County selects firm for conservation plan

By: Hannah Hoffman, Yamhill Valley News Register
March 13, 2011

Responding to a legal threat from a coalition headed by the Xerces Society, Yamhill County has chosen the international environmental consulting firm Cardno Entrix to create a habitat conservation plan to protect the Fender’s blue butterfly and Kincaid’s lupine on county lands.

Cardno Entrix’s proposal was one of four the county received. It not only earned the top score from the selectio committee, 93.5 on a 100-point scale, but also came in at the lowest in price at $98,157.

Also bidding were HDR Engineering, 81.75 points and $99,820; Ecosystem Sciences, 74.5 points and $116,900; and Jon Hemstreet, 36.75 and $142,500.

Cardno Entrix is based in Houston, but has offices in several major cities around the world, including Portland. It won the Environmental Business Journal’s 2010 gold medal for business achievement.

The company’s task will be to create a habitat conservation plan for the butterfly and its host plant, and to take note of any other endangered species that reside in the areas of Yamhill County covered by the plan.

The county issued its request for proposals last month, after a coalition of environmental activists, angered at the county’s 2-1 rejection of a $391,000 federal grant to fund development of a broader, multi-species habitat conservation plan, threatened to seek recourse in federal court.

Issuance of the RFP, aimed at heading off federal litigation that could prove protracted and expensive, grew out of two months of behind-the-scenes talks between county officials and the would-be plaintiffs. The environmental coalition was led by Scott Black, executive director of the Portland-based Xerces Society.

The earlier grant turndown, coming on a 2-1 vote pitting Commissioners Leslie Lewis and Kathy George against Commissioner Mary Stern, triggered the legal threat. It caught most observers off guard, even those holding key county leadership posts, as the same commissioners had unanimously authorized pursuit of the federal funding initially.

The grant money was subsequently awarded to the Yamhill Soil & Water Conservation District for a habitat protection project aimed at private landowners. So federal money is no longer available.

The county asked Carndo Entrix to cover only county-owned public lands, thus keeping the cost down while still managing to cover most of Yamhill County, in conjunction with the district’s private-lands effort.

When she supported issuance of the RFP, George said she thought the smaller scope of the new proposal was more appropriate and manageable for the county’s public works department, which will serve as both the liaison and implementation agency. She noted it already has a working mitigation strategy to keep from harming butterflies or their habitat along county roadsides as it undertakes routine maintenance work.

John Phelan, head of public works, served on the selection committee with Deputy County Counsel Christian Boenisch, County Engineer Bill Gille and environmental consultant Michel Wert.

The completion date for the project is set for Jan. 31, 2012.