Spencer Creek Valley
Spencer Creek Journal
Geese and the Electric Co-op
by M.G. Hudson
From the southwest, in the icy moonlight,
they came. Flying north, calling to each other or maybe the stars, using their mellifluous
voices in concert, they came through the torn banners of the spent storm, a clear
sky above, a soaked landscape below. Geese, hundreds of them. Did they hear the extraordinarily
early signal of the spring peepers calling from the ponds in the wet meadows near
Spencer Creek? Did they see the new rosebuds crowding out the rose hips or the catkins
hanging from the willows and ash? Did they smell the balmy buds of the cottonwoods
opening? Did they know that the first snow of the valley in six years was just a
reminder that winter can return? Is our short (and thank God, wet, wet) winter over?
The geese think so. And so does Lane County and the Lane Electric Co-op.
One morning last week the local residents awoke to find early morning crews from
Lane Electric Co-op in their work trucks, parked along the road, looking at maps
in the growing light. What gives? A kind Lane Electric surveyor, Jody, informed us
that the Spencer Creek neighborhood is going to have yet another road improvement
plan. No official notice or comment process from the County. Hmm... Sister Kayrin
went downtown and got the County's preliminary plans for the road improvement project.
Spencer Creek, a fish bearing Class I Stream according to Oregon land use codes,
was shown on the County plan map as "drainage". A very versatile term.
A ditch is drainage. According to hearsay, the County says that since it is a smaller
job and they themselves are doing the work, they are not required to officially notify
residents. How about following state law?
In a way, all the neighborhood were expecting "something". It was just
a matter of time before the increased traffic flow would warrant road safety upgrades.
The intersection is being widened, the cutoff on private property, closed. Good.
The tradeoff? The electrical power lines and poles must be moved over to our side
of the road. Huh? Increased noise, fumes and maybe health effects from electromagnetic
fields. Our hedge of young firs will have to be moved or be cut. Could the firs survive
a transplant now that we need them more than ever? But the reality hit a little hard
when we were informed the big old oak and ash on either side of the County bridge
over Spencer Creek would have to go. Too high and of species that grow too vigorously,
they would need to be cut down. That sad thought made us speak up, not be shy.
We reminded Lane Electric Co-op representatives in the field that Spencer Creek is
a Class I Stream that has fish -- which are healthy because of the clear water's
cooler temperatures due to the tree's shade and roots that stabilize bank structures.
As Aunt Maggie said to the tree trimmer about the oak tree, "She is a grand
old lady." She didn't know she could have been referring to herself also. Could
there be some way to save the trees and / or mitigate the effects of the project?
Amazingly, yes! The good folks at Lane Electric Co-op like Bud, John and Jody and
the tree trimmer listened. They worked with each other and the County. They proposed
trimming back the creek-side trees and getting a couple of extra tall poles to go
over the now shorn and shorter but still living oak and ash. Also, they are
starting a program of "power line friendly" replacements for the trees
that must come out. Lower growing trees like plum, flowering cherry and desert ash
and vine maple. Sweet, tamer trees that stay under 20 feet. (Good thing they haven't
seen the 30 foot plums and cherries in the orchard! Long wet winters and springs
So some change again is in motion. A couple new poles are already up and do alter
the vista of the southwestern sky. We are more exposed to the road. A few, lovely
medium-high firs are coming down as I write. But more fast growing firs will be planted
farther back. But the creek-side, slow growing old oak (and ash) are saved. I am
glad we spoke up for the trees and creek. I am glad we were heard. Lane Electric
Co-op, the old oak thanks you, the fish thank you, and we the people thank you.
Maybe Lane Electric Co-op still remembers its roots in the great rural electrification
project of the federal government during the Great Depression. Rural neighbors banded
together to form and own the co-operatives to hook up with the newly formed Bonneville Power Administration's electricity. Legally, Lane Electric is still a co-operative owned by
the members who are entitled to vote for a governing board. Many people never exercise
that privilege. And what about our County government? Sometimes, it seems as if they
have forgotten their roots and the fact that the first legal authority for existence
comes from the members, that is, the voters who passed the charter so many years
ago. For most of rural, unincorporated Lane County residents, Lane County government
is our only government. We expect a little more effort to communicate and be heard.
Now with the road improvements beginning, will the County make an effort to slow
traffic down at the redesigned intersection? With the cut-off gone, traffic volume
at the main intersection will increase. There will be more accidents if drivers are
not slowing down. Maybe the incorrect speed sign going north into Eugene will finally
So, here is a little flurry of change. Perhaps the road improvement plans are a harbinger
of more change, as the flocks of geese flying in the icy moonlight are the harbingers
of spring on the Pacific Flyway, the "roads" of western migrating birds.
Like the spring peepers, I'm calling out. Hello?