THE final OUTCOME
House Bill 2027
The proposed amendment to the Upper Deschutes Management Plan is the first time that the State of Oregon has ever considered abolishing State Scenic Waterway protections. In response a group of Bend conservationists and homeowners in this area of the Upper Deschutes reached out to local legislators during the 2017 Session. Their intent was to notify the Legislature of BPRD and OPRD's attempt to change longstanding environmental protections on the Upper Deschutes.
In 2017 the House Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources voted unanimously to pass a bill strengthening environmental protections under the Oregon Scenic Waterways Act.
The legislation prohibited, "person, public body or local service district from constructing bridge [on] crossing Deschutes River within certain [segments] segment of Deschutes Scenic Waterway."
HB 2027 represents a bipartisan effort by representatives Brian Clem and Gene Whisnant to support Bend conservationists who have been excluded and disregarded by the Bend Park and Recreation District.
Oregon Administrative Rules
In the winter of 2016, Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD) engaged in a public process looking at the Upper Deschutes River and whether or not the rules should be changed to allow a bridge. An outside facilitator, Community Solutions of Central Oregon, supported OPRD in convening an advisory group, holding three open house public meetings as well as performing an online survey.
Following the extensive review and the release of a Community Solutions Report in May 2017, the conclusion of this public process by State Parks was a decision to not to pursue an amendment to allow bridges. OPRD Director Lisa Sumption stated, “I would reconsider amending rules in the future if that would clearly strengthen protection of the waterway. As important as recreation is to our mission, it has to be balanced with our need to protect resources that make recreation possible. Changing rules, especially in a way that might encourage more visible riverside development, is contrary to the purpose of the scenic waterway system.”
OPRD continues to uphold legislation containing environmental protections
OPRD consistency upholds environmental protections, acknowledging the importance in the long withstanding state statues including the Oregon Scenic Waterways Act. Additionally OPRD has held BPRD accountable for undermining authority and aggressive tactics implemented in the community.
OPRD recognized the broad purpose of the Act in an internal document, stating, “Scenic waterways are not intended to accommodate bank recreation as such, but to protect the view from the river, and fish and wildlife qualities of the waterway.”
OPRD explicitly stated in an internal document that its proposed rule amendment “Weakens current level of scenic and natural protection for this river segment.”
- OPRD recognized that allowing new bridges in the Upper Deschutes Scenic Waterway “May encourage development in an area where natural resources would be harmed (in contravention of scenic waterway goals).” Upper Deschutes Scenic Waterway Rule Amendment Request, 2016. pg. 4.
- In April 2017, following correspondence with state representatives and members of the community, staff members of Bend Parks and Recreation Department ascertained the rules would not be reopened. In a conversation with Associate Director Chris Havel, Don Horton, after assuming they would be reopened questioned Oregon Parks and Recreation Department and suggested that he had been deceived. Lisa Sumption responded strongly to Mr. Horton, stating internally, “this is the second time that you have called into question our staff’s integrity and honesty.” She continued to highlight the community’s concerns and increasing opposition to the bridge, “after serious consideration, and hearing from the community that there were serious concerns about weakening scenic waterway protections.”