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Editorials from around Oregon

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 13, 2015 at 4:35 pm •  Published: January 13, 2015
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Newspaper editorials from around Oregon:

The Oregonian, Jan. 13 on the Ducks and the University of Oregon:

Long before Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott laced up his cleats for the College Football Playoff championship game Monday night, the Oregon Ducks had won the marketing battle. Of the four teams that made it to the first major college football playoff Oregon stood out. Ohio State, which beat Oregon 42-20, and semifinal losers Alabama and Florida State have been among college football's elite for decades. All had previously won national titles. And all wear relatively traditional uniforms and generally operate like blue chip companies. They win by overpowering the opposition, which is exactly what Elliott and his teammates did to Oregon.

Oregon, in contrast, behaves more like a tech startup. It wears whatever it wants to — which on Monday meant uniforms that didn't include the school colors. It embraces innovation and an offense built on speed and creativity. It resides in the Northwest, removed from the traditional spawning grounds of college football talent. Like technology startups, the athletics program spends freely to attract attention while it develops products (teams). Profits (wins) come later.

Monday night's loss was the second time in the last five seasons that Oregon has come within one win of cashing in on college football's ultimate payoff, a national championship. The loss was a bitter disappointment to fans and provides no solace to those who care more about the university's academic mission than its athletic accomplishments. But Oregon supporters, as well as the rest of the state, should take a step back today and recognize what the Ducks have accomplished and what the state has gained from their rise to the upper reaches of college football.

Oregon is about as well-positioned to lead the nation in college football as it is to produce more oranges than Florida or more oil than Texas. Oregon high schools graduate a handful of Division I football players a year; states like Texas, Florida, Alabama and Ohio produce dozens. Yet Oregon has finished the season as one of the top 10 teams, according to the final Associated Press poll, five years in a row. They've done it through hard work and innovation, attracting positive publicity to the state in the process.

Much has been said about how much the University of Oregon spends on athletics, particularly football. Since Oregon first flirted with a national championship a little more than a decade ago — finishing second in major polls after the 2001 season — a debate has raged on campus about whether the extra emphasis on sports detracts from academics. The debate has grown in volume as sparkling new athletics buildings have sprouted around campus, with much of the money coming from former Duck track athlete and Nike co-founder Phil Knight.

Alabama and Ohio State actually spend more on athletics than Oregon does. Though they each have won recent titles, the traditional winners don't have as much to gain as a newcomer like Oregon. They're already seen as winners, but not necessarily as cool places to be. Companies spend millions to develop the type of image Oregon has created through its football program: a hip, fun and inviting institution to join.

The national brand Oregon has created helps it offset the lack of local football talent because it means the program can recruit nationwide. It also helps the university recruit students from across the country, and administrators were wise to use the two playoff games to pitch the school to Californians and Texans. Those states don't have room at their top universities for all the good students, and many of the ones who choose to come to Oregon will pay out-of-state tuition.

Should the university put more effort into polishing its academic profile, as it has with sports? Sure, but critics should remember that much of the money flowing into athletic coffers is outside of the school's control. A university doesn't control which of its alumni succeed or what they do with their money. If Oregon's most prominent alumnus had founded Apple or Facebook instead of Nike, hundred-million-dollar donations might have flowed to different university functions. Or the money might not have flowed to campus at all if the alum didn't feel the type of connection that sports often builds — especially with ex-athletes.

Let's hope Oregon gets a third shot at the national title sometime soon. In the meantime, to reap the maximum return on its athletics success, Oregon needs to get everyone on campus to work together.

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The Klamath Falls Herald and News, Jan. 13, on the Klamath Basin water settlement:

A proposed process for settling water issues in the Klamath Basin has again been put forward in Congress and when we say "settling" we don't mean that everyone would come away satisfied. It is, however, the best option that looks possible.

The Basin's economic future needs settlement to establish more stability in Basin agriculture, especially in low-water years.

The clock started ticking Jan. 1 on termination of a vital part of the package — the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement. The official expiration process can be started in the first 60 days of 2015 by any party to the agreement, but if nobody does so or if congressional approval isn't received for the agreement, the KBRA will automatically expire at the end of 2015.

The other parts of the package are the Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement and the Upper Klamath Basin Comprehensive Agreement.

The agreements are based on meeting treaty obligations to tribes, water rights affirmed by adjudication and other legal responsibilities established by federal law, such as the Endangered Species Act.

They are in a package of interlocking agreements that was submitted to the last Congress as Senate Bill 2379, but died, and now has been resubmitted to the new Congress as Senate Bill 133. Both Houses of Congress are now controlled by Republicans who, in general, have resisted settlement proposals more than Democrats.

Klamath Basin water problems are monstrously complicated. They arise from the federal government's failure to deal adequately with treaty obligations in the past and promises made to water users that can't be fulfilled.

