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It's Your Oregon: Chuck Johnson

Chuck recalls 30 years ago when OEC was headquartered in a house on Water street, activism happened without copy machines or email, and fighting poorly planned nuclear plants became, he says, the "most miraculous thing I did in my political career."

When Chuck Johnson stopped by to pick up his Love Your River prize, it wasn’t the first time he’d visited the offices of Oregon Environmental Council. Back in 1979, OEC lent its office space (then a modest two story home on SW Water Street) and printing operation to an independent citizen effort.

Building a groundswell of support, the group stopped Oregon from completing construction of the twin Pebble Springs nuclear power plants on the Columbia River Gorge in Arlington, Oregon – until there was a permanent disposal site for its radioactive waste.  In an interesting “swords to plowshares” side note, some re-purposed reactor equipment was used by the Widmer Brothers to brew their first batches of commercial beer.  

Ending the poorly planned nuclear expansion was an extraordinary citizen effort—and though he didn’t know it at the time, Chuck now calls it “the most miraculous thing I did in my political career.” He went on to become a professional advocate, and was the first paid staff member of the Oregon League of Conservation Voters. Most recently, Chuck finished writing a biography of Governor Bob Straub, highlighting the environmental politics of the 1960s and ‘70s. The book is due out next year.

“I am encouraged by how faithful Oregon has been to its environmental promise from the 70s, compared to the rest of the country and world,” says Chuck. “But, given the size of our problems, we're not doing well enough -- not nearly.” Today, as a Columbia Riverkeeper board member, Chuck seeks new ways to protect Oregon’s rivers from age-old problems, such as industry pollution, storm water runoff and the pollution remaining at the Hanford nuclear site.  

But even as an active river advocate, Chuck says he has something to learn from the Love Your River web site. He’s never kayaked the Columbia Slough, and his prize will give him this new experience. And though he already knew that it’s smart to clean and dry your kayak between water bodies to avoid spreading invasive species, the tip and pledge will remind him to do it in his summer travels.  

We’re glad to have Chuck continuing the good work he started decades ago, and OEC is proud to be part of keeping Oregon’s environmental promise. Says Chuck, “I appreciate OEC’s longevity and hope to see great things in the future!”

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