by Pat Farr

Friday, September 26th, 2014

 

Visit Friends of Buford Park here...Then actually visit the park here

Mt. Pisgah and its associated park and preservation land are a regional gem...

Buford Park, Mt. Pisgah, Emerald Meadows and the associated park and preservation land are a regional gem…

Lane County will be conducting a prescribed ecological burn at the Howard Buford Recreation Area and the Nature Conservancy’s Willamette Confluence preserve on September 29 or 30, weather permitting. The ecological burn will help preserve and restore prairie and oak savanna habitat.

“Burning is a regular and natural part of the environment in these natural areas,” said Mike Russell, Lane County Parks manager. “We work closely with Lane Regional Air Pollution Authority and our River’s to Ridges partners throughout the area to make sure the burn is safe and will not disrupt the community.”

The ecological burn will be performed in the northwest corner of the park and include habitat on the Nature Conservancy’s Willamette Confluence property. Ecological burns are always dependent on weather. If postponed, an update will be provided to the community by notification to the media.

During the ecological burn, the following changes will be in place:

  • North trailhead and Trails 3 and 7 will be closed
  • Trail 17 from the west trailhead to trail 7 will remain open
  • Trail 3 south beyond the junction with trail 7 will remain open
  • The burn will not impact the west and east trailheads
  • Trails in the arboretum will not be affected
  • The west summit trail will remain open

Visitors to the park should be aware of possible smoky conditions and restricted access to the northwest portion of the park during implementation of the burn.

Lane County’s ecological burns are conducted in partnership with the Friends of Buford Park & Mt. Pisgah, the Nature Conservancy, and the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Why the County conducts ecological burning:

The ecological burn is being performed as a tool for the management of vegetation in the Spring Box Savanna to help re-establish historically native plant communities in these rare Willamette Valley habitats. The Willamette Valley was once dominated by savannas and prairies rich with diverse grass and wildflower species. This ecosystem requires regular disturbance like fire to maintain native species and to prevent conversion of open prairie to a closed woodland or forest. Historically, disturbance was provided through regular intentional burning by native people or ignition by lightning. Many of our native prairie plants, such as camas and the federally endangered Bradshaw’s lomatium, have evolved with fire for thousands of years and flourish after a site is burned.

Ecological burns in the park’s prairies accomplish several biological and fire safety goals including improved seed germination, removal of built up thatch, and short-term soil fertilization.  All of these factors help native, fire-dependent species thrive like the rare western Meadowlark, Oregon’s state bird, which nests in prairies (grasslands). In addition, controlled burns protect the open prairie structure, as well as reduce the future risks of wildfires to local residences through the removal of standing dead vegetation. The burns are also a training opportunity for the firefighting crews.

Oregon Trees survive and grow. by Pat Farr

Thursday, June 26th, 2014

 

Patrick and Evan Farr kayaking on Fern Ridge Lake

Patrick and Evan Farr kayaking on Fern Ridge Lake

I love this picture.  Our two sons are kayaking on Fern Ridge Lake just west of our home in Eugene. I am a preservationist, and we preservationists have to be happy to see the backdrop of Douglas fir trees in their many phases of growth.  In this picture you see old growth, second growth, third growth and ornamentally planted Doug fir, which is (as you likely know) our state tree.

Oh, off to the left you see a clear cut, also.

Buford Park/Mt. Pisgah/Emerald Meadows is a jewel. by Pat Farr

Wednesday, May 14th, 2014

 

If you’ve never been to Lane County’s Buford Park which features the magnificent Mt. Pisgah and it arboretum and Emerald Meadows at the confluence of the Coast and Middle Forks of the Willamette River you owe it to yourself to visit there.  If you have been there before, go back often at all times of the year.  There is nothing like it.

Camas blooming in the meadows at Buford Park

Camas blooming in the meadows at Buford Park

It is not a place for large invasive mass gatherings with blasting music lasting for days into the small hours of the morning.  It’s not a place where unruly crowds that leave untenable messes for the park’s neighbors and stewards to clean up should be allowed.  It’s not a place that should be choked by mile-long lines of misbehaving drivers who wait impatiently to get in and out while people who live nearby are blocked in or out of their homes.  It’s not a place for a music festival such as the one Kaleidoscope dropped in there last year (the summer of 2013).

But is it a place where a far more gentle audience of friendly and courteous lovers of nature along with their own particular sort of congregation and music can coexist with others who want to use the park or who live nearby?  An audience that is committed to leaving the place cleaner and more appealing to the next visitor than they found it?

Well, we may never know.

The Lane County Board of Commissioners voted 4-1 to cancel future (already contracted) events at the park after the upcoming 2014 season.  This cancellation includes Faerieworlds, which is the type of event that I described in paragraph two, above.  I was the dissenting vote.

The reason that I cast the negative vote was not because I am a frequenter of Faerieworlds.  I’ve only viewed it from a distance.  Not because I think that large events should be a regular occurrence in the park.  They shouldn’t.

I simply believe that Faerieworlds was amalgamated with the Kaleidoscope debacle last summer and it was deemed to be as unwelcome as that festival.  I had hoped that the organizers of Faerieworlds would be granted the chance to demonstrate through their event this coming summer that they could be compatible and even a positive partner in the long-term stewardship of this great natural resource.

Faerieworlds will have their event this year.  Through the vote by the Commission on May 13, however, no matter how well the organizers and the audiences behave and act in congruence with recently agreed on rules and regulations, they will not be back.

I was not opposed to making the judgement call regarding future events after this year’s performances.  In fact, I would be willing to lead the charge to dismiss it forever if it had not met all of the expectations that have been and would be outlined for it.

Unfortunately for the people who follow Faerieworlds, the Kaleidoscope ruckus led to the dismissal of their event.

I wish that we could have waited until after this year’s shows to make the call.

New Lane County Administrator’s first day of work is a long one. by Pat Farr

Wednesday, May 7th, 2014

 

I wanted to make certain that Steve Mokrohisky’s first day of work with the Board of Commissioners was a long one.  A very long one.  So his schedule was arranged to begin with his first meeting around sunrise on May 6 and his last meeting adjourned sometime around sunset.  It did –and for those of us on the 45th parallel, we know that in May that’s a long day. (See video here)

Going over upcoming Board of Commissioners agenda items with Mokrohiski

Going over upcoming Board of Commissioners agenda items with Mokrohisky 

The day began with a one-on-one in my office followed with an agenda setting meeting at 8 for the May 13 Board meeting.

Next was a regular Board meeting followed by a lengthy executive meeting.

Steve then took a few minutes for lunch, which was followed at 2 pm by a Budget Committee meeting.

At 6 pm he joined the Board of Commissioners for a land-use public hearing in Saginaw north of Cottage Grove.

His last meeting as the sun was setting was a debrief in the lobby of Saginaw Christian Church.

When he and I said, “Goodnight,” to each other he looked a little tired, but at the same time envigorated.  It was a good beginning.

 

Mandatory Carbon Emissions Approval

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014

Do you approve or disapprove of the City of Eugene making mandatory the now voluntary goals to reduce carbon emissions?

For complete poll results, click here.

Fast Food Only Restaurant Tax Ballot Test

Friday, December 13th, 2013

Would you support the restaurant tax if fast food restaurants were exempted?

For complete poll results, click here.

Restaurant Tax Ballot Test

Friday, December 13th, 2013

Do you support or oppose a City of Eugene restaurant tax to make up the revenue shortfall?

For complete poll results, click here.