Group wants to make eastern Ore. its own state

Group wants to make eastern Ore. its own state
Steelhead live in beautiful rivers like eastern Oregon's Grande Ronde River that flows through cool valleys and gorges. (AP Photo/ Roger Phillips/Idaho Statesman)
PENDLETON, Ore. (AP) - A small group of people from Hood River are interesting in making eastern Oregon its own state.

Consultant Paul Koch, 69, his partner Ernie DeRocher and DeRocher's wife, Rita Swyers, both 82, are pushing the effort. Koch said people in eastern Oregon are fed up with how Salem has treated them.

If they got their wish, the stateline would stretch from east of the Cascade Mountains to the Idaho border.

Koch has done consulting and strategic planning work for Milton-Freewater, Baker City, the Umatilla County Special Library District and Blue Mountain Community College.

He said during his travels around eastern Oregon in recent years, he and his partner heard a steady theme of how the western part of the state gets all the benefits.

"We started asking people, 'Gee, why don't we start our own state?"' Koch said.

Some people dismissed the notion, Koch said, but others were all for it.

Koch has developed idea papers and an action plan on creating the new state, and he, DeRocher and Swyers created a list of about 140 people to contact about the idea.

They say some people laughed it off at first, but their tunes changed when they heard they were serious enough to hold public meetings about adding a new star to the U.S. flag. Then, Koch said, people wanted to attend.

The first meeting is being held soon and the group will give an overview of the reasons why eastern Oregon should be a separate state, discuss how it might operate and consider what the risks could be.

The U.S. Constitution allows for the creation of a new state from an exiting state with the approval of the state Legislature and the U.S. Congress.

Although Koch has done quite a lot of work on this idea, he admits he doesn't have all of the answers, particularly when it comes to the economy and funding for a new state.

"I honestly don't have a clue," he said. "However, in talking to people about this, we're thinking about using some new techniques, new approaches ... and having a very small, centralized state government and relying on cities and counties to deliver most of the services."

He also said he doesn't know which city would serve as the capital.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)