CURRY URGED TO JOIN LAWSUIT

January 22, 2002 12:00 am

GOLD BEACH Coos County Commissioner John Griffith invited Curry County Tuesday to join his county in a lawsuit against the federal government for blocking beach access near snowy plover nesting sites.

The Curry County commissioners ultimately decided to table the issue to their Feb. 4 meeting while County Council Jerry Herbage researches it.

Griffith told the commissioners that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service closed the majority of beaches from Heceta Head north of Florence to Floras Lake north of Port Orford.

Since the dry sand is closed near nesting sites, at high tide the closure is total, he said.

He said the wildlife service failed to adequately consider the adverse economic impacts of the closure, as required.

His countys resolution said, Coos County has encountered severe job losses and economic depression in many sectors of its industry as the result of restraints imposed on the economy of the area by virtue of the federal Endangered Species Act.

Griffith said the wildlife service applied the same justifications for its designations that were determined to be arbitrary and capricious by federal courts in two cases in 2001.

He said the Pacific Legal Foundation, a public interest law firm, is willing to pursue litigation on behalf of Coos County at no cost except for expenses. He estimated those to be less than $2,000.

Griffith said his county could take that out of its economic development fund.

He said Coos County joined a lawsuit in March against critical habitat restrictions for salmon, and another in May against the Clinton forest plan. He said it cost nothing to join.

Commissioner Rachelle Schaaf said, I think this is a very serious issue for all coastal counties. I want to look more into the unforeseen costs. I dont feel comfortable making a commitment that could cost the county tens of thousands of dollars.

Commissioner Marlyn Schafer said she was concerned the snowy plover protection near Floras Lake could affect the countys revenue-generating campground at Boice-Cope County Park.

At the same time, she said, she was concerned about the countys liability in joining the lawsuit.

Its one of those damned if you do and damned if you dont things, she said.

Commissioner Lucie La Bont was snowed-in and participated by speaker-phone.

She agreed Herbage should research the lawsuit.

Herbage said, You need information so you know exactly what youre getting into.

Schaaf said shed heard there hadnt been any cases of humans disturbing snowy plover nests.

Griffith said there was one case in 1991 in Coos County. He said only 2 percent of all nest failures are due to human activities, while 68 percent are caused by natural predators.