Deschutes Groundwater Mitigation 101 and Thornburgh

Surface water (rivers & streams) in the Deschutes Basin has been fully allocated since the early 1900s, primarily to irrigators.  To accommodate for continued growth, groundwater pumping became the primary source of new water supplies.  In the 1990s studies showed that this pumping was impacting surface water.  In the Deschutes Basin, snowmelt in the Cascades seeps through porous volcanic rock, slowly replenishing the aquifer.  As the aquifer overfills it releases the water via springs, which create our local lakes and rivers.  Variability in snowpack and pumping impacts the aquifer and therefore stream flow.

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Email to Deschutes County Commissioners re: Thornburgh

Recently, I have spent far too many hours researching the proposed Thornburgh Resort.  This project is a great example of how confusing and illogical planning laws and regulations can be.  For example, did you know that when you pump water out of an aquifer that you only “mitigate” for a portion of it?  Or that the mitigation water may or may not actually be measured?  I could go on.  Arguing and litigating about these issues is why it can take over a decade to reach decisions.  (For an example of just how convoluted it is, see this legal summary of the various court cases that have been brought against the project.) Rather than wade into that thicket, I decided to take a different approach in my comments to Deschutes County Commissioners on the Thornburgh project.  Here is the email that I sent today.

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KTVZ Story on Thornburgh (Corrected)

Annotation 2020-06-25 083611

Yesterday I was interviewed for a story on the proposed Thornburgh Resort, an experience I always find frustrating. We spent 20 minutes discussing local water issues relating to the resort and the reporter picked something that I guess was a good sound bite, but a minor element of what I was trying to convey to her: the fact that we are dramatically overusing water. In any event, raising the profile of this issue is a good thing and I am thankful it is being covered.

Note: I state in the interview that 9+ CFS of water was for the first phase of development only.  In fact, 9.28 CFS is for the entire development.  I sincerely regret the error, although it does not change my position on the matter.

Thornburgh: Growth vs Water Security (Corrected)

Since 2005 there has been an effort to develop a new destination golf resort just southwest of Eagle Crest Resort near Redmond.  The proposed Thornburgh Resort will include multiple golf courses, lakes, temporary lodging, and detached housing.  It is controversial, with multiple appeals and lawsuits, including one that will soon be heard by the Oregon Supreme Court.  The developer continues to push forward, however, and last Wednesday, June 17th, was the initial public hearing by the Deschutes County Board of Commissioners on the Site Plan Review for Phase A golf course development.  You can watch video of the hearing here, it starts at about 3:34:00 and continues for approximately 3 hours.  I watched it live and was fascinated with the tension between growth and development with land use laws, water availability, affordable housing, etc.

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