During a joint session this past week of the Newport City Council and the Lincoln County Commission, the two bodies acknowledged the difficulties of trying to handle wildland fires during so-called Declared Emergencies. Communicating between cities and between the county and the cities during dangerous natural disasters – like the Echo Mountain Wildland Fire – proved problematic because of the terrain which makes communications between the firefighters and the cities up-and-down the county, very problematic. Radio waves can go through the air just fine. But put mountains in the way the radio signals can’t get through.
Discussions quickly focused on how to overcome communication challenges in mountainous areas. Reference was made to local AM and FM commercial radio stations but since they’re mostly run by computers, instantly requested communications related to a big fire can be a real problem. One option that was lightly discussed was enlisting local mobile ham radio operators who can move around inside a disaster area and use their own mountain-top radio repeaters to make the information available to other mobile hams stationed in the cities and towns to ensure vital information is available from Otis to Yachats. By enlisting such help, regular fire-rescue and sheriff’s patrols can concentrate on other major challenges. Further discussions are coming up.
Officials from the county and Newport also raised the issue of the quality of Yaquina River water flows. There are varying degrees of water quality of rivers and streams that sometimes fill up with trash, garbage and large household objects. Several councilors strongly urged Newport and the county to monitor water quality in rivers which sometimes can look more like a drainage ditch than a river. More discussions on this are anticipated.
The County Commissioners and Newport City Councilors also discussed their observations about how to improve the functionality of the County Commons/Soccer Field area – they want it better organized and upgraded in terms of how well it serves the community.
And…finally, there was considerable discussion about moving the County Animal Control Shelter from the County Commons off Highway 20 to a five acre parcel of land at the southwest corner of the Newport Airport complex at South Beach. County Counsel Wayne Belmont reported that formal plans are being drawn up for a much improved and expanded Animal Shelter at the Airport and that construction might get underway in late summer or early fall.