Boyer was one of four members of the Jackson Soil and Water Conservation District (JSWCD) attending the four day meeting. Boyer immediately replaced current president John McDonald due to health issues with the outgoing president. Barbara Nordmeyer, former chair of JSWCD was elected as Secretary of the OACD. Marilyn Rice and Alan Campbell were the final two members of the Jackson County delegation attending the meeting.
JSWCD is charged with helping landowners to conserve soils and waters while at the same time working to improve the bottom line for farmers and ranchers. While the bulk of their work is directed towards rural properties, they also help many in urban settings with similar problems.
The four day conference dealt with problems common to many of the state’s 46 districts and solutions that will help them complete projects in line with their goals. Oregon governor Ted Kulongoski had fittingly proclaimed the week of Nov. 1-7 as Soil and Water Conservation District Week, coinciding with the conference.
During the event, members of the Jackson County delegation heard numerous speakers addressing the sustainability issue. Topics ranged from the use of plentiful winter runoff water to supplement summer streams flows to urban water storage through the use of rainwater collection and water gardens.
Other topics of interest were the use of household garbage to generate power and make useful compost, utilizing waste trees (juniper) to provide fuels and save ground water. Invasive in some parts of the state, the Juniper sucks up more than 300 gallons of water per day, and then releases it into the atmosphere. Where infestation occurs, water tables have sunk drastically. But the good news is that the trees are no longer piled and burned, but palletized for use in wood pellet stoves to help offset energy costs.
Smaller unitized digestion and generation plants are being used successfully around the globe. Household garbage, lawn clippings and tree trimmings are processed to produce methane gas and a very usable compost to improve health of lawns and gardens. One such operation, in Davis, California, provides heat, light and power for some 500 homes. There is no cost for the fuel, because it is totally waste products. Boyer is excited about the technology and wants the District to begin exploring the possibilities of such small generation plants. Many of the small plants now in use also utilize animal wastes that now create problems with ground water and disposal problems.
The Jackson County landfill now imports garbage from four additional counties, making five county area fertile grounds for such a generation facility.
One speaker, Tony Malmberg, formerly of Wyoming, but now a La Grande, Oregon, resident, graphically demonstrated to attendees how the use of holistic management can improve soils, soil covers and streambeds. With wise management practices, Malmberg has maintained a viable operation while improving the soils. The process of improving the land has been demonstrated many times over in a variety of locales throughout the West.
One of the major benefits of such meetings is the networking between OACD members who find themselves faced with solving problems similar to those in other areas. Staff members also attend the conferences to glean valuable information to bring back for Jackson County projects.
According to Boyer, staff and board members came away with a wealth of information and inspiration to put some of the plans to work in Jackson County. Further information about the conference and about the services provided by JSWCD is available from the District at 776-4270.
By Ralph McKechnie
For the Independent