Current Events

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No on Enloe Dam Electrification!

11-15-17

PUD ratepayers and friends of free-flowing rivers

Please attend the PUD’s Final 2018 Budget Workshop
Monday, November 20th at 6:00 pm at the PUD Auditorium in Okanogan

Now is the time to let the PUD Commissioners know that Enloe Dam electrification does not make economic sense for the ratepayers of Okanogan County.

Enloe has not produced power for over 50 years. And electrifying the dam could cost up to $100 million in ratepayer dollars to maintain and operate. The financing of the project will be discussed during the Generation and Power Supply portion of Monday’s final budget workshop.
The plan to electrify Enloe was strongly advocated by former General Manager John Grubich, who was recently fired. With Mr. Grubich gone, the PUD Commissioners have an opportunity to take a closer look at the financial wisdom of constructing the Enloe project.

New PUD Commissioner Skeptical of Enloe

At October’s PUD Board meeting, William (Bill) Colyar of Carlton was selected from 4 candidates to fill an open seat representing the Methow Valley.

 

Mr. Colyar cast doubt on the financial benefit of re-energizing Enloe during his interview for the position. “5 megawatts,” he said, referring to the amount of power that Enloe is projected to produce, “is nothing in the power grid. This is literally insignificant.” 

Please consider attending this important workshop!

 

Here are some useful points you may wish to raise:

  1. Okanogan PUD negotiated a new power contract for Wells Dam, giving them more power than they can use in the district for decades to come.
  2. The power that the PUD can generate at Enloe will be 2-3 times more expensive than what they get from Wells Dam.
  3. Enloe Dam will operate with an annual net loss of $1.2 M.
  4. Okanogan PUD has already missed important deadlines with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) such as dam safety inspections and starting construction dates.
  5. Okanogan PUD has invested over $14 M in the project so far and needs to stop sinking our money into a project that is not needed.

This is a critical opportunity for ratepayers and the community to be heard by our representatives at Okanogan PUD. 

If you can’t attend, call or send an email to the Commissioners to show that you do not support the electrification of Enloe Dam.
Scott Vejraska, 509.429.2176scottv@okpud.org
Jerry Asmussen, 509.486.1962jerrya@okpud.org
Bill Colyar, 509.923.9233billc@okpud.org

Carpools will leave the MV Community Center at 5:00 pm on Monday.

SEE YOU THERE!

This message is brought to you by MVCC, in partnership with Columbiana and the Enloe Working Group.

Let’s Fix the Okanogan County Comprehensive Plan:

9-25-17

 

USE OUR COMP PLAN CHECKLIST:
In case you missed it, the Okanogan Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) has opened a public comment period to consider revisions to its Comprehensive Plan. The comment deadline is October 13. Email Comments to Roxana King. Direct email questions to Perry Huston.

BACKGROUND:
Okanogan County originally adopted a Comprehensive Plan in 1964, and this plan was first updated in 2014. MVCC and Futurewise filed a complaint in Superior Court against Okanogan County in January 2015 because the newly adopted Comprehensive Plan and Zone Code failed to meet state law in both substance and process. The Plans do not provide for future development consistent with water availability. Neither do they consider planning tools that prepare for and adapt to wildfire risk, as other counties in fire-prone areas are doing.

The Comp Plan is important because it is designed to paint a vision of the future, and provide a regulatory path to get there: through zoning, housing density, water usage, building codes and other development policies. The MVCC/Futurewise complaint was separately joined by the WA Department of Ecology and the Yakama Tribe, who each had their own concerns about the Plans’ impact on water resources. In a stipulated agreement, the BOCC agreed to review the Comp Plan and potentially correct its deficiencies by December 2018. We hope that this will in turn lead to correcting related problems in the Zone Code.

HOW YOU CAN HELP:
Take a moment and consider what you most value about the Methow Valley – qualities of the place you enjoy now, and what you would leave for your grandchildren. With a future vision clear in your mind, look at our Comp Plan Checklist, and draft your comments. Include the points from the checklist that most resonate with your vision. Make it personal.

STAY ENGAGED!
In addition to commenting, contact with your County Commissioners is very helpful. Our current group of Commissioners are receptive to your feedback, and need to hear from you.

RESOURCES:
The Comprehensive Plan adopted in 2014 is a quick read, and after looking at our Checklist it’s easy to see what’s missing.

MVCC and Futurewise contributed extensive comments during the Comp Plan and Zone Code update process, detailing specific problems with the Plans.

Contact MVCC at any time if you want to dig deeper or learn more about this issue. We love to brainstorm. No really, we do.

