This should be a no-brainer: preserving a uniquely special place in Oregon -- the Metolius River Basin recreation area -- that is threatened by two large destination resorts.
But brains are in short supply among some who approve of this potential travesty.
As noted in my 2007 "Save the Metolius from destination resorts," Jefferson County commissioner Bill Bellamy came up with this astoundingly poor reason for allowing about 3,000 homes and a couple of golf courses to be built near the Metolius:
This shows the mentality that led Jefferson County to change its zoning of the area to allow the resorts, even though the vast majority of people who live in the Camp Sherman area were opposed.
In the 2007 legislative session a Metolius-saving bill, Senate Bill 30, died after Gov. Kulongoski said that he wanted to let the land use planning process go ahead before intervening.
Now its 2009 and the Governor is doing the right thing, even though an Oregonian editorial failed to realize this. Kulongoski isn't playing "red light, green light" with the would-be developers, because he said back in 2007 that if state agencies told him that current laws can't protect the Metolius Basin, something needed to be done.
Bob Stacey, 1000 Friends of Oregon executive director, cleared up the editorial board's confusion in his own follow-up opinion piece, "Protecting the Metolius."
It is true that during the 2007 session Gov. Ted Kulongoski
signaled that he would not -- at that time -- support proposed
legislation that offered special protection for the Metolius.
But The Oregonian suggests that "the developers naturally took the governor's stand as a sign he would allow them to pursue their resorts under existing land-use law."
That reasoning ignores the fact that on June 22, 2007, the governor instructed state agencies to report back to him on whether existing state law would be sufficient to protect the Metolius Basin. What the governor heard back was that existing laws would not fully protect the critical natural resources of the Metolius Basin from harmful effects of resort development.
As a result of these reviews, the governor concluded that additional protection for the Metolius is warranted. We agree. We find it odd to suggest that the governor should not consider every tool in the toolkit to protect this unique treasure for all Oregonians. We applaud his leadership.
So now Kulongoski has asked the Department of Land Conservation and Development to consider whether the Metolius River Basin should be designated an "Area of Critical State Concern."
Public hearings have been scheduled next week in Sisters and Madras. Comments on the proposal also can be emailed. If you're a lover of the Metolius, as my wife and I are, let DLCD know that you don't want this beautiful area to be ruined by giant destination resorts.
If the Area of Critical State Concern process doesn't work out, the Governor has a backup plan: legislation that would stop the resorts. Central Oregon Landwatch and others also have succeeded in getting the Oregon Supreme Court to accept an appeal of the Jefferson County rezoning.
So one way or another, I'm hopeful that the Metolius will be protected.
It'd be a shame to allow the greed of a few county commissioners for more property tax revenues to trash an area that has been officially designated "wild and scenic."
Adding 3,000 homes in and near the Metolius Basin, where only a few hundred people live now, doesn't sound like a good way to preserve a wild and scenic river.
(Click below for an email message I got from Central Oregon Landwatch, describing the upcoming hearings and the need for people to comment on the Area of Critical State Concern plan.)
The State Land Conservation and Development Commission has scheduled two hearings in Central Oregon to address a plan to designate the Metolius Basin as an Area of Critical State Concern.
The first hearing will be held on Wednesday at 5:00 pm, February 11th at the Sisters High School, 1700 W McKinney Butte Rd. Sisters, OR 97759. (map is here.)
The second hearing will be held on Thursday at 5:00 pm, February 12th at the Madras Senior Center at 860 SW Madison, Madras, OR 97741. (map is here.)
For more information on these hearings and the Area of Critical State Concern proposal, the Department of Land Conservation and Development has posted an informational page online here. Instructions for submitting testimony are here.
Testimony provided at these hearings will help guide the Governor and DLCD in their efforts to protect the Metolius. Their plan is to take your public input, draft a management plan, and seek legislative approval for the plan.
Initial reports however indicate that the management plan would not prevent the siting of a proposed 2 golf course, 2500 residential unit development within 4 miles of the majestic headwaters. The developers have applied for the rights to drill 10 wells to pump 2.5 million gallons of groundwater PER DAY. We need your public input and then real legislative leadership to save the Metolius. The hearings on the 11th and 12th are the first steps in the public process.
LandWatch continues to work with supportive legislators on a forthcoming separate bill to provide the protections that the Metolius deserves. When legislative counsel releases that draft and legislative sponsors are formalized, we’ll be asking for as many people as possible to support that specific bill to truly save the Metolius.
In the meantime, we need your help to ensure that the process sets off down the right path. By attending the upcoming public hearings and providing them with compelling testimony, you will send a strong message to the Governor and the State Land Conservation and Development Commission. We need them to hear that Oregon citizens want the strongest possible protections for the Metolius. We need them to hear that destination resorts are simply inappropriate in or near the basin. You've written many powerful letters (Please continue to forward them to us at email@example.com and visit our site online here.) and already given tremendous voice to this important issue. Now it's time to put as many faces as possible to this effort.
Thank you for all your support!!
Campaign Manager for Central Oregon LandWatch