Do unto others ...

August 07, 2003 12:00 am

The Environmental Protection Agency has announced its intention to fine the city of Portland for discharging raw sewage into the Willamette River.

Eastern Oregon says: "It's about time."

For years, plumes of raw sewage pouring into the Willamette have been parts of life in Portland. Television news station routinely run warnings about fishing and swimming the Willamette due to rain-swelled sewers.

In an era when the government wants to know if a cow poops in the Powder River, Portland's problem with its sewer system stood out as a glaring example of the unfair application of America's environmental laws. Target the family rancher, let off the big city.

Or so it seemed.

Consider: If the EPA swaggered into Baker County and slapped fines on one of our cattle producers, we'd all take note.

And if that cattle producer was already in the midst of an expensive and time-consuming project to remediate or mitigate the violation before the EPA arrived, we'd cry foul.

How can fines help a problem if the solution is being put in place?

Just as Eastern Oregon would rally to the aid of a rancher, Portland deserves our support in this spat with the EPA.

The city is spending a billion dollars to fix its problematic sewer system. Fines won't fix a complex problem overnight — for a city or a cattle company.