Lawsuit Filed To Start Deschutes Common Pool

February 2003. A group of Deschutes River users filed suit Thursday, February 13th against Oregon's Department of Parks and Recreation (OPRD) and director Mike Carrier. The suit contends that the OPRD has violated Oregon law with its current role and stance in delaying implementation of a "common pool" permit system, that provides equal access to all, as called for in the Lower Deschutes River Management Plan (LDRMP).

The motion was filed by the Northwest Rafters Association (NWRA), and Mark Shuholm representing the general public. This action is also being supported by National Organization for Rivers (NORS), River Runners for Wilderness, and the American Canoe Association (ACA).

The Plaintiff's position is that full implementation of the LDRMP will insure the greatest level of access to the Deschutes River by the general public for generations to come. A failure to immediately implement the LDRMP, as currently written and required by Oregon Law, jeopardizes future access by the general public to this public resource.

Under the guidelines of Oregon State Statue ORS 390.934, the LDRMP and its supplement were developed over several years with input from the OPRD, BLM, The Confederate Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation, other government agencies - as well as the general public. The Lower Deschutes River Management Plan was finished in 1993 and the supplement in 1997. Both the LDRMP and the supplement were adopted by the OPRD under administrative rule OAR 736-040-0070.

The LDRMP and its supplement call for implementation of a limited access "common pool" permit system once certain trigger levels of use have been reached for various segments of the river. A "common pool" system offers equal access to all parties - without preference given for any specific group or interest. If and once these trigger levels of use are reached for any year, then a "common pool" permit system is to be implemented the following year. Levels of use that would trigger implementation of the "common pool" permit system were reached in 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, and 2002. Although the LDRMP has therefore called for implementation in each of the years 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, and 2003, the OPRD has not taken the legally required action relating to implementation of the system.

Further, the OPRD is currently promoting an agenda counter to that outlined by the LDRMP. At a November 14th meeting of managers from the various agencies, the OPRD proposed a 3 year further delay in implementation of the "common pool" permit system - as well as re-introducing the topic of a "split allocation" permit system - a system that would guarantee access to commercial interests by limiting access to the general public.

The Suit asks that the OPRD be found to have unlawfully refused to act and unreasonably delayed taking action in implementation of the LDRMP - and that the OPRD be compelled to implement the "common pool" permit system for the 2003 season.