Native Oregonian rallies community to fight for clean water, air on the Coast

Native Oregonian rallies community to fight for clean water, air on the Coast

Nancy Webster has lived in Rockaway Beach, Ore. for almost eight years and grew up on the Oregon Coast. Her father even worked for Weyerhaeuser in the 1950s. But it wasn’t until three years ago that she was aware of a fast-growing problem in her community.

“From my porch, I could look up and see this massive clearcut happening,” she said. She and a friend who was retired from the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality decided to hike into the Jetty Creek watershed to take a look. This was where their drinking water comes from, and they were shocked by what they saw.

“There were massive, massive clearcuts. And my friend thought they must be violating the rules. They were cutting right through the small streams. But when we spoke with two contract loggers working on it, they said this is what’s allowed under the law. And they said it would be sprayed soon with pesticides,” Webster said.

Please help us reform the Oregon Forest Practices Act. DONATE today!

Webster has since become the face of reform in Rockaway Beach. She started a citizens group to help reform the Oregon Forest Practices Act. She learned that in 2003, Jetty Creek watershed was only 8 percent clearcut; in 2013, it was 82 percent clearcut. Some of the land is owned by an Oregon-based company, and some of it is owned by a large, publicly traded corporation with international investors who are not accountable to local residents.

Rockaway Beach residents began receiving notices in the mail that their drinking water was contaminated and that the city was working on it. After two upgrades to the treatment plan, at taxpayer expense, Webster is uncertain if they are meeting requirements yet. “The city is in total denial that the turbidity in our water is caused by logging. But the city has had to add more chlorine to get it clean,” she said.

Webster is also frustrated by how difficult it is to learn if and when pesticides will be sprayed. “I can smell it at our house from about half a mile away when they spray,” she said. She’s also frustrated by how inadequate and unreliable the water testing has been, and by the absolute lack of air monitoring.

Many other communities on the coast are concerned they will be next: Nehalem, Arch Cape, and Oceanside, to name a few. Most communities use surface water because wells don’t work in most areas of the coast.

“My father worked for Weyerhaeuser in the 50s and thought they were overlogging even then. I don’t wonder what he would think now.”

Please help us reform the Oregon Forest Practices Act. DONATE today!

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