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The Methow Valley Citizens Council Presents Dana Lyons and Ken Bevis in Concert at The Merc Playhouse
Join us on Friday, October 7th, for our 2nd Annual Dana Lyons and Ken Bevis concert at The Merc Playhouse in Twisp. Doors open at 7pm and tickets are $12 and are available for purchase through Brown Paper Tickets. Last year we packed The Merc so be sure to get your tickets early!
Methow Headwaters Protection Act of 2016 (S. 2991)
The following is an excerpt from our testimony on S. 2991 “The withdrawal of 340,079 acres from mineral entry and exploration, as proposed in this bill, is a critically important step to protect the headwaters of the Methow River from the potential degradation which would result from large scale mining activity.”
Great news coming out of DC this morning! The Methow Headwaters Protection Act of 2016 (S. 2291) received a hearing in the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. During this hearing Maria Cantwell received testimony from the Forest Service that they will work to protect the Methow Valley from mining operations. Deputy Chief of the U.S. Forest Service Leslie Weldon testified that “The Department of Agriculture supports S. 2291 and believes a mineral withdrawal is the best path toward mitigating any impacts to the ecological, cultural and economic significance of the Methow Valley to the surrounding community. Our goal is to begin working .. . and coordinating with the Bureau of Land Management on the process for an administrative withdrawal” to make the Methow headwaters off-limits to industrial scale mining.
ATV Update: It’s Complicated
Many people are confused about where it’s legal to ride ATVs. Even though MVCC won our recent Appeals Court case against Okanogan County, challenging the opening of county roads to ATV use, for now ATVs can still be operated on those roads. Why?
The wheels of justice grind slowly (see Timeline above). Here’s the rest of the story:
In 2014 MVCC and Conservation Northwest sued Okanogan County for adopting an ordinance that opened almost 600 miles of county roads to ATVs. One claim was that the ordinance is invalid because the environmental review was deficient under state law. Okanogan County Superior Court ruled against us.
We then appealed that decision to the state Court of Appeals, where we received a favorable decision. The Appeals Court overturned the Superior Court’s decision, agreeing with our contention that the County conducted an inadequate review of likely environmental impacts of the ordinance, in violation of the State Environmental Policy Act.
The Court of Appeals decision did not immediately become effective, allowing time for the losing party to ask the Court to reconsider its decision. The County did ask for reconsideration, citing procedural and technical grounds, but the Court of Appeals declined to reconsider. Though proceedings in the Court of Appeals were complete, the decision still did not become effective, allowing time for the losing party to ask the Washington Supreme Court to review the decision.
On September 9, the County asked the Supreme Court for review. The Supreme Court has the discretion to accept or reject an appeal. Until the Supreme Court decides whether or not to review the case, the ordinance remains in effect.
If the Supreme Court denies review, the case is complete and the ordinance will be voided. If the Supreme Court agrees to consider the County appeal, we must then await a final decision. The court does not have any timetable for a decision.
In the meantime, ATVs can legally use county roads that are signed for ATV use.
However, ATVs are not allowed on streets in the town limits of Twisp and Winthrop. (There may be an exception for Highway 20 through those towns, but as this week’s Methow Valley News article points out, it’s not yet clear.).
We have asked that Winthrop post signs at entry points indicating that ATVs are not allowed.
In addition to town streets, ATVs are not allowed on the East County or East Chewuch roads where the speed limit was reduced to make those road segments eligible for ATV use; the County has not yet authorized ATV operation on those roads. Nor can ATVs use Forest Service roads that were opened to ATVs in 2015; the Forest Service closed those 350 miles of roads as a result of a lawsuit challenging the opening. We await the Forest Service’s final Travel Management Plan to see whether the agency has again opened those roads. We don’t know when that plan will be issued.
If you see ATVs on closed roads, or riding illegally off-road, try to get the license plate number. If possible, take a picture. Record the place, date, and time, then call 911 and report the matter to the Sheriff or town police. Report ATVs illegally riding on Forest Service Roads to the District Ranger. Then let MVCC know what you saw.
Still clear as mud? If you have any questions about MVCC’s actions regarding ATV use on County or National Forest roads, please feel free to contact our office.
40th Anniversary Celebration Appreciation
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
Methow Valley News Article about MVCC’s 40th Anniversary
Thank you to Don Nelson and all the staff members of the Methow Valley News for their continued support of the Methow Valley Citizens Council.
WE’RE TURNING 40!
COME AND CELEBRATE ALL WE’VE DONE TOGETHER TO KEEP THE METHOW VALLEY SPECIAL
Who: Anyone who loves the Methow, MVCC members, volunteers, and friends
When: Saturday, September 10th; Doors open at 6pm
Where: Methow Valley Community Center in downtown Twisp
What: Listen to the sweet sounds of the Family Dog with Laura Love while sipping beverages from OSB, Sixknot Cider and the Lost River Winery and nibbling on tasty morsels from Aaron Studen of Twisp River Pub.
