Governor Brown Considering Veto of Bill that Would Ease Wetland Protections for Farmers

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown has provided notice that she is considering a veto of House Bill 2437, a measure passed in the 2019 session that changes the removal-fill law for agricultural operations.

Under current law, farmers need a removal-fill permit from the Department of State Lands (DSL) in order to remove more than 50 cubic yards of material from wetlands. HB 2437 lifts this threshold to 3,000 cubic yards and provides the ability to dispose of the dredged material in other wetland areas. Additionally, the bill shifts the program from DSL to the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA).

“This bill goes too far in its changes,” a release from Brown’s office said. “It eliminates consultation with wildlife agencies, significantly increases the allowed removal and disposal of materials in wetland areas without scientific basis for the new limit, and it includes intermittent streams in the definition of channels, among other changes.”

The release also referenced concerns that HB 2437 may undermine the state’s ability to assume federal wetland permitting authority.

“Collectively, these changes could have a significant impact on our wildlife populations and wetland habitats, including potentially adverse effects on our native salmon populations,” the release said.

Gov. Brown thanked the work group that crafted HB 2437, as well as several other bills that were passed during the most recent legislative session, while acknowledging that some members had expressed concerns that this particular bill “simply needed more time.”

“Although the bill includes a future study of the effects of the policy change, given the irreversibility of the policy’s effects on our state’s wetlands and fish populations, I believe a much narrower approach is needed at this time,” Brown said. “I encourage stakeholders to continue working on striking a balance between protecting native wetlands and the biodiversity they support and the need of farmers to clear agricultural ditches.”

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