A major new landfill is in the planning stage for Lake County— a facility that would be 40 times larger than Bend’s Knott Landfill. It could mean more semi trucks and train cars full of trash, rolling through Jefferson, Deschutes and Crook counties.
Stretching from the southern end of Deschutes County to the California state line, Lake County is one of the biggest and least-populous counties in Oregon — figure one resident per square mile. A lot of that empty space will become a landfill.
A memorandum of understanding shows that the county has hired Jensen Consulting out of Salem to locate and buy property and “permit, construct and operate a regional subtitle D Solid Waste landfill facility.”
It would be similar to Knott Landfill, taking household and non-hazardous waste material, but much larger.
The estimated size is 8,000 acres — 12.5 square miles. Knott Landfill about is 200 acres.
The known costs so far:
- Siting and permitting: $1.8 million
- Landfill construction: $11.4 million
- Heavy equipment for daily operations: $3.6 million
- Many other costs have yet to be determined
Oregon hasn’t approved anything like this in 32 years.
Lake County government and the developer won’t say where the exact location is. One county commissioner tells Central Oregon Daily News that a site north of Fort Rock is under consideration.
North of Fort Rock lives a sea of rabbit brush and sagebrush, a land of lava rock outcroppings, dirt and sky. It’s also home to deer, elk, cottontails, coyotes and the occasional antelope.
If the project is approved, it won’t happen fast. And Lake County commissioners understand there will be pushback.
“There are multiple opportunities for interest groups to appeal decisions during the process making it difficult to estimate time and expense,” the MOU states, adding that siting and permitting alone may take “two to four years or longer.”
Deschutes County government and waste managers said the first they heard about it was when they were contacted by Central Oregon Daily News.
“It is somewhat of a surprise. I mean there are not a lot of people who live in northern Lake County or in Lake County. Really the major waste production population anywhere near there is probably us in Deschutes County,” said County Commissioner Phil Chang.
“It was surprising news to us, particularly to hear that size and scale. That’s one of the larger sited landfills in the country, frankly,” said Tim Brownell, Director of Deschutes County Solid Waste.
Deschutes County is currently in the site selection process to replace Knott Landfill, which will top out in 2029. Nothing Lake County does is going to change that, Chang said.
Chang is skeptical about the economics of the Lake County project.
“They are going to have to transport in a lot of waste in from very far distances to make that idea viable,” he said.
But that appears to be exactly what Lake County has in mind. The plans include a rail connection to BNSF tracks to the west for “rail transportation of Acceptable Waste from more distant Oregon Counties and Municipalities and out of state waste streams.”
Lake County also sees this as a new revenue stream, with payments from dump customers to be used for county road maintenance and a local scholarship program. Developer Don Jensen also said it would mean several hundred new full-time jobs.
Other benefits in the proposal include contracting work for local businesses. Lake County residents could dump for free.
Jefferson County sends its garbage to a landfill in The Dalles. A county commissioner said trucking it to Lake County instead could be an option when the contract ends in seven years.
Crook County’s landfill site has another 50 years of viability.