The latest in a series of Deschutes County commission meetings that have occurred over many years occurred last Wednesday, March 29. The current issue is appeals to a county hearings officer’s determination to deny Thornburgh’s request to modify their Final Fish & Wildlife Master Plan. The FWMP must be modified to accommodate changes that have been made to Thornburgh’s development plans. Thornburgh argues that the changes are minor while others argue that the changes are significant, and the entire plan must be resubmitted. The hearings officer denied Thornburgh’s request to make changes to the FWMP. If upheld, Thornburgh would be in violation of their approved development plan.
Unsurprisingly, Commissioners Adair and DeBone sided with Thornburgh while Commissioner Chang wanted to uphold the hearings officer’s recommendations. If you are a true glutton for punishment, you can watch a recording of the approximately 3.5 hour discussion here. (Nit: a small extension to the process was granted to allow Thornburgh to prepare some final documents, so another meeting will occur in a week or so for a final vote.)
There are ample grounds for continued appeals and litigation on this manner and I would expect this to occur. Most importantly, the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife has stated that the development violates the “no net loss” standard for fish and wildlife. In short, new water withdrawals must be fully mitigated so that there is no loss of water for fish and wildlife, a standard that ODFW states will not be met with the modified FWMP.
There is an enormous amount of detail that I am omitting which you can find on the Deschutes County website, but I recommend against attempting to wade through it. The bottom line is that this issue is nowhere close to being resolved but the development is continuing forwards nonetheless.