Deschutes River management group split on permit system
Another meeting ends without groups reaching consensusNews Editor
March 19, 2003 — By Troy Foster News Editor An executive meeting in Portland Monday between five of eight agencies that manage the lower Deschutes River ended in a predictable stalemate.
The future of how the public will gain access to the river remains uncertain with the agencies divided over whether to implement a common-pool, limited-entry permit system.
Management of the lower Deschutes from Lake Billy Chinook to the Columbia River is governed by consensus between eight entities under a Lower Deschutes River Management Plan agreed to several years ago.
They’ve been haggling for months now over whether to implement a common-pool permit system to reduce the number of boaters on peak weekends.
The Confederated Tribes of Warm Spring and the Bureau of Indian Affairs have held their ground, insisting that the permit system must be implemented because usage has exceeded target levels described in the management plan since 1997.
“The Tribe’s position is that the plan calls for a limited entry system at this point,” Robert Brunoe, general manager of the Warm Springs Natural Resources Department, said in a statement. “The Tribes intend to live by the terms of the plan that is signed and expects all of the other signatories to do the same.”
The other six agencies, however, had previously expressed an interest in exhausting all other possibilities of limiting boaters without the permit system. They include the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Oregon Marine Board, the Bureau of Land Management, State Police and a consortium of six local governments, which includes the cities of Madras, Maupin and The Dalles along with Jefferson, Wasco and Sherman counties.
All agencies have agreed to meet again to hammer out concerns regarding the limited-entry system, although no date has been set.
“That’s the root issue, this common pool system,” said Chuck Burley, a lobbyist representing the local governments consortium, which has been one of its biggest critics.
The local governments fear limited-entry will have an adverse impact on their economies.
The Lower Deschutes Management Plan was created to protect the river’s health, and they assert that most managing agencies have reported improved conditions on the river despite what they consider questionable data regarding usage.
“I don’t think it’s fair to experiment with people’s livelihoods,” Burley said. “That’s not good public policy.”
With Monday’s failure to reach consensus, Confederated Tribes officials issued a press release insisting the plan now obligates the agencies to implement the limited-entry permit system as written.
“The indications that we have received are that much of the agencies’ opposition to the limited entry system has been generated by an intense lobbying campaign of national and local guides associations,” Tribal Council Chairman Olney Patt Jr. said in the statement. “The lower Deschutes limited-entry system provides an equal chance for private boaters and guided boaters to access the river.”
Madras Mayor Rick Allen said the number of boaters reportedly over the usage threshold represent only 1 percent of the total on the river annually.
“Before we put an expensive, bureaucratic system on the people of this state that use the river you have to make sure it’s reasoned,” Allen said. “I can support a limited-entry system only at the point that it does something.”