Opponents to the package often say parts of it are acceptable. Undoubtedly, that's true. But every significant piece of the package is linked to something else that gives each side something in exchange for giving something up.

Once that relationship breaks down, the whole process falls apart and reverts to simply meeting legal requirements. In a low-water year, that means water is allocated strictly on the basis of senior water rights.

Adjudication confirmed the senior water rights of the Klamath Tribes, who made an agreement with irrigators on the Klamath Reclamation Project not to fully enforce them. How long that lasts is up to the Tribes.

As for the four Klamath River dams: Pacific Power wants to take them out, but continued failure of the settlement package to move forward and provide the federal and state financial help in doing so removes one of the basic building blocks for settlement.

If the dams aren't removed, Pacific Power will spend an estimated $400 million to upgrade and relicense the dams, which also means a reduction in the power output. Under terms of the agreement package in Congress, the ratepayer contribution to dam removal (or relicensing) is capped at $200 million, almost half of which has already been collected. Another option for the $200 million would be to return it to ratepayers, if dam removal doesn't move ahead.

We called the situation "monstrously complicated," and it is. It's also something that demands solutions on a Basin wide basis that deals with many different issues connected to each other. A piecemeal approach won't work.

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The Medford Mail Tribune, Jan. 11, on a pipeline to a proposed LNG terminal:

A proposal to build a 232-mile-long pipeline to carry natural gas from Klamath County to an exporting facility in Coos Bay has drawn expected protests from environmentalists and property owners along the pipeline's route. We don't think their arguments are especially compelling, but we do think they are on the right side of the debate, for a different reason that can be boiled down to two words: public benefit.

Aside from the jobs that will be created — the vast majority of which will be temporary — the Pacific Connector pipeline project does not provide a public benefit. Rather, it provides a benefit to a private Canadian company that wants to export an energy resource to buyers in Asia. To do that, it proposes to build a pipeline across the mountainous terrain of Southern Oregon, crossing 400 streams and rivers along the way, to connect to a massive natural gas terminal at Jordan Cove in Coos Bay, where the gas would pass through a super-cooling process before being loaded onto tankers bound for the Far East.

If you are a resident of Coos Bay, you might well argue there is ample public benefit in the form of an estimated 145 permanent jobs that would inject hope into a community desperately in need of that commodity. If you live in Klamath, Jackson or Douglas counties, the public benefits are considerably less: an estimated $11 million in annual property tax revenue (of which about $3 million would go to Jackson County).

The price of that payment includes allowing eminent domain seizures of rights of way through hundreds of property owners' lands, a 36-inch pipeline crossing the Rogue, Klamath, Umpqua and Coquille rivers, to name the most prominent, and the construction of a processing plant in Coos Bay that on startup would immediately become one of the largest, if not the largest, emitter of greenhouse gas in Oregon.

We take the environmental concerns with a large dose of salt, however. The impact of the pipeline construction would be temporary, save for the 50-foot-wide corridor along the pipeline route. Concerns raised that Pacific Crest Trail hikers would see that corridor for one to three minutes do not move us to wring our hands.

The fact is, people have an impact on the world around them, something that seems to escape the hard-core environmentalists when they turn on the light in the morning, take a shower and then drive to a protest meeting. There are myriad federal and state environmental rules the pipeline and terminal builders will have to follow and we have confidence the project can be built with minimal — not zero, but minimal — impact.

The oft-mentioned "likelihood" of some sort of explosion along the line or at the facility is a scare tactic that doesn't hold up under scrutiny. Nothing is absolutely safe, but new technology has made these pipelines remarkably resistant to outside forces, even earthquakes and tsunamis, as evidenced in Japan in 2011.

We certainly sympathize with property owners along the route and think that some of the payments proposed, most in the several-thousand-dollar range, are not nearly enough from a company that stands to reap hundreds of millions — probably billions — over the years from its sales of natural gas.

Were this a project with a discernible public benefit, such as a highway or a power line, the property owners' concerns would have to be set aside for the good of the larger community. But that's not the case. In the end, once this line is built, the benefit will fall almost wholly to the private company financing it and secondarily to the area of Coos Bay.

Some may argue that the jobs, including the significant number of temporary construction jobs, create the public benefit in a region that has never fully rebounded from the loss of timber and fishing jobs. But there are counter arguments (from, among others, Dow Chemical) that siphoning off a cheap and readily available energy source for export will in the end cost American manufacturers and American jobs.

We have long argued that the state and federal governments need to find a way to work past the stalemate that has crippled resource-dependent rural areas and give people hope that they will again see jobs and dollars pumped into their economies. This project does not do that, however, but rather would pump profits and jobs through our region, on their way elsewhere.

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