The Umatilla County Board of Commissioners approved grants totaling $13,516.23 to compensate five livestock producers for using non-lethal deterrents against wolves.

Commissioners Bill Elfering and John Shafer passed the matter during the board’s meeting on Wednesday morning in Pendleton. Commissioner George Murdock, who has interest in his family’s cattle company, declared a conflict of interest and abstained.

The county’s Wolf Depredation Advisory Committee considers the requests and sends them to the commissioners for the final say. Shafer said he attended the advisory committee’s meeting and complimented the committee for handling the situation involving more requests than money.

The board also gave its support to Oregon House Bill 2444, which Rep. Greg Barreto, R-Cove, is pushing to benefit FFA. The bill would require $1.4 million to send FFA students to competitions, statewide trainings and local and national conventions, and $600,000 in grant money for agricultural science and technology teachers during the summer.

Barreto’s bill also would require the Oregon Department of Education to coordinate with FFA to make sure students can use their FFA educations for college and career opportunities.

Elfering said he has seen plenty of evidence that FFA is successful and benefits students. Murdock said he is a former state FFA officer and “hardly neutral on the issue,” but FFA and 4-H students learn work ethics, and that speaks to workforce development. The board voted 3-0 in favor.

The board also set March 13 for a public hearing to consider vacating a portion of Tamarack Avenue in Hermiston and an adjacent public road and voted 3-0 to vacate another road.

Medelez Trucking submitted a request for the county to change a road from public to private. The road, about 460 feet long, runs east to west between Westland and Livestock roads on property belonging to Medelez Trucking. Matt Kinney with the county’s public works department told the board because Medelez Trucking asked for the change and is the only adjacent land owner, there is no need for a public hearing.

Kinney said the company is not using the land but the company may have plans for the site in the future. County counsel Doug Olsen explained the county planned the road for development that never developed.

The board also met Elizabeth Ridley, the county’s new planner and GIS analyst. Ridley graduated in 2018 with a planning degree from Eastern Washington University, Cheney, Washington, and completed an internship with Spokane Transit Authority before taking the position with the county. Ridley also is from Pendleton.

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