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|Thursday, March 24, 2011|
A local environmental group is developing a market-based approach to the enduring challenge of conserving freshwater habitat.
Joe Whitworth, president of Portland-based The Freshwater Trust, said the new environmental market would assess monetary values to natural elements that improve river and stream habitat, similar to how carbon credits are used to offset environmental costs. The goal is to encourage the restoration of rivers and streams throughout the state without resorting to the usual legal battles.
Whitworth described the plan during a day-long forum at Portland State University organized around the theme of facing a future of climate change-related challenges through collaboration rather than harsh regulations and combative lawsuits.
Facing a room of farmers, water managers and ranchers who 15 years ago might have said unkind things about his efforts to protect salmon under the Endangered Species Act, Whitworth sheepishly echoed the atmosphere of collaboration when he said that “we have to get past our past in order to get to our future.”
One factor that Whitworth spoke to that has been a barrier to progress is the disconnect between the many governmental agencies that oversee matters of natural resource management. “There are only 16 ways to fix a river,” he joked, noting that in some cases you have to work with over a dozen different agencies on a given restoration project. “We needed a translator…to complete projects.”
In order to get past this hurdle and effectively develop an “Environmental Market,” The Freshwater Trust developed a software program called “StreamBank”that streamlines the permitting process and, according to Whitworth, cuts 70% of a given conservation project's completion time. The software acts as a sort of Turbo Tax for the permitting and monitoring of a project that allows restoration workers to make sure they meet regulatory demands. The photo above, provided by Freshwater Trust, shows a typical restoration project in Oregon.
Of Oregon’s 115,000 stream miles, 85,000 need help, Whitworth said. To meet restoration needs, he said that instead of building multi-million dollar cooling towers to cool treated water, businesses or municipalities that discharge into waterways could help plant trees along waterways to cool the water and improve native fish habitat. The Environmental Market, akin to a carbon trading market, would help do this by rewarding landowners for every “unit of good” they produce, units that could then be purchased by a business or municipality that discharges into a waterway to offset the habitat harming effects of dumping warm, treated water into river habitats.
Here’s a rough idea of how it would work:
Whitworth said that four pilot projects backed by United States Department of Agriculture loan guarantees are under development in different regions in the state and that he hopes that one day such a market-based solution to conservation could be scaled nationally. “This is going to happen…because we have the tools to make it happen,” he said.
Peter Beland is an associate writer for Oregon Business.
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In 2010 Vanessa Keitges and several investors purchased Portland-based Columbia Green Technologies, a green-roof company. The 13-person firm has a 200% annual growth rate, exports 30% of its product to Canada and received its first infusion of venture capital in 2014 from Yaletown Venture Partners. CEO Keitges, 40, a Southern Oregon native who serves on President Obama’s Export Council, talks about market innovation, scaling small business and why Oregon is falling behind in green-roof construction.
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Transforming the culture of Oregon’s educational leadership.
The Board dismissed a petition related to efforts to unionize the Northwestern University football team.
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Oregon Sick Leave is here, and changes to the federal white-collar worker regulations are on the way. This workshop will prepare you for both. We invite you to participate in an interactive discussion on how to start planning now for the future impact on your operations and finances.
Presented by OEN + CENTRL + YESpdx.
This Roundtable will cover numerous issues under the employer "shared responsibility" rules of the Affordable Care Act, including how to track the "full-time" status of variable-hour employees, temporary or seasonal employees, and employees who experience a change in status or a break in service. Additionally, we will provide a brief overview of Code sections 6055 and 6056, which require most mid-sized and large employers to submit their first information reports to the IRS in early 2016 regarding the health insurance coverage being offered to employees. We invite you to participate in an interactive discussion on how to prepare for the future impact of the shared responsibility rules on your operations and finances.