Current Issues

We want to maintain the viability of Chehalem Mountain and the large regional area the Chehalem Mountain Aquifer covers (see Map on Home Page) as a place to live, with sustainably utilized natural resources.  The Chehalem Mountain Aquifer extends from Tigard/King City to parts of Sherwood, Newberg, Laurel, Scholls, Laurelwood and Hillsboro up to Gaston. We are fighting an uphill battle and we need your support! Our goals are to inform our neighbors and community about this issue, to spread the word that we need more support, and to collect donations that will be used to hire a water resources lawyer to help with our cause. You can find a donation form at the bottom of this page.

Overview:

In January 2020, Yamhill County Government approved a marijuana/hemp processing/extraction refinery on Chehalem Mountain at 18505 NE Jaquith Road (Docket SDR-28-19), despite the objection of dozens of local residents. On this site, they also approved growing large amounts of hemp/marijuana that requires extensive irrigation.  This area has limited groundwater that is shared by surrounding homeowners & businesses in the region as covered by the map. According to two independent hydrologist/geologist firms, these irrigation practices could deplete the available water in the “Chehalem Mountain Aquifer” area in 1-5 years.

Oregon Water Resources Department has classified Chehalem Mountain and the large regional area within the Aquifer as a GROUNDWATER LIMITED AREA due to the finite supply of groundwater available.

Our concerns are not about the legality of marijuana or hemp or the by-products of these plants. We are concerned about the placement of a business which will be using flammable materials on top of a mountain with limited fire suppression, winding gravel roads, steep terrain and frequent high winds. We are concerned about irrigating a crop in an area with limited groundwater that the residents and businesses within the Aquifer also get their water from. We believe commercial operations like this should be located in an industrial area, with inspections for safety, close to infrastructure with fire suppression equipment and access to first responders, with easy access to municipal water supplies.

Water/Aquifer Concerns:

Oregon has designated this area a “limited aquifer” due to amount of groundwater available. Irrigation of any lawn or noncommercial garden is limited to ½ acre or less. Exempt uses of groundwater limit single or group domestic uses up to 15,000 gallons per day. The applicant has previously applied for ground water rights, which could grant them access to millions of gallons per year. If this business irrigates the proposed amount of marijuana/hemp plants, these practices could deplete the aquifer. This doesn’t include additional water that may be needed for processing the plants/products, or personal use by humans on site. It has been estimated by hydrogeologists that within a year, neighboring wells could start to go dry.

Neighbor Laura Cochran hired two hydrology/geology firms. Both concurred that if this operation irrigates their crops from our aquifer, within 1-5 years it will deplete the water from our aquifer. Residents in a vast area could be affected, not just the ones closest to the property in question. Once the water is gone, it cannot replenish itself at a rate to provide for all the residences, which could affect property value. The LLC status of the property owners may protect them from liability associated with water use.

Digging deeper wells will not alleviate the problem. The owners of 18505 Jaquith (WAG Holdings, LLC, JCB Farms, LLC, and OreTex Farms, LLC) have applied to OWRD (Oregon Water Resources Department) for an irrigation permit. The OWRD Water Well Owners Handbook cautions applicants: Before spending money on a planned well, you should consult OWRD to confirm Oregon water law allows the proposed use of water. This is a business model that can’t be sustained by the natural resources associated with the property it is located on. The property owners believe this is not a cause for denial of the water permits. One workaround is to drive water up from McMinnville in a water truck. We are concerned that they will not follow through with this plan once the well is approved as it is costly and inconvenient, and compliance may not be monitored.

Full reports from the two independent hydrogeology firms can be found at the bottom of the Aquifer Information page.

Fire Hazards:

Wildfires

Natural and small accidental fires can be a concern during certain seasons in the region. Most recently, we saw how fast these fires spread on Chehalem Mountain during the week of September 8th, 2020. Many residents had only minutes to grab belongings and flee before being evacuated. Several residents could not corral their livestock to evacuate and had to open gates.

These most recent wildfires came within 1.5 miles of this property. Police evacuating residents across the street from the refinery warned, “if the winds change, the fire could be here in 5 minutes.” There were some logistical hurdles that made fighting fires in the region difficult, including terrain and lack of access to water. Many units were fighting for days on end, and planes were dropping water from the air in order to contain some of these fires.

Human-Caused Fire

Over 40 documented explosions have happened in Oregon with these types of marijuana refinery operations. The Oregon State Fire Marshall does not have an accurate explosion count because there is no code in their system to track “Refinery Explosions”. An explosion at this refinery could be devastating for the region.

Normally when the proper permit is pulled from the County, it triggers an inspection from TVFR (Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue). The structures at 18505 Jaquith were permitted in such a manner that there haven’t been typical fire inspections and TVFR has limited jurisdiction. The Yamhill Planning Director classified three buildings as “agricultural buildings” which bypasses TVFR inspecting them for safety. On the application, it shows “TVFR n/a”.

According to firehouse.com, “The occurrence of BHO lab explosions is significant. Due to their prevalence, explosive nature, and significant risk of injury to occupants and first responders, some within the law enforcement community are describing hash labs as the ‘modern meth lab problem.'”

You can access the full firehouse.com article on Butane Hash Labs, and their implications for fire safety here.

What YOU can do:

We need HELP with spreading the word about the potential threat to our finite water resources and risk of fire. We have reached only a fraction of the residents on this aquifer.

We residents have already hired attorneys to oppose the decision with regard to LUBA (Land Use Board of Appeals). We will need to hire an attorney to represent the residents to OWRD (Oregon Water Resources Department). We need to crowd source and fundraise to cover legal fees, protest filing fees, and potential expert testimony.

Thank you so much for learning about the issues and our mission. It is incredibly important to us.

To get connected and stay up to date, subscribe to our updates by entering your email address in the form below.

Please consider a one-time or recurring donation!!

If you would like to donate in person, please contact us by email listed above. If you would like to mail a check (this saves us on donation processing fees!), you can send them to:

Save Chehalem Mountain
15532 SW Pacific Hwy C1B #331
Tigard, OR 97224

Donations through this website are currently unavailable but should be back shortly, please contact us or mail a check to the address above. If you would like to make a large donation, please consider sending a check (or we will come pick it up!) to avoid donation processing fees.

Thank you!

The Board of Directors for Save Chehalem Mountain met on 12/30/2020 and the majority resolved to amend the Articles of Incorporation, Article 6 to state that the corporation will not have members. The Board further resolves to post this notice on the SCM website for 30 days in accordance with State regulations.

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