Malheur County Court holds first meeting to discuss “Greater Idaho”

This map shows how Idaho’s borders would look under a proposal being promoted by Move Oregon’s Border. Idaho legislators heard a presentation on Monday, April 12. (Greater Idaho map)

VALE – The Malheur County Court Monday held the first required public meeting to consider shifting a large part of Oregon into Idaho.

A ballot measure approved by county voters in May requires that the Malheur County Court meets three times a year to discuss how to promote the county’s interest in any future negotiations about expanding Idaho’s border west.

Mike McCarter, president of Citizens for Greater Idaho who launched the ballot measures in several Oregon counties, was the main presenter at the meeting.

“We feel like a measure like this is extremely important at the county level, because it kind of gives them a head start,” McCarter said during the meeting. “If and when a border change takes place, it’s going to be a complicated process.”

Some complications for the county court to consider, according to McCarter, are land and water usage, marijuana sales and the location of the Snake River Correctional Institution.

McCarter couldn’t provide a timeline for the legislative process that is part of making such a boundary change. He said the Covid pandemic has slowed progress.

Brent Grasty was the first citizen to comment during the meeting, saying he would like a solid timeline and a record of the county resources that go into exploring the hypothetical border change.

“There’s always going to be boundary differences between urban and rural, that’s in every state. The minute this happens, Boise will become the bad guys,” Grasty said.

“I’m not against the conversation,” he added. “I’m against spending so much time on an effort to do something that is kind of mean-spirited.”

Paul Skeen, president of the Malheur County Onion Growers Association, also spoke up.

“We need to do something, and I don’t think it’s going to get done in Salem,” Skeen said.

He said that as an onion grower, he finds that the border complicates business relations and that Oregon state regulations are disadvantageous. But he questioned the scale of the proposed “Greater Idaho” border, which extends to the coast.

“I worry that we’re trying to bite off more than we can chew to begin with,” Skeen said.

If the project is to move forward through the state level, McCarter said the border change would eventually require approval by Congress.

For now, Malheur County will keep discussing the possibility, as required by the measure. The next Malheur County Court meeting on the Greater Idaho issue will be on Jan. 10, 2022.

Jim Maret, city manager of Nyssa, said during the meeting that he supports exploring the issue.

“I think it’s a great idea. You’re 100% spot on, Mr. McCarter, when you say that the Oregon Legislature does not listen to us,” Maret said. “Even if it’s just a matter where the state starts to listen to us, we’ve accomplished some goals.”

The Legislature last session made a late appropriation of $3 million to extend Nyssa city’s water service to the proposed rail shipping center.

News tip? Contact reporter Abbey McDonald at [email protected]


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