FREE EVENT – DONATIONS WELCOME – CASH BAR
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.
MVCC and Futurewise appeal Okanogan County’s Zoning Code
On August 15, MVCC and Futurewise filed an appeal in Okanogan County Superior Court, challenging the recently adopted Zoning Code. The complaint charges that the Zoning Code violates state laws that are intended to protect water quality and quantity. The Zoning Code and Comprehensive Plan also fail to reduce wildfire impacts or to preserve high-quality farmland. In addition, the Environmental Impact Statement required under the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) is deficient. Specifically:
- Water. The new code allows for more development than the county’s limited water supply can support, with respect to both water availability and quality. The Planning Enabling Act requires that the county ensure there is sufficient and adequate water for any allowable developments.
- Wildfire. The code does not follow Firewise guidelines for new development, and the SEPA document does not analyze the likely impacts of wildfires on areas of new development in the Wildland Urban Interface, including the availability of fire response and emergency services.
- Farmlands. The code does not designate and conserve important farm, ranch, and forest land, in violation of the Growth Management Act.
MVCC and Futurewise appealed the Okanogan County Comprehensive Plan in 2014. The Comp Plan is a requirement of state law to provide a roadmap for how development will be managed given a limited water supply. The Comp Plan is also supposed to identify where new growth will be distributed given the requirements to preserve valuable farmland, conserve natural resources, and shoreline. In our view, the plan failed to address any of these issues. At the time, the Judge decided to defer a ruling because the County was in the process of updating the Zoning Code and promised that the new code would address all of these issues.
Last month, the County finally adopted the long-awaited Zoning Code, the first one in almost 25 years. Unfortunately, this new code is a step backward.
We will keep informed as the case goes forward.
Washington State Court of Appeals turns down Okanogan County’s request for reconsideration of its decision to invalidate the County ATV Ordinance 08/16/16
In 2014 MVCC and our partner, Conservation Northwest, challenged Okanogan County’s ATV Ordinance. We alleged that the county violated the State Environmental Policy Act by failing to analyze the likely environmental impacts of allowing ATVs on virtually all county roads with speed limits of 35 mph or less. After the Okanogan County Superior Court ruled in favor of the County, we appealed to the state Court of Appeals. That court ruled in our favor in June 2016. They stated that the environmental “checklist” was deficient and that before opening roads, the county must conduct an adequate environmental analysis in accordance with court guidelines.
Okanogan County asked the Court of Appeals to reconsider the decision. The court denied that request on August 11th.
The County has 20 days (from August 11 to request that the State Supreme Court review the decision. Unlike the Appeals court, the Supreme Court does not have to review the case. If it denies the County’s request, the case is over. If it accepts review of the case, we will defend the lower court decision in the State Supreme Court.
Alternatively, the County could accept the Court of Appeals decision. They could conductthe environmental analysis required by that decision and propose a new ordinance informed by the information in its analysis.
MVCC will keep you apprised of developments as soon as we know more.
MVCC Comments on Draft Zoning Code
MVCC believes maintaining the integrity and interdependence of our watersheds, ecosystems and human communities is integral to protecting the rural character of the Methow Valley. Following is an excerpt from the comments we submitted: “The County needs to develop a stronger, more comprehensive strategy for managing growth within its water resource limits, which are so vital to its present and future. This strategy should be firmly based on the numerous scientific studies that have been done in both the Methow and Okanogan watersheds. We, as well as others, have tried to bring this information to the County’s attention. Unfortunately, there has been little in the planning, zoning or EIS documents prepared by the County acknowledging or citing this information. We are left to conclude that planning staff, members of the Planning Commission and Board of Commissioners are either uninformed or choose to ignore the scientific findings available to them.”
To read our full comments, click here.
The Appendix contains the all the attachments referenced in the comment letter to read the Appendix, click here.
MVCC attorney on ATV case appointed to Washington State Court of Appeals
We know how to pick ‘em! David Mann, the attorney hired by MVCC to litigate the case against Okanogan County for allowing ATVs on all county roads without an adequate environmental analysis, has been appointed by Governor Inslee to fill a vacancy on the District 1 Court of Appeals. District 1 includes King, Snohomish, Skagit, and Whatcom counties. He will have to run for re-election when the term for the vacancy expires.
Soon-to-be-Judge Mann, along with co-counsel and board member Melanie Rowland, recently won the ATV case in the Spokane District of the Court of Appeals. The court ruled that the county’s environmental analysis was superficial and inadequate. Okanogan County has asked the appeals court to reconsider on procedural grounds. If that request is denied, the court would then invalidate the county ATV ordinance. The county could request that the state Supreme Court hear the case.