Methow Headwaters Update

Photo by Ben Drummond

We have an opportunity to protect the headwaters of the Methow River from industrial-scale mining. Add your name to our comment letter and tell the Forest Service why a mineral withdrawal protects our public lands, local economy and communities. Visit http://bit.ly/2iIhQtG to join us!

Let’s Fix the Okanogan County Comprehensive Plan!

USE OUR COMP PLAN CHECKLIST:
In case you missed it, the Okanogan Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) has opened a public comment period to consider revisions to its Comprehensive Plan. The comment deadline is October 13. Email Comments to Roxana King. Direct email questions to Perry Huston.

BACKGROUND:
Okanogan County originally adopted a Comprehensive Plan in 1964, and this plan was first updated in 2014. MVCC and Futurewise filed a complaint in Superior Court against Okanogan County in January 2015 because the newly adopted Comprehensive Plan and Zone Code failed to meet state law in both substance and process. The Plans do not provide for future development consistent with water availability. Neither do they consider planning tools that prepare for and adapt to wildfire risk, as other counties in fire-prone areas are doing.

The Comp Plan is important because it is designed to paint a vision of the future, and provide a regulatory path to get there: through zoning, housing density, water usage, building codes and other development policies. The MVCC/Futurewise complaint was separately joined by the WA Department of Ecology and the Yakama Tribe, who each had their own concerns about the Plans’ impact on water resources. In a stipulated agreement, the BOCC agreed to review the Comp Plan and potentially correct its deficiencies by December 2018. We hope that this will in turn lead to correcting related problems in the Zone Code.

HOW YOU CAN HELP:
Take a moment and consider what you most value about the Methow Valley – qualities of the place you enjoy now, and what you would leave for your grandchildren. With a future vision clear in your mind, look at our Comp Plan Checklist, and draft your comments. Include the points from the checklist that most resonate with your vision. Make it personal.

STAY ENGAGED!
In addition to commenting, contact with your County Commissioners is very helpful. Our current group of Commissioners are receptive to your feedback, and need to hear from you.

RESOURCES:
The Comprehensive Plan adopted in 2014 is a quick read, and after looking at our Checklist it’s easy to see what’s missing.

MVCC and Futurewise contributed extensive comments during the Comp Plan and Zone Code update process, detailing specific problems with the Plans.

Contact MVCC at any time if you want to dig deeper or learn more about this issue. We love to brainstorm. No really, we do.

Enloe Dam: Inspiring News and Actions

First, Three Positive Developments from this summer:
  1. On June 15, the Colville Business Council unanimously passed aResolution that supports the removal of the Enloe DamThe Resolution supports an earlier resolution passed by the Lower Similkameen Indian Band. With passage of these official declarations, both the Colville Confederated Tribes and the Lower Similkameen Band have taken a strong position against dam modification or electrification, and any means of artificial salmon passage. 
  2. On August 2, a coalition of conservation organizations, including MVCC, filed a Motion to Intervene with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).The coalition includes American Rivers, American Whitewater, Columbiana and Trout Unlimited. Our groups jointly submitted a letter asking the FERC to formally re-open public comment so that state, federal and tribal agencies, and the public can weigh in on Okanogan PUD’s request for yet another two-year extension for the electrification project.
  3. On August 3, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) officially recognized that the dam may be harming endangered steelhead. The letter that NMFS sent to the FERC requests consultation under Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) for Upper Columbia Steelhead. According to the letter, since Chinook salmon have been observed above the falls at the base of Enloe Dam, there is good likelihood of ESA-listed Steelhead being present as well, warranting consultation. Consultation could result in NMFS prescribing fish passage measures as a requirement to licensing, and would be likely to significantly increase the cost of the already-expensive electrification venture.

Nevertheless, Okanogan PUD continues to work toward electrifying Enloe Dam, and 4th District Representative Dan Newhouse is still trying to push HR 2828 to extend the deadline for re-electrification. The bill passed the House on July 18, and has been referred to the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.

Next, Three Positive Actions you can take today: 

1. Send a Comment to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC)
Complete instructions and talking points are included in the link above.

2. Send Comments to our Members of Congress
Complete instructions, email links and talking points are included in the link above.

3. Sign the Petition!
Concerned ratepayers started this petition asking Representative Newhouse to end his support for electrifying Enloe.  Sign and share if you agree!

End of the Road for Three Devils: Public Access to Public Lands is Privatized

On August 2, the Washington State Supreme Court issued an order, denying the petition for review filed by the Coalition of Chiliwist Residents and Friends, MVCC and Futurewise. The denial means that the Court of Appeals decision will be the final decision in this case, and Three Devils Road is vacated per the 2013 decision of the Okanogan County Commissioners. The road is now gated with a “private” sign.

In addition to accessing thousands of acres of state and federal land, Three Devils and other roads threatened by privatization are critical as escapes or alternate routes during natural disasters.

