Deschutes County commissioners hold off on selecting site for new landfill

By Kathryn Styer Martínez (OPB)
June 13, 2024 1 p.m.
FILE: A mound of garbage at the Knott Landfill in Deschutes County, which is set to close in 2029.

FILE: A mound of garbage at the Knott Landfill in Deschutes County, which is set to close in 2029.

Joni Land / OPB

Deschutes County commissioners voted Wednesday to wait at least two more weeks and accept more public input before making a decision on where to put a new landfill in central Oregon.


At the meeting Wednesday, Deschutes County’s solid waste department director Tim Brownell and project managers with the consulting firm Parametrix presented county commissioners with two final options for the proposed new landfill site. The current county dump, Knott Landfill, is projected to reach capacity by the end of 2029 or 2030.

County officials are considering two locations for the first new landfill built in Oregon in the last 33 years. The solid waste advisory committee unanimously recommended a site called Moon Pit. The second option is called Roth East. Both are located southeast of Bend. Commissioners decided to delay their deliberations to receive clarification on questions about environmental mitigation, water rights, and the value of a rock quarry, among other issues.

Each site has pros and cons, according to the county’s staff and consultants. The Roth East site would likely have the most environmental impacts of the two, partly because Moon Pit is a former mine owned by Hooker Creek LLC, a central Oregon construction materials business.


Total site development costs, including $15 million to purchase the land, are estimated to be $50 to $60 million. County staff could not give elected officials a definite answer about the value of the rock still in the mining site, or what price it might command on the open market.

Water rights would not be included in the sale of the land, and would instead be a separate operating expense. Hooker Creek would retain the rights and lease the water from an industrial well located on the Moon Pit site, “as long as the county needed it,” said Brownell. Water is imperative to the landfill for managing dust in the summers and to use in the event of a fire. Knott Landfill currently uses 50,000 gallons of water a day during the summer months for dust suppression, officials said.

Commissioners could have chosen a site at the meeting, but Commissioner Phil Chang motioned to wait. He said the commission hadn’t been presented with “a full set of numbers” on what each site might cost.

Ryan Rudnick, a civil engineer with Parametrix, noted a Native American resource site exists a half-mile from the Moon Pit.

He said cultural resources were found during an informal walk of the Moon Pit site. Additionally, three “pre-contact sites,” which included artifacts from before white settlers populated central Oregon, were found at Moon Pit. More cultural resources were also found at Roth East.

According to the presentation heard by commissioners, Moon Pit’s unmined and unquarried areas have a “moderate to high probability for archaeological resources,” while the Roth East “entire parcel has a high probability for archaeological resources.”

A formal archaeological site review by the State Historic Preservation Office will be conducted once a landfill location is chosen, said Rudnick.

People can submit written comments about the landfill site to the commission until June 26. A date for commissioners to deliberate on the final site location has not yet been set.