Steve Gordon
Senior Program Manager, Lane Council of Governments
Eugene, Oregon

Steve Gordon, the award winner in the local government category, has been a land-use planner with Lane Council of Governments (L-COG) since 1975, where he is currently senior program manager. L-COG is a public agency that provides planning services for local units of government in Lane County Oregon, including land use, natural resource management, and data management. Gordon manages the program elements associated with the Eugene-Springfield metropolitan plan (population 190,000), boundary changes, and natural resource management. His planning skills often result in benefits to the greater Eugene-Springfield community, as demonstrated through his vision and leadership in developing and preparing the West Eugene Wetlands Special Area Study (WEWSAS) for the city of Eugene.

WEWSAS is a comprehensive wetlands management plan involving a study area of over 8,000 acres. As project manager, Gordon developed a plan that resolved a complex land management dilemma-the discovery of nearly 1,500 acres of jurisdictional wetlands that were previously zoned for industrial, commercial, and residential use since the mid-1950s. The plan balances resource protection needs with urban development on this land. The investment of over $20 million in public infrastructure to serve this area helped to create a negative local attitude toward the state and federal agencies responsible for administering wetlands law. From the beginning of the study through the plan’s adoption, Gordon was instrumental in providing the direction and confidence for finding a solution to the dilemma.

On the behalf of the city of Eugene, he applied for and received a grant from The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to conduct the study. He developed a work program and planning process for preparing, reviewing, and adopting the plan. The planning process relied heavily on public education and involvement, and interaction with a technical advisory committee composed of regulatory and resource agencies. This process proved to be a hallmark in gaining consensus on the final plan, and was acknowledged as an effective and innovative approach by the EPA. The EPA has since awarded a $100,000 grant to L-COG to prepare a model for comprehensive wetlands planning for use nationwide.

Aspects of the plan that are attributed to Gordon’s direction include a multiple objective regional solution for flood control, water quality, wildlife habitat, education, research, and recreation and creating a balance between resource protection and economic development needs. Through Gordon’s direction, a combined effort by The Nature Conservancy (TNC), property owners, environmental groups, the business community, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and the Oregon congressional delegation resulted in a congressional appropriation of $2 million in land and water conservation funds for wetlands acquisition. The funding level is expected to reach $9 million in the next two years. Under a comprehensive management structure, the BLM will own wetlands and receive management assistance from TNC, the city of Eugene, and L-COG-an unprecedented partnership which will ensure the ongoing success of this project. The plan has been prepared, reviewed by the public, and is in the final adoption phase.

Gordon earned a Bachelor of Science in geography and a graduate degree in urban studies from the University of Oregon. He is recognized as one of the outstanding land-use planners in Oregon and received the Oregon Chapter American Planning Association award in 1990 for “Distinguished Leadership by a Professional Planner.” As a result of Gordon’s efforts, WEWSAS is being touted as a national model for resolving wetlands dilemmas at the local level.

— Tim Bingham, Associate Planner, Lane Council of Governments