About the same time, in 1996, Deschutes County embarked on a project entitled "Regional Problem Solving for Southern Deschutes County." This project was funded by the state of Oregon to look at the problems in the region and work with the public to identify solutions that may fall outside the rulebook. The job announcement came out a couple months after I started as a planner, but I hesitated to apply even though the job description read like it was tailor made for me because I was just beginning to learn the ropes and actually relished the idea of not being on soft money for a change. I also wanted to learn more about the state land use system and the region in general. So I kept on with my learning and working on the land use process.
It turned out pretty well because the Regional Problem Solving Project (I'll call it RPS from here on out) convened some topic oriented working committees, one of which was water quality, and county planning staff were encouraged to participate. I joined the water quality committee and started getting my feet wet, so to speak.
There was a huge amount of activity over the next few years, including a small memorandum type report produced by the Oregon DEQ that said their sampling and 2-dimensional modeling showed that the groundwater was becoming polluted from the long term use of septic systems. At the time the region was not fully developed, which meant that there was actually a huge opportunity to change how much pollution was being loaded into the groundwater. Not only were there opportunities to change sewage treatment practices, but there were opportunities to change development patterns in the region.