A settlement agreement mandating the adoption of a common pool reservation system for boaters on the Deschutes River in Oregon has been signed by all stakeholders.
The institution of this inherently fair method of use distribution was supposed to begin in 1997, when use triggers set forth in the cooperating agencies' management plan were exceeded. Some user groups and agencies, unhappy with the overturning of their set-aside allocations, attempted to derail the plan, resulting in the filing of a lawsuit by Northwest Rafter Association and local noncommercial boaters.
In anticipation of the settlement's adoption, the Bureau of Land Management began converting to this reservation based system earlier in the year. First-come, first-serve permits will be distributed to applicants on 2 of the 10 recreational segments of the river. The eight remaining segments will be phased in by 2006. Noncommercial boaters and commercial guests planning to float these sections reserve a permit through the online calendar at www.boaterpass.com . Once an open date and entry point is selected, the pass is purchased. Outfitter guests must enter the outfitter's license number when purchasing their pass. Outfitters may purchase permits for a customer, which is issued in the customer's name.
Outfitters with historical use on the first two segments will retain 66% of their pre-lawsuit allocation this year, reduced to 33% next year, after which there will be no set-asides for any recreational group.
This truly historic breakthrough paves the way for fair access management of recreational rivers throughout the nation. River Runners for Wilderness will be closely watching this precedent-setting access model this season and assessing its application to the Colorado River in Grand Canyon.