Since the Appeals Court decision makes it clear that vacating roads is a political function, our community has the opportunity to prevent further losses by engaging elected officials in person and at the ballot box.

MVCC Supports the Okanogan Open Roads Coalition

One positive outcome of the Three Devils experience is the awakening of county residents to the importance of preserving public access on the county’s back roads. The Okanogan Open Roads Coalition (OORC) was formed this past spring to maintain, restore, and perpetuate public access to Okanogan County’s public lands and waters.

The group’s petition, found at several businesses in the valley, asks County Commissioners and the Prosecuting Attorney to aggressively defend county roads from privatization. To date it has gained over 1,200 signatures.

OORC has also taken steps to defend against the Quiet Title lawsuit filed against Okanogan County by two Gebbers corporations over the historic French Creek Road. The group has provided historic maps and affadavits showing public use of the road spanning 100 years. Attorneys for Gebbers have deposed several people including county employees. We believe their weak legal case begets a strategy to intimidate and raise legal costs beyond citizens’ ability to stay in the fight.

As a show of support, the MVCC Board voted unanimously to provide a $1,000 contribution to OORC’s legal fund. We are encouraging other groups to match our efforts, which we view as a front-line battle in a national movement to privatize public lands.

The French Creek road is one of the oldest known routes into the valley, and has a long history of use by hunters, recreationists, and the traveling public because it provides unique access to public lands in the lower Methow. This road is also the only escape route for some residents of Texas and Cow Creeks, and one of few escapes for residents of French Creek in the event of wildfire.

We hope that by raising the Coalition into a true movement supported by everyone who values access to public lands, the current effort to absorb our lowland backcountry into a corporate empire will fizzle.

T-Shirts Are Back In Stock!

Pick up your MVCC t-shirt today! We have both men’s and women’s* styles sizes small to XXL. The color options are either Pool Blue (featured in the left photo) or Heather Grey (featured in the right photo). The front of the shirt features our new logo designed by Mary Sharman, and the back features our mission statement “Raising a strong community voice for the protection of the Methow Valley’s natural environment and rural character since 1976”.  Shirts are $15 and shipping is $5 per shirt. Please email raechel(at)mvcitizens.org or call the office at (509) 997-0888 to place your order, today!

* Please note that women’s styles run small, so order one size larger than you generally wear.

Navy Growler Planes

We have had several member comments on the low-flying Navy Growler Planes in the last few months. The Navy base out of Whidbey Island frequently flies in the Methow and is legally allowed to fly as low as 500 ft. San Juan County residents have created a coalition to protect their quiet skies it is a great resource, and you can learn more here.

In addition, interested citizens can report jet aircraft noise complaints directly to Naval Air Station Whidbey Island by phone at (360) 257-6665, or via e-mail addressed to: comments.NASWI@navy.mil.

Listed below is contact information for local and national legislators. 

Senator Murray

154 Russell Senate Office Building

Washington, D.C. 20510

Phone: (202) 224-2621

Fax: (202) 224-0238

Toll Free: (866) 481-9186

Website: www.murray.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/contactme

Senator Cantwell

311 Hart Senate Office Building

Washington, D.C. 20510

Phone: (202) 224-3441

Fax: (202) 228-0514

Website: www.cantwell.senate.gov/contact/

Congressmen Newhouse

1318 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
Phone: (202) 225-5816
Fax: (202) 225-3251

https://newhouse.house.gov/contact

Governor Jay Inslee

PO Box 40002, Olympia, WA 98504-0002

Call:  360-902-4111
Fax:360-753-4110

https://fortress.wa.gov/es/governor/

Senator Brad Hawkins

107 Irv Newhouse Building

PO Box 40412

Olympia, Wa 98504

Phone: (360) 786-7622

https://app.leg.wa.gov/pbc/memberEmail/12/0

Representative Cary Condotta

425B Legislative Building

PO Box 40600

Olympia, WA 98504

Phone: (360) 786-7954

https://app.leg.wa.gov/pbc/memberEmail/12/1

Representative Mike Steele

122F Legislative Building

PO BOx 40600

Olympia, Wa 98504

Phone: (360) 786-7832

https://app.leg.wa.gov/pbc/memberEmail/12/2

Sean Stackley, Acting Secretary of the Navy
2000 Navy Pentagon
Washington, D.C. 20350-2000

Action Alert! Call Newhouse Today

7-19-2017

Re-energizing Enloe Dam: Bad Deal for Okanogan County’s Ratepayers!

Enloe dam was built on the Similkameen River in the early 1920s. It has been dormant since 1958. The dam blocks over 300 miles of prime habitat for salmon and steelhead, and conservation groups are interested in decommissioning the dam (much like the Elwha) to reconnect the river to its historic salmon and steelhead fishery.

