Commissioners tackle water supply for proposed I-5 welcome center

A 17-year debate over a welcome center on Interstate 5 near Ashland has now shifted to whether the project has an adequate water supply.

The Jackson County Board of Commissioners will take up the issue at a public hearing on the rest area proposal at 1:30 p.m., Wednesday, in the Jackson County Courthouse auditorium, 10 S. Oakdale Ave.

A rest area in the Ashland area has been in the pipeline since the Oregon Department of Transportation closed a welcome center near the Siskiyou Summit over traffic safety concerns in 1996.

The project has laid low for almost two years after the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals ruled the county needed to prove it was meeting statewide planning goals, particularly related to water issues.

Connie Foland, one of the neighbors opposed to the project, said she has vowed to fight the continued efforts of ODOT.

"It's the little farmer against the big bad state," said Foland, who runs a nearby blueberry farm.

The new center would be built on a flat, straight stretch of freeway at milepost 12.5, just south of Crowson Road and before northbound drivers reach exit 14, the south Ashland interchange.

Currently, the estimate to build the rest area is $11 million, which includes construction, engineering, land acquisition and design.

The commissioners will be debating whether the proposal by Ashland to extend a pipeline to the rest area addresses the water needs of the facility, according to statewide planning goals.

— Damian Mann

Read more in Wednesday's newspaper.

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