Deschutes County groundwater ordinance referendum (2009)
"No" carried with 56.99% of the vote, meaning that the 2008 ordinance was overturned.
The Deschutes County board of commissioners passed a groundwater regulation in 2008. County residents who objected to the new ordinance circulated petitions to force the new ordinance to a vote of the people through the county's veto referendum process.
The new ordinance required homeowners in the southern part of the county to upgrade septic systems to models that do a better job of reducing nitrates. Specifically:
- All septic systems must upgrade to an approved nitrate reducing system over the next fourteen years.
- 6,500 existing septic units in southern Deschutes County are affected by this requirement.
- New systems will cost property owners between $7,000-$16,000.
After the signatures were collected, County District Attorney Mike Dugan wrote a ballot title for the ballot item. Supporters of the referendum believed that title to be unfair and non-neutral and filed a lawsuit to get it changed. That lawsuit was heard by Deschutes County Circuit Judge Michael Adler. Adler ruled in favor of Dugan's ballot title in mid-January, leaving the title as is. La Pine resident Ron Sharbaugh argued, unsuccessfully, that the ballot description should include specific townships and ranges of where the requirements will take effect.
Effect of a "yes" vote
Voting "yes" agreed with the ordinance passed by the Deschutes County board in 2008.
Effect of a "no" vote
A "no" vote was a vote to overturn or nullify the groundwater ordinance passed by the Deschutes County board in 2008.
- Deschutes County Citizens Action Group. This group urged a "no" vote.
- Local rule: Why should voters beyond La Pine care? This link is to a newspaper article with additional background.
- Central Oregon LandWatch. This group urged a "yes" vote.