Instead of decommissioning, Okanogan Public Utility District (OPUD) is taking steps to re-energize Enloe Dam. Projected costs to re-energize have almost doubled since OPUD’s initial proposal, which will place an unfair burden on local ratepayers far into the future. There is significant opposition to re-energizing the dam.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued a license to the Okanogan PUD with a July 2015 deadline to start construction. When the PUD couldn’t meet that deadline, they requested a 2-year extension and FERC provided a second extension until July 9, 2017. According to FERC regulations, the agency can only provide one extension to a license, and if the PUD fails to meet the deadline, FERC must withdraw the license. The PUD has requested a stay of the construction deadline, and a group of conservation groups have opposed the stay.

On June 8th, Representative Dan Newhouse introduced H.R. 2828 – to extend the deadline for beginning construction of a hydroelectric project. It has been referred to the Subcommittee on Energy and the House is scheduled to vote on the Enloe bill this week.

It appears likely that the bill will pass unless significant opposition can be raised in time. It’s very important to help Congressional representatives understand that the public is not in support of extending the construction deadline to re-energize Enloe Dam.

Contact Representative Newhouse today and let him know that people in his district want him to stop pushing this issue.

Clearly Newhouse is not interested in decommissioning dams for salmon habitat, so here are some talking points that highlight how re-energizing the dam makes no economic sense, and will harm electric ratepayers:

  • The cost of reenergizing Enloe Dam is projected to be between $39.1 million to $45.5 million, according to OPUD.
  • It doesn’t make sense to sink more money into this outdated dam, raising energy bills for power the region doesn’t need.
  • A study shows that OPUD ratepayers will pay 2 to 4 times as much for power from Enloe Dam as they would if the power were purchased from the open market.
  • We don’t need the power from Enloe Dam. The maximum power the Enloe could produce is 9MW or the equivalent of 3 wind towers. This is minimal when compared to the 700+ MW of power produced by other regional dams.
  • Actual power production will be in the range of 4MW depending on available flows of the Similkameen River.
  • Construction of a new powerhouse will be expensive and will more than double the annual payments on principle and interest carried by the OPUD.

Comprehensive Plan Lawsuit Update

On Wednesday, June 21st, Okanogan County Superior Court Judge Christopher Culp issued an interim ruling on our appeal against the County challenging the current Comprehensive Plan and Zoning Code.  The judge issued a “stay,” which suspends legal proceedings but allows the case to move forward at a later time if necessary. MVCC had declared its willingness to suspend proceedings months ago, and we are pleased with this result.

As background, MVCC and Futurewise filed a complaint against Okanogan County in January 2015 because the newly adopted Comprehensive Plan failed to meet state law in both substance and process.  The Comp Plan is important because it sets the policy direction for zoning, which in turn determines density, water usage, building codes and the like.  When the Zoning Code was adopted in June 2016, we challenged it too because it had similar deficiencies. Neither the Plan nor the Zoning Code provides for future development consistent with water availability or FireWise planning, among other issues.

The Yakama Nation filed a separate lawsuit against the Zoning code. In April the Tribe dismissed their suit when the county agreed to re-open the Comp Plan and Zoning code and to consider the Tribe’s concerns.  MVCC and Futurewise told the county that we were willing to suspend proceedings while the Comp Plan and Zoning code were revisited, but we would not dismiss our lawsuit and risk losing our ability to challenge a new plan if it does not comply with state law. The county would not agree to a stay, so the lawsuit proceeded.

Judge Culp heard oral arguments in early May, where we repeated our willingness to stay the case until the new Comp Plan and Zoning Code are adopted.

MVCC’s executive director, Brian de Place, said, “Judge Culp’s ruling makes sense.  Let’s give the county commissioners a chance to deal with the concerns we and the Yakamas raised in our appeals. There’s no need for the county or our groups to spend more money on litigation now. Instead, we should all focus our energy on good land use planning for the county.”

MVCC will fully participate in the new planning process by commenting on proposals and suggesting changes needed to meet state planning laws.  We are optimistic that there will be significant improvements through meaningful dialogue with the Commissioners and others. Depending on whether the deficiencies in these ordinances are fixed, we will either move to dismiss or re-open the case at the end of the process. The County has committed to adopting a new Comp Plan and Zoning Code by December 2018.

MVCAP Spring Chipping Extravaganza!

Thank you to everyone who attended the Methow Valley Clean Air Project’s Spring Vegetation Drive! The event was a huge success and we hope to hold it again in the fall, funding pending.

Reenergizing Enloe Dam: Bad Deal for Ratepayers!

