Current Events

Thank you for your patience while we revamp our website:

We are currently in the midst of a full website design. Please be patient with us as we completely overhaul our website. We hope to have the new site launched Winter 2018. Please see our Annual Newsletter and sign up for our monthly e-alerts for what has been happening at MVCC.

Thank you, Brian de Place, and Opening for MVCC’s Executive Director Position

Brian de Place, MVCC’s Executive Director, and his wife, Hannah, and their son Felix will be moving back to Seattle this month to be closer to family. Brian plans to return to the public sector, to help the Puget Sound region respond to unprecedented population growth.

The Board of the Methow Valley Citizens Council would like to extend our enormous thanks to Brian for his outstanding contributions over the past couple of years.

We are extremely grateful for all that Brian has done to “elevate our game” on the wide range of issues on our plate. MVCC is now in a stronger position than ever to address the unique challenges of growth management, water availability, natural resource extraction, and the impacts of climate change.

Brian says: “Thank you, MVCC staff, board and countless supporters. It’s been an incredible experience and I am very fortunate to have had the opportunity to serve this wonderful organization. It’s been a true pleasure and I’m excited to see what comes next for you!”

WHAT’S NEXT?

MVCC is looking for a new highly energetic and committed leader – someone who loves the Methow Valley and wants to dedicate his/her talent to advocating on behalf of its natural environment and rural character.

Please check out the job description and application instructions, and help us spread the word!

Shorelines: Last chance to restore lost protection to 4,400 acres!

The Shoreline Master Program update process is winding to a close, with a limited opportunity to improve the plan before it is adopted. The Dept. of Ecology is in final negotiations with Okanogan County over required and recommended changes to the draft SMP passed by the County in 2015.

While some of our concerns have been addressed by the new Commissioners, there is a glaring problem remaining: 4,400 acres of lake and riverfront shoreline lost protection between a previous draft (2011) and the current draft.

The map above shows the affected areas in the Methow Valley in red. These areas of mostly intact, high-functioning shoreline were previously designated “Riverine,” and required building setbacks of up to 150 feet from the water. In 2015, the areas in red were re-designated “Rural,” and the current SMP setbacks for that designation are only 75 feet – half the protection. The science used to justify these changes is questionable.

MVCC has advocated to DOE and the County for a simple designation change that would restore protection to the areas that most need it. Since public comment will not be taken before the SMP is approved, the only way to make the change now is if the County Commissioners recommend it in their negotiations with DOE.

We need your help!  Contact Okanogan County Commissioners today and tell them to restore protection to the Shorelines by re-designating the “Lost Riverine” acres to “Conservancy,” as we have recommended.

Hirst Gets “Fixed”

Under pressure to release the Capital budget from political gridlock, the WA State Legislature surprised everyone last week and agreed to compromise on “fixing” the State Supreme Court’s 2016 Hirst ruling.

The compromise, otherwise known as SB 6091, was signed by Governor Inslee on January 19.

On January 22, Planning Director Perry Huston provided a memo to the County Commissioners, suggesting how the “fix” might affect the county’s current approaches to determining water availability.

MVCC is working closely with community and statewide partners to understand the implications of the new law, how it will affect existing planning efforts in the Methow and other watersheds in the county, and how we can best advocate to ensure a future with enough clean, cold water for our homes, irrigation, endangered fish and other aquatic species in our rivers and lakes.

State Bill Alert: Vacating Roads near water

Thanks to our friends at American Whitewater for alerting us to this situation:

The Washington State legislature is considering bills that could significantly impact river access in Washington State. Public road right-of-ways that abut waterways provide important access to rivers and other shorelines across Washington State for kayakers, rafters, canoeists, sea kayakers, and fishermen.
Under current state law, established and unchanged since 1969, a County is prohibited from vacating right-of-ways that abut a body of water except under special circumstances.

House Bill 2521 and Senate Bill 6152 would add new language to state law that would allow a county to vacate a public right-of-way abutting a waterway “for the protection of public safety.”  No definition of public safety is provided and one could imagine a county making the argument that providing access to a river, stream or lake results in a “public safety” concern.

The Washington legislature makes it very easy for constituents to make a comment on a bill. A simple comment as follows will suffice, but it is always good to personalize with a short sentence on the importance of access to waterways for the activities you enjoy.

“I oppose HB2521/SB6152 which will create a new mechanism to limit public access to waterways in Washington State by adding public safety as a consideration to vacate a county road that abuts a public waterway. While public safety is important, the standards for applying it are undefined in the bill and I am concerned that this could lead to broad closures of many sites where the public can access waterways in our state through right-of-ways.

ATV Road Closure Hearing Set

An open public hearing is scheduled for February 5th at 1:30pm in the Commissioners Hearing Room to consider an ordinance that would close four road segments, totaling 11.5 miles, to WATV use.

The roads in the Tunk Valley area were originally part of those opened for use during a recent public process conducted for roads in Commissioner District 3. After neighbors in the area pointed out that the roads in question access important Sharp-tailed Grouse habitat on private lands, the County Commissioners agreed to close the roads.

The SEPA Comment period has passed: MVCC submitted comments in favor of the closures. The public hearing will allow for additional public input before the Commissioners make their final decision. Supporters are encouraged to attend, and speak in favor of protecting wildlife habitat from off-road travel.

Valley Voice 2018

Read our newest edition of our annual newsletter, here!

Court Date for the Open Roads Coalition

12-18-17

On December 21 at 2:00 pm, Okanogan Open Roads Coalition and Okanogan County will be in Superior Court to defend the public’s right to access the historic French Creek (aka French Creek-Texas Creek) Road in the lower Methow Valley.

Okanogan Open Roads Coalition (OORC) has joined the County to defend against a Quiet Title lawsuit in which Gamble Land and Timber et al. are claiming ownership of a 6+ mile stretch of French Creek Road, contending that it is not a public right of way.

The OORC steadfastly maintains that French Creek Road has long been a county road with deep Methow Valley history dating back to the late 1800s. It provides vital access to thousands of acres of public land, and an important escape route from natural disasters.

Our public lands are under increasing threat of privatization. The Methow Valley Citizens Council supports the work of the OORC to protect access to public lands, and has contributed to the group’s legal fund for this case.

Winter Solstice marks the longest night of the year, and cultures all over the world celebrate the return of the light that follows this darkest day.

Let’s use the occasion to celebrate our power as citizens to overcome the dark influences that seek to lock us out of our own lands.

Carpoolers will meet at the MV Community Center at 12:45 pm on Thursday, December 21.  For more information, contact lorah@mvcitizens.org.

No on Enloe Dam Electrification!

11-15-17

PUD ratepayers and friends of free-flowing rivers

Please attend thePUD’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 PUDCommissioners 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.

 

 

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