Eastern Oregon: the 51st state?

Eastern Oregon: the 51st state? »Play Video
HOOD RIVER, Ore. - You might think they're crazy. And they agree.

"Absolutely," said Paul Koch. "We are."

But they think a little crazy could solve some problems. Hood River residents Ernie DeRocher, Rita Swyers and Paul Koch said they have had enough with the Oregon legislature and it's treatment of rural communities.

Their biggest concerns are water rights, land rights and the recent loss of the Office of Rural Policy. Their solution is to cut Eastern Oregon off from its western neighbor and call the new state 'Eastern Oregon'.

How would it be funded? Where would the capital be? And what about the flag?

"All these things have to be worked out," said Koch.

Bend is east of the Cascades. You would think it would be in the running to be the new state capital. But it isn't even included. Koch said the booming tourist town simply isn't rural enough anymore.

"The Bend area doesn't fit as a rural community," said Koch.

The border would run right down the Cascades but go around Deschutes County. One thing Koch is sure of is that the new state would have fewer regulations.

The trio said there is plenty of interest. They recently held their first meeting in Boardman, where 32 people showed up all ready to hit the ground running.

With more meetings planned in the next few months, they said the interest will only get stronger.

While hoping for a new Oregon may be a grand illusion, Koch said he's open to another solution and just wants to get people talking.

"I know the answers to the problems are out on the streets somewhere," said Koch. "All we have to do is capture it and get people to agree to it."

This isn't the first time a group has tried to split the state.

Back in the 1940s, there was talk of Southern Oregon and Northern California coming together to create the State of Jefferson.

What makes this effort different? DeRocher said this time it's all about Oregon and making sure residents are all given the same opportunities.