4-11-17

Okanogan Public Utility District (OPUD) is taking steps to re-energize Enloe Dam on the Similkameen River. Projected costs to re-energize have almost doubled since OPUD’s initial proposal, which will place an unfair burden on local ratepayers.

Questions by several groups regarding a recent Okanogan PUD (OPUD) application to design a new powerhouse on the Enloe Dam have triggered a denial of the application, and a new public comment period with a committee of the state’s Department of Enterprise Services.

It doesn’t make sense to sink more money into this outdated dam, raising energy bills for power the region doesn’t need.

  • A study shows that OPUD ratepayers will pay 2 to 4 times as much for power from Enloe Dam as they would if the power were purchased from the open market.
  • We don’t need the power from Enloe Dam. The maximum power the Enloe could produce is 9MW or the equivalent of 3 windtowers. This is minimal when compared to the 700+ MW of power produced by other regional dams.
  • Actual power production will be in the range of 4MW depending on available flows of the Similkameen River. But we won’t know how much water the dam can use until after we have already paid for construction, making the project economically risky.
  • Construction of a new powerhouse will be expensive and will more than double the annual payments on principle and interest carried by the OPUD.
  • The cost of reenergizing Enloe Dam is projected to be between $39.1 million to $45.5 million, according to OPUD.

The OPUD has advertised to hire a firm to design and build a new powerhouse next to Enloe Dam. The comment period on the OPUD’s application to build the powerhouse is now open for public comments.

The Don’t Electrify Enloe Campaign is asking Okanogan County citizens to contact the Project Review Committee (PRC) with your opinion regarding this proposal to build the new powerhouse.

How you can get involved:

  1. Email your comments to Ms. Talia Baker and Ms. Nancy Deakens of the Project Review Committee: talia.baker@des.wa.gov, Nancy.deakins@des.wa.gov
  2. Attend the open public hearing in Kent on April 27.

Update on MVCC’s Challenge to the County Comprehensive Plan and Zoning Ordinance

4-12-17

We are pleased to report that the Okanogan County Board of County Commissioners has recently committed to opening a new public process to consider revising the County’s Comprehensive Plan and Zone Code. The presence of two new Commissioners, Andy Hover and Chris Branch, has made a real difference in the Board’s willingness to listen to the public on important County matters like land use planning and zoning. We look forward to participating fully in the new process and look forward to open public discussion and meaningful dialogue with the Commissioners.

At the same time, MVCC’s case challenging the current Plan and Zoning Ordinance is continuing to go forward. Oral argument before Superior Court Judge Chris Culp is scheduled for May 1 at 8:30 a.m.

We went to court because the current Plan and zoning are seriously deficient in many respects. First and foremost, the Plan does not comply with state law’s requirement that a Comprehensive Plan provide for maintaining adequate water quantity and quality. Nor do the Plan and zoning adequately designate Critical Areas such as Forest Resource Lands and wildlife habitat, or adequately consider the availability of public services or response to increased wildfires.

We are optimistic that there will be significant improvements in the Plan and zoning resulting from the new planning process. However, we have not been willing to dismiss the court case, despite the BOCC’s undertaking a new process. Our attorneys have advised us that doing so could limit our ability to challenge provisions in any new plan that we believe do not comply with the law.

It is possible that Judge Culp could suspend (rather than dismiss) the case proceedings until the new planning process is complete. If this occurs, we hope that our lawsuit will become unnecessary because the deficiencies in the current plan will have been corrected.

Update on State Water Legislation: SB 5239

4-12-17

Thanks for taking action – it made a difference! The House Committee on Agriculture & Natural Resources did not take action on SB 5239, which would weaken protections for senior water right holders and instream flows. While SB 5239 is technically “dead,” efforts are being made to revive the bill and pass a compromise version of the bill.

Methow Headwaters Needs Your Help

1-30-17

The Methow Headwaters Campaign needs your help! Add your name to our comment letter that we will submit to the Bureau of Land Management by March 30, 2017.  It is critical we show robust public support for the mineral withdrawal. Please add your name to our letter – every voice counts! Click here to add your name.

Thinking Locally, Acting Everywhere

2-15-16

We have updated our list of actions affecting the Methow at the local, state and federal levels. If you are already part of a group that is making phone calls or visiting offices, feel free to share this information and add some or all of the following important actions to your list.

We will continue to keep this list updated on our website.

LOCAL LEVEL ACTIONS

OKANOGAN COUNTY “OMNIBUS” HEARINGS ON WATER AVAILABIITY

Okanogan County is responding to the recent Hirst Supreme Court ruling by attempting to establish a process for addressing water availability for new building permits. To learn more about the Hirst decision please visit the Municipal Research and Service Center (MRSC) website and read this article by Crosscut.

