Madras supports open river access
The Madras City Council unanimously endorsed a resolution supporting open access to the Lower Deschutes River at its meeting Tuesday night, July 22.
"I think the people of this community have a right to enjoy the Deschutes River," said Mayor Rick Allen. "The public shouldn't have to go through the onerous task of using a computer to see if they can go down to the river."
The resolution was in response to a lawsuit filed by Portland resident Mark Shuholm and Northwest Rafters Association against the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, to force the department to limit the number of people using the river.
The lawsuit claims that the OPRD violated Oregon law by delaying implementation of the limited-entry permit system outlined in the 1993 Lower Deschutes River Management Plan. Once river use exceeds a certain level, the plan called for the permit system to get under way.
"I believe this is a recreational river," said Councilman Bob Sjolund after the meeting. "The river's in great condition. Fish numbers are up and rafting is down, and the river's as healthy as it ever was."
The resolution, prepared by the city of Maupin for the six local governments on the Lower Deschutes, states that "the Bureau of Land Management shall implement no system that will limit the public's right to access the Lower Deschutes River without a documented environmental or social conflict that doing so will solve and only then as a last resort."
The city joined Maupin and The Dalles in approving the resolution. The Jefferson County Commission is considering the resolution, as will Sherman County at its next meeting. Wasco County has already approved the resolution.
"It's in our back yard," said Allen. "There should be an environmental or social reason for limiting the public's right to use the river. Otherwise, it's social engineering."
Allen also stressed the economic importance of the river. "Right now, this county can't stand any more hits. There are 50 to 100 people in the county who work part-time as shuttle drivers. There's no reason to tinker with the tourism economy."