Oregon Secretary of State Kate Brown and Senator Alan Bates (Medford) are proposing a new draft bill on river rights. LC 48 (see the link to the pdf file of it at the top of the page) is modeled on a bill first brought up in 2005. It’s being touted as the codification of the Attorney General’s Opinion #8281.
Much to our surprise at CWO, when we were inquiring about this bill last fall and why hadn’t we been informed, the reply from Senator Bates office was that they had been working with Common Waters of Oregon for 5 years on this bill.
This is not the case in anyway at all. We have never been consulted on this bill or invited to discuss it. It has left us wondering exactly why they would think they had been in contact with CWO, and if a lobbyist has claimed to be representing CWO, when they were not. It’s perhaps a mystery we’ll never solve, but at least it’s now out in the open.
We pointed out this error and suggested that not only should CWO be invited, but there are many other associations with a keen interest in river rights, that would like to be invited to review this bill. In a quick turn around, Kate Brown has called a meeting next for next Tuesday and invited several groups to come review the bill with them.
As we regroup and try to figure out just how it is that they thought they had been discussing this matter with CWO, we’re willingly heading to the meeting to find out more about the intent and spirit behind this bill. We also see several very poorly worded sections that could cause more bureaucratic nightmare than already exists. Perhaps those are fixable? We’ll detail those concerns and see if they are willing to make changes.
In a quick review, the bill seems very problematic with all new layers of bureaucracy for making river determinations and classifications. It doesn’t fix the flawed Navigability process, it merely adds another layer of decision making and a whole new set of responsibilities for the Department of State Lands. And it does not establish any clear governance or appeals process for which rivers or river segments they would designate as floatable and hence available for the public to use. It would be calling on the DSL to not only be in charge of state owned lands, but be in charge of all issues, enforcement, etc, on waterways that may be private.
This seems to be opening the door to a possible conflict with Measure 37 or Measure 49, because by placing changes in land use and ownership onto lands, since measure 37, any new legislation that does this would entitle landowners to compensation. The state has already lost much money embroiled in these issues. In no way, do we want to create a river rights piece of legislation that will make the situation a legal nightmare of such proportions that jeopardizes all river rights in the public opinion. We’re honestly still unsure if this bill would cause such an issue, but hope that next Tuesday’s meeting will offer some clarity on that matter.
Take a look at the bill and feel free to write to make your comments here , and pose questions that you would like cleared up about this piece of legislation.