To develop a “record” of information for the County Hearing Examiner and Planning Department to draw upon when making decisions, the county has scheduled three “Omnibus” hearings. The first hearing will allow testimony from technical experts and professionals on the data they want included in the decision-making process. This first meeting is intended to supply the public with information to enable them to comment at the public hearings next week. We strongly encourage you to attend the first meeting, and plan to comment.

The second two hearings are for the public to comment on the process for the Methow and Okanogan watersheds.

All hearings will take place in the Commissioners Hearing Room in Okanogan.

Thursday, Feb 16th 10am:      Hearing for technical experts to provide input.
Wednesday, Feb 22nd 6pm:   Public hearing on WRIA 48 (Methow Valley)
Thursday, Feb 23rd 6pm:       Public hearing on WRIA 49 (Okanogan Valley)

Read more about State and Federal actions here.

 

Thank you to everyone who attended the film screening & climate change discussion panel this past Saturday.

1-15-17

A big thank you to our panelists: Amy Snover, Susan Prichard and Christopher James. As well as a big thank you to Perri Howard, Bo Thrasher, Confluence Gallery and Twispworks for accommodating us with chairs, projector and space to screen the film. We would also like to thank Kari & Erik Bown, Joey Nishida, Kent Woodruff and George Wooten for volunteering for the event.

We have recorded most of the discussion and answer portion of the panel and will be working on getting those videos online within the next two weeks.

There was a lot of enthusiasm for an addition screening of the film so stay tuned to our social media channels and website for more information soon to come.

Learn more about the film and Josh Fox’s work here. To donate to nonprofit production company that produced the film click here.

Great News on the ATV Case!

1-5-17

The legal challenge brought by MVCC and Conservation Northwest to Okanogan County’s 2014 ATV Ordinance is finally complete, with a resounding victory for common sense.

You may recall that the ordinance indiscriminately opened almost 600 miles of county roads to ATVs, without accounting for the ecological effects of “bad actors” going off-road near streams or wetlands, steep slopes, and other sensitive areas.

On January 4, the State Supreme Court refused to hear the County’s request to revisit an earlier decision by the Court of Appeals, which had declared the ordinance illegal and invalid. This means that the ruling to invalidate the County’s ATV Ordinance is final!

In case you’ve forgotten the history of this case, click here for a quick recap, or visit the ATV page on our website.

We expect the Court of Appeals decision to become effective in about a month. All roads that the 2014 Ordinance opened to ATVs will be closed to their use.   The County will be required to remove signs that ATVs are allowed on those roads. We will also ask the County to publicize the fact that those roads are now closed to ATVs.

As the Court of Appeals noted, “the county is free to enact another ATV Ordinance,” as long as it complies with SEPA. MVCC respects the recreational value of law-abiding ATVers in the right locations. Our goal is to assure that unregulated ATV use does not lead to degradation of fragile ecosystems, trails, fish and wildlife, or negatively affect neighborhoods. If the County wants to consider opening some roads to ATVs, we are hopeful that the County will be more inclusive of the community’s interests and concerns, ensure proper enforcement of the rules, and comply with the law.

Road Vacation Hearing Set for January 23rd at 4pm.

1-5-17

In one of their final acts, the outgoing Commissioners scheduled a hearing on December 28, 2016 with the intent of vacating a total of 11 roads, a number of which are located in the Methow valley. Some of the roads proposed for vacation are of concern to members of the public and adjacent neighborhoods. For example, vacating the proposed 7.4 miles of “Texas-Benson Creek” road would permanently cut off access to the French Creek basin, and many acres of state and federal land. Those who have been watching the unfolding of the Three Devils case are aware that thousands of acres of public access have already been lost in the past decade through the process of vacating roads.

Because the county failed to properly publicize and post the roads in question, the December 28 hearing had to be postponed to January 23, at 4:00 pm. The advertisement for the hearing should appear soon in the Methow Valley News, the county’s paper of record.

If you are interested or concerned about any of the roads proposed for vacation, or if you have information to share, please contact us and let us know. It is going to take a community effort to discover the location and advocate for the significance any roads proposed for vacation.

Start the New Year off Right!

1-11-2017

2017 is here! This is the perfect time to provide the means to advocate for protecting the land, air, water and wildlife of this incredible valley. If you’ve already contributed thank you, thank you!

You may send your contribution to MVCC, P.O. Box 774, Twisp, WA 98856 or click the button below. 

Methow Headwaters Campaign Update

12-30-2016

Great news from the Methow Headwaters campaign, our coalition effort to safeguard the Valley from an industrial scale mine. The Bureau of Land Management just announced it will make 340,000 acres at the Methow Headwaters temporarily off-limits to mining. Read the full press release here: Methow Headwaters Press Release.

