Congressman Greg Walden brought a heavy hitter from the White House to Umatilla County last week to bolster his campaign to fight drug trafficking here.
The fight to curb the rampant use of rural Oregon for the manufacture and distribution of illegal drugs is a fight for money.
That should come as no surprise.
But when Scott Burns, deputy director of state and local affairs for the Office of National Drug Control Policy, visited with the EO editorial board, he put the issue squarely into perspective.
Walden agrees with the local Blue Mountain Enforcement Narcotics Team that despite the local effort of the multijurisdictional team, the problem requires more effort and funding.
The "more" he has in mind is to designate the seven-county area of Eastern Oregon a High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA). HIDTA designation adds state and federal law enforcement personnel and expertise to the multi-jurisdictional effort. It creates a team where all of the officers are on the same footing. It also brings funding.
And it has worked wonders in those areas where the designation has been applied.
HIDTA started with five designated areas. Today there are 28 and a budget of $226 million, which is frozen. And that's the rub for places such as ours.
For BENT to get HIDTA designation, another place which is already sharing in the $226 million pie would have to lose the designation.
Burns points out that the legislation enabling HIDTA failed to provide a process for decommissioning an area so the HIDTA designation could be moved from one area to another.
This unfilled hole in the legislation has turned what is arguably the single best remedy to fighting the war on drugs into an entitlement program once the war is won.
Burns, who was a prosecutor in Idaho for 16 years, recognizes that the fight against the meth labs and large-scale marijuana growers here is a serious issue for the entire Northwest, where the grass and crystals end up.
But how big is serious compared, say, to the number of meth labs in Missouri or the marijuana plantations in Tennessee and Kentucky?
In each case, the localities are not only competing with other hot spots for the funds to fight the problem, but against those areas where the fight has been fought, the war has been won, but the money continues to flow.
Congressman Walden's challenge isn't with the White House or the DEA or the Office of National Drug Control Policy.
Congressman Walden's fight needs to focus on revising the HIDTA legislation to include a sunset provision that will give the ONDCP the ability to move the money to where the fight is.