Mann will have to withdraw as co-counsel on our case before he takes a seat on the court. It will be very hard to replace him, but we’re already working on lining up another excellent environmental attorney for any further legal proceedings.
Congratulations, David! And many, many thanks for your stellar legal work on our behalf and on behalf of the natural environment of Okanogan County.
MVCC Comments on Draft Travel Management Plan
The Methow Valley Citizens Council has commented on the Forest Service’s Draft Environmental Analysis for Motorized Travel Management Plan. The mission of MVCC is to raise a strong community voice for protection of the Methow Valley’s natural environment and rural character. The proposed action is a significant step with regard to protecting the natural environment of the entire Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, including the Methow Valley.
To read our comments click here.
To read our letter to Jason Kuiken, Deputy Forest Supervisor of Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, click here.
Notice of Public Hearing Zone Code Amendment
What: Hearing Before Okanogan County Commissioners on proposed changes to the Zoning Code
When: Tuesday July 12 at 3pm. Carpools will organize at the Community Center in Twisp at 1:45pm
Where: Commissioners Hearing Room, 123 5th Ave. North, Okanogan
Email comments to: email@example.com
For more background and talking points: Draft Zoning Code Updated on 6/16/16, Okanogan Planning Commission Section on Zoning, Suggested Talking Points.
We invite you to attend the Public Hearing to testify or show your support. While the room may be full of people who are only concerned about the marijuana debate, it is an important time to keep our eyes on the ball, and advocate for sensible zoning that protects the rural quality and natural beauty of the Methow Valley.
Here’s a quick recap on where we stand with the process of updating the Zoning Code, why we are still very concerned about it, and what you can do to help us ensure responsible development occurs in the Methow Valley and beyond.
Process: The Zoning Code update has officially been passed from the Planning Commission to the Board of County Commissioners, with a few significant recommended changes from the previous version. The County has also completed the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for this updated Zoning Code. The County Commissioners are holding a public hearing on Tuesday July 12th at 3PM to hear public testimony on the latest revisions. The Commissioners are then expected to make their own changes (ideally based on good public feedback), and adopt the new Zoning Code shortly after the hearing.
Why this is important: The County has stated that the Zoning Code would fix the water problem that the Comprehensive Plan failed to address. Long story short: it doesn’t. In his ruling on MVCC’s Comprehensive Plan appeal, Judge Culp was interested in seeing whether the County’s approach to Zoning would “fix” the problem of the Comprehensive Plan allowing more houses and lots than can be supported by current or predicted water availability, particularly in the lower valley.
Why we are still concerned:
- The water scarcity problem is not fixed. The Planning Commission’s recommended changes attempt to get at this concern by increasing minimum lot sizes from one acre to five or twenty acres in some parts of the lower Methow and select portions of the county. Unfortunately, other provisions allow more homes, more uses, and denser development on these lots, thereby effectively canceling out the rural character provided for by these larger lot sizes. This does not “fix” the water problem. In fact, the new Zoning Code allows for the same amount or more development than the previous version of the Zoning Code.
- The wildfire safety issues are not fixed. As with the Comprehensive Plan, the most recent Zoning Code still does not deal with wildfire hazards, because it allows for dense unplanned developments in locations with extremely limited access. The proposed Zoning Code contains no provisions to help these developments adapt to wildfire danger and to protect first responders by providing for sufficient access and water for emergencies
These are our top two concerns. Other concerns that MVCC has expressed throughout the process regarding Nightly Rentals, Cannabis Farms, and the need for the County to recognize legal water constraints have been partially addressed or ignored in the current draft.
What you can do: Send the county your comments, and consider attending the hearing to show support for meaningful Zoning provisions that protect water resources, address wildfire safety, and improve the quality of life for future generations. Use our suggested talking points to craft your own personal statement. Additional resources are available at the top of this email and on our website.
Court Strikes Down Ordinance Opening 597 Miles of County Roads to ATVs
The Washington Court of Appeals gave a big win to MVCC and Conservation Northwest in their lawsuit challenging Okanogan County’s 2014 opening of almost 600 miles of county roads to all-terrain vehicles (ATVs). The Court said the County violated the State Environmental Policy Act by failing to consider the likely harm to land, water, animals, plants, and other aspects of Okanogan County’s environment before adopting the ordinance. This means that all County roads opened to ATVs in June 2014 will no longer be open to them when the decision takes effect, usually 30 days after it’s issued. Read our press release here and the court’s opinion here.
Meet Our New Executive Director!
The Methow Valley Citizens Council is extremely pleased to announce the hiring of Brian de Place as our new Executive Director. He will join MVCC officially on June 20th. Brian has been visiting the Methow Valley throughout his life and holds a “deep and abiding passion for the character and natural beauty of the Methow Valley as one of our last great places.” Learn more about Brian by clicking here.
Three Devils Shirts Available for $20
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.