There’s a public hearing on the County’s recent emergency ordinance, passed on November 8, 2016.

12-27-2016

There’s a public hearing on December 19th about Okanogan County’s recent water-related emergency Ordinance, which was passed on November 8, 2016.

The intent of this Ordinance from the County’s perspective is to ensure the County is in compliance with the requirements of the recent “Hirst” Supreme Court decision. The decision requires counties to ensure water availability prior to the issuance of building permits for “permit exempt wells” that serve single family homes. The County claims that the emergency Ordinance satisfies Hirst requirements because they now have a procedure for determining water adequacy.

We respectfully disagree. First, the emergency Ordinance as proposed creates a “black box” permit procedure that forces applicants to prove water availability without clear criteria for what constitutes proof. Second, we continue to advocate that to truly be in compliance with Hirst and the Growth Management Act and the Planning Enabling Act, the County will need to revisit the Comprehensive Plan and Zoning Ordinance to determine water availability on a large scale, not on an individual applicant-by-applicant basis.

Read our full comments Here, and Futurewise’s comments Here.

The public hearing will take place on December 19, 2016 at 1:30 p.m. in the Commissioners Auditorium in the Virginia Grainger Building,Okanogan, WA. Consider attending if you can!


Three Important County Commissioner Meetings on Monday, December 19.

12-12-2016

Speed Limit Meetings: Okanogan County Public Works will hold a public hearing on Monday, December 19th, on proposed speed limit changes on the West Chewuch Road (35 M.P.H. beginning at the State Route 20 Intersection and continuing to end milepost 6.773) and Gold Creek Loop Road (35 M.P.H. beginning at milepost 0.000 and continuing to end milepost 2.415).

The first meeting (Chewuch) is at 10:00 AM & the next meeting (Gold Creek) is at 10:30 AM in the Commissioners Hearing Room, 123 5th Ave North, Okanogan.

Water Regulation Meeting at 1:30 in the Virginia Grainger Building: The public hearing will be conducted on December 19, 2016 at 1:30 p.m. in the Commissioners Auditorium in the Virginia Grainger Building in Okanogan, WA.  Written comments may be submitted to Lalena Johns, Clerk of the Board, at 123 5th Ave N Ste 150, Okanogan, WA 98840 or at ljohns@co.okanogan.wa.us. A copy of the proposed OCC 20 and Ordinance 2016-5 may be viewed on the Okanogan County Planning Department website at www.okanogancounty.org/planning. Information regarding this proposal can be obtained from: Okanogan County Office of Planning and Development, Perry Huston, Director of Planning, 123 5th Avenue North, Suite 130 Okanogan, WA 98840 (509)422-7218 or phuston@co.okanogan.wa.us .

This hearing is on emergency ordinance 2016-5, which was adopted on November 8, 2016.

The intent of this ordinance from the county’s perspective is to ensure that county is in compliance with the requirements of the recent “Hirst” Supreme Court decision. The decision requires counties to ensure water availability prior to the issuance of building permits for “permit exempt wells” that serve single family homes. The county claims that the emergency ordinance satisfies Hirst requirements because they now have a procedure for determining water adequacy.

We respectfully disagree. First, the emergency ordinance creates a “black box” permit procedure by forcing applicants to prove water availability without clear criteria for what constitutes this proof. Second, we continue to advocate that to truly be in compliance with Hirst and the Growth Management Act and the Planning Enabling  Act, the County will need to revisit the Comprehensive Plan and Zoning Ordinance to determine water availability on a large scale, not on an individual applicant-by-applicant basis.

This emergency ordinance is proposed as an amendment to Title 20. Title 20 is also under review for permit changes that would restrict the county’s ability to take input from public comments and require mitigation on permits,

The entire package may be adopted following the hearing.

Our Annual Newsletter has Arrived!

11-26-2016

Thank you for your support of the Methow Valley Citizens Council. This past year we have continued to protect the Methow Valley’s rural heritage and natural environment from weakened environmental regulation, industrial mining, and winter air pollution. Please take a look at our annual newsletter for an in-depth overview of what we have been working on this year. INSIDE: MVCC stands up for protecting the headwaters, for clean air, and for making sure the County plans for sustainable growth. We are looking forward to forty more years of advocacy!

Together we can ensure that the Methow Valley is protected for future generations. We’re looking forward to the next forty years of raising a strong community voice with you!

MVCC Board Chair, Maggie Coon, wins Ken White award!

