Time for a little spring cleaning in the reporter’s notebook …

I’m still waiting for someone to give me a legitimate reason as to why hydropower generated up and down the Columbia River isn’t classified as “renewable” in Oregon.

The question arises because the Umatilla Electric Cooperative is on the cusp of being forced to buy 25 percent of its power from “renewable” sources (i.e. wind) in the next few years.

The crazy thing is that UEC currently buys almost all of its power from the Bonneville Power Authority. The vast majority of Bonneville’s power is hydro, which is just about the cleanest — and cheapest —  way there is to generate electricity.

But the wind power lobby in Oregon has managed to prevent hydropower from being classified as renewable. Thus, unless UEC can get an exemption from state regulations, the company could be forced  to buy much more expensive wind power (which, of course, will mean higher rates for its customers).

“We’ve raised a lot of awareness as to how unfair this is,” said UEC general manager Steve Eldridge. “We’re world class when it comes to conservation.”

UEC is still attempting to get some legislative help that would give the cooperative an exemption from the renewable requirement.

But if UEC doesn’t get that help, it could mean the cooperative’s rates could double four or five years down the line. That would be a huge hit for its customers — and a very unnecessary one to boot.

The latest City of Hermiston budget has been approved by the city’s Budget Committee, and as is usually the case, city officials have maintained a frugal approach.

This year’s budget is barely one-tenth of one percent above last year’s. That’s a pretty good number, especially when you consider they had to account for rising fuel prices and other unavoidable cost increases.

One of my favorite expenditures? The city is going to spend $165,000 for a new street sweeper and finally retire a 1991 model that has actually outlasted a couple of other sweepers during its tenure.

Twenty years is a good run for any vehicle. Here’s hoping the city can get half that much out of its new sweeper.

Buried deep in the City of Hermiston charter is a little provision that states a city council member “shall be a taxpayer and freeholder upon property located within the city of Hermiston.”

In essence, that would eliminate anyone who doesn’t actually own property in the city of Hermiston from ever serving on the city council. City Manager Ed Brookshier, however, has assured me that the provision isn’t enforced. Thus, if you rent an apartment, you can still run for council.

Ran across an interesting statistic recently. According to the Nielsen Co., every 10-cent-per-gallon increase in the cost of gas translates into an increase of more than $10 per month for the average household.

That means Oregon residents are now paying $100 per month more for gasoline than they were a year ago.

That’s a substantial hit, and one that most families in these parts can ill afford.

Count law enforcement folks as among those who are happy that the Dean Gushwa soap opera is now over. Gov. John Kitzhaber is slated to appoint a new D.A. for Umatilla County, and the sooner he gets that done, the better.

“Anytime you get a dedicated person in that position, you’re going to see a more constant flow (of cases),” said Hermiston Police Chief Dan Coulombe.

Coulombe wouldn’t go as far as to characterize the the current situation in the D.A.’s office as a “backlog,” but he did say the flow hadn’t been consistent.

A new D.A. will definitely help that “flow.”

Coulombe’s department, by the way, will be adding a patrol officer in the new budget, bringing the total to 15. But, he’ll also be losing a school resource officer, meaning the overall personnel total won’t be changing from 2010-2011.

The guess here is that I’m not the only one anxious to get a taste of the fresh produce available at farmers markets, and the good news is they’ll be opening within the next few weeks.

Hermiston’s Saturday Farmers Market is set to open June 4 from 8 a.m.-noon in the Hermiston Conference Center Parking lot. Vendors interested in participating should call 541-314-3751. Cost is just $10 for a 10 x 10 space.

Umatilla’s market, meanwhile, will open June 2 from 4-7 p.m. in the park across from City Hall, and will be open every Thursday.

And finally, here’s a good word for Good Shepherd. Thanks to my innate clumsiness, I had the “opportunity” to make use of Good Shepherd’s emergency room recently (don’t ask about the details). I’m glad to report that I received good service from good people and got good results. I know it’s subjective, but from my viewpoint, they were terrific.

Now, if they could just find a cure for my clumsiness.

Know of something we need to be reporting? A piece of news you’d like to see in the Herald? Drop me a note at nwoelk@hermistonherald.com or call me at 541-564-4533.

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