Congrats to MVCC’s Board Chair, Maggie Coon, for receiving the Methow Conservancy’s Ken White award. The Ken White award is given to an individual or organization with a long-standing history of inspiring conservation efforts in the Methow Valley, and who carries on Ken White’s love for the Methow Valley. Known by many people as the Methow’s first naturalist, Ken was a self-taught conservationist who shared his deep passion for appreciating this beautiful valley with all who were interested. Past award winners include, Kent Woodruff (2010), Roxie and Carl Miller (2009), Dave Sabold (2008), Katharine Bill (2007), Ron Judd (2006) and John Sunderland (2005).

Forty Years of Nurturing Sustainable Growth

11/30/2016

Thank you to Speak Up Speak Out Radio for interviewing Board Chair, Maggie Coon, and Executive Director, Brian de Place about the history and future of the Methow Valley Citizens Council.

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Eulogy for Verne Donnet

10/09/2016

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Verne Elliott Donnet, 60, of Orcas Island, WA, passed away on Sunday, October 9, 2016 at his home. A memorial was held here in the valley on Saturday, October 15.Verne had a long history as a key player in the Methow Valley Citizens Council, and will be missed for many reasons. George Wooten wrote the following eulogy to acknowledge Verne’s contributions to MVCC and the valley he loved:

For those who didn’t know him, Verne served as our representative on the Watershed Council for about a decade, and his wife Teresa was our secretary, from about 1996 to about 2003. With their two kids, Verne and Louis, they were team Donnet.

Verne came to MVCC as the threat of a 700-unit resort and golf course was falling apart. Together we wrote and received funding from BPA for the original Watershed Council, which Ecology stipulated would include us as a representative. Later, the Watershed Council structure was usurped through legislative funding, but our representation continued, eventually passing to Vicky Welch.

Verne was bigger than life, and his reputation often preceded him. We in his inner circle knew him as a man who cared deeply about the well-being of those who were on the front lines of our organization, sharing compassion and healthy doses of good humor. Verne was front and center in the battle with Okanogan PUD that took so much of our energy for more than a decade, involving more than one appeal to the State Supreme Court represented by Peter Goldman and Washington Forest Law Center, and partnerships with Washington State DNR and Conservation Northwest. Although we did not stop the powerline from being built on DNR lands, we continue to monitor the impacts.

Verne’s outstanding accomplishment was the Ground Water Recharge Survey. As a Civil Engineer, Verne knew that the Watershed Council needed good data to protect ground water resources. He obtained a well-monitoring permit and signed up 86 homes in the Methow Valley for a study of ground water levels. This involved monitoring the static water level in each well once a month for an entire year, or about a thousand visits to all of the wells. He compiled the data and found that contrary to accepted thought, the soil in the Methow Valley was so porous that irrigation ditches returned ground water to the river aquifer within days. In order to verify his study’s implications on the merits or not of piping ditches, USGS was commissioned to repeat the study, and Verne was vindicated. Verne’s study cost about $5,000, the USGS study cost about a hundred times as much.

The lasting benefit of the study was that our valley has now rallied around the need for aquifer protection and particularly, beaver recovery, with the understanding that the pre-settlement landscape would have held ten times more groundwater with beaver dams still in place.

Link to his obituary

Here is the USGS report that Verne inspired

40th Anniversary Celebration Appreciation

09/12/16

BIG THANKS to the following local businesses, farmers and individuals for donating or discounting products and services for our 40th anniversary celebration. The party was a big success by all accounts – Please thank these folks by supporting their work with your patronage!

Thomson’s Custom Meats, Blue Star Coffee Roasters, SweetRiver Bakery, The Ruby Slippers Farm, Sunny Pine Farm, Channing Farm, Red Shed Produce, Aaron Studen, Anaka Mines, Terry Dixon, Kathleen Ann Hirschstein, Old Schoolhouse Brewery, Lost River Winery, Sixknot Organic Hard Cider, Methow Valley News, Shafer Museum, Laura Love and Family Dog, KTRT 97.5 The Root, Methow Arts, Methow Valley Community Center, Phyllis Daniels and Kari Bown.. Photos by Patricia Leigh

MVCC has been added to Microsoft’s nonprofit database!

If you are a Microsoft employee, MVCC is now listed in their nonprofit database. Microsoft’s generous donation matching program means that all donations are eligible for 100% match up to $15,000! Volunteer hours are also matched at $25/hr.

Three Devils Shirts Available for $20

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Three Devils Shirts available to help fund the ongoing legal needs of the Chiliwist Coalition Residents and Friends. Shirts are $20 and can be purchased by contacting Patti Cockfield at pjcockfield@gmail.com or give her a call at (509) 422-5427. Shirts run large, McKenzie is seen here in a size medium.

Header photo and weekly Methow Valley News ad photo by © Young Reflections Photography.

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