Take Action: Protect the Metolius River

Are some areas too unique, too important to develop with 3000 single family residences?  I think so and the Metolius basin is one such place.

Naar the head of the metolius

Wizard Falls, Metolius River

The cold, clear, spring fed waters of the Metolius are remarkable for their beauty and support one of the few healthy populations of bull trout in the state of Oregon.  The river also historically had a large run of Sockeye salmon, one of three in Oregon as well as spring chinook.  The remnants of this sockeye population are the huge runs of kokanee that you can watch on the spawning beds in the fall.  (Tip: When the kokanee spawn, enormous rainbow trout take up station behind the schools gorging themselves on eggs. I think you know what I’m saying.)  Much work has been done to prepare the Metolius for the return of salmon.  The Metolius also supports a very healthy population of rainbow trout.  The river fishes all winter as the springs that feed it provide stable year round flows.  As early as 1907 locals were calling for a National Park along its banks.  The river is special.  This river is unique.

In addition to inspiring reverence and calls for its protection, the Metolius has attracted the interest of large scale developers. Two recent destination resort proposals would place up to three thousand single family residences in the basin. They aren’t proposing shared overnight lodging facilities. What is proposed are essentially enormous rural subdivisions which would rely on the groundwater–groundwater that currently feeds the river, making it what it is. The Forest Service found that the Metolius is at carrying capacity.

Currently, there is a bill languishing in Committee in the Oregon House, HB 3100 that would adopt the recommendation of the Department of Land Conservation and Development, designating the Metolius watershed as a State Area of Critical concern. The DLCD recommendation is intended to protect the Metolius from development that is inconsistent with the resource values that make the watershed unique. It has been found that the developments as proposed would likely have a negative impact on the surface flows of the Metolius. The purpose of the House Bill is to prevent negative impacts to the surface waters of the Metolius, it’s springs, tributaries, fish and wildlife resources.

We need to get this bill out of Committee and onto the floor of the House. Please take a moment to write to the members of the Land Use Committee and your State Representative.–KM

Committee Members










Your Local Representative:






Personal emails are best but if you don’t have time simply copy this text into the body of an email:

Dear Representative (insert Rep’s name here):

I am writing to express my support for House Bill 3100 designating the Metolius watershed as a State Area of Critical Concern.

As an angler, I am well aware of the uniqueness of the Metolius. It’s stable flows provide year round angling opportunities when there are few if any such opportunities in the entire state. There is only one Metolius and it demands our protection. Its spring fed waters support some of the healthiest populations of bull trout and native rainbow trout in Oregon and will soon be home to restored runs of sockeye and spring chinook. The sockeye are one of three such runs historically in Oregon and the only run that has a chance of avoiding extirpation.

The proposed 3000 single family residences are incompatible with what makes the Metolius special and will likely adversely impact the fish, wildlife and natural resources that have drawn Oregonians to this river for generations and are now just as sure drawing the interest of speculators seeking to cash in on this river’s beauty.

I urge you to help move this bill out of committee and onto the floor of the House where I ask for your support.

(Your Name here)

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7 Responses to Take Action: Protect the Metolius River

  1. Brent says:

    My class is supposed to meeting with someone from the proposed Metolian eco-friendly resort. Should be interesting if they show up, I have many questions pertaining to being “eco-friendly”.

    Do your part, send letters and postcards http://www.savethemetolius.org (download postacrd pdfs and print)

  2. Greenwash Me says:

    Yep….the so-called “eco-resort” is actually proposing 450 single family residences, and 120 overnight units (which defined legally can actually be rental homes). So 570 homes up there—that’s a lot of additional angling pressure, not to mention the impacts of 1000+ residents (garbage? fertlizer? bleach? Round-up? ect. all flowing into the Metolius as it would be located within the watershed and directly upstream from the headwaters…

  3. Eric says:

    So who can build up there?

  4. Karl Mueller says:


    I work in private land use development in Lane County so endorsing the State Special Area of Concern was not a decision I came to lightly but I believe it is the right thing.

    Now, I am less expert on the Jefferson County zoning ordinances and the standards east of the Cascade crest for designating prime forest of farm land but I understand that the parcels on which the destination resorts are sited are zoned for forest use–likely the Jefferson county equivalent of an F-1 or F-r designation here in Lane County.

    There are mechanisms for placing dwellings on forestland–one per parcel in common ownership. My firm has done several of thee for forest owners in Lane County. I don’t want to get into the nitty-gritty here. But, what would not be allowed in the absence of the destination resort mapping is the type of development contemplated here–up to 3000 single family dwelling between 2 developments.

    It is possible that these parcels would qualify for a couple dwellings. But, before that is renounced as unfair, let’s all remember that level of development would be consistent with the zoning and designations at the time these properties were purchased. It is the developers who sought a change to allow the these resorts. As sophisticated business people they should have and likely did perform a risk-reward analysis. There are no guarantees when requesting development, particularly in an area as important to Oregonians as the Metolius and when you are asking for what amount to special privileges on that land that do not generally apply to forest land statewide.

    The Special Area of Concern would not impact platted lots in Camp Sherman, generally speaking as these are legal lots.

    Finally, I believe that the special area of concern does not outright prohibit development in the basin but rather requires a showing that development will not negatively impact the areas unique fish and wildlife resources. It would prevent these massive rural subdivisions from drawing Metolius groundwater/ and or surface water intended for the Metolius.

    It’s the unique nature of the Metolius that draws the interest of these developers. Unfortunately, the development would negatively impact that which draws them there in the first place.

  5. jmarz says:

    I lived in Bend and Prineville for 3 years and moved out of Central Oregon about a year ago.

    I am a fly fisher but never took the time to fish the Metolious. You don’t know what you got till it’s gone, right?

    I was also a plumber working in Central Oregon.
    Given CO’s current economic woes it would be a benefit to provide jobs for people in the area, especially construction workers.

    But ,if I were to make a choice between a job building new homes or fishing the Metolious without looking at houses and resorts everywhere, I would have to side with fishing.

    There seems to be enough “destination” resorts in Central Oregon. I believe that Crook County residents voted on an ordinance to not allow anymore resorts to be built.

    I was able to take my family to the Wizard Falls Hatchery a couple of summers ago. What a beautiful place. Let’s keep it like that.

  6. Eric says:

    Ok, thats fine, but what if the Warmsprings trib decides to build a resort just north of Wizard falls on there land, do you think that you can stop them? On the west side of the river there are cabins cramed into each other from Allignham bridge to just above the fish hatchery. So when you fish your still in someones front yard.

  7. Karl Mueller says:

    Yes, there is existing development in the Metolius basin. Personally, I am far more concerned about groundwater withdrawals and surface water collection that will impact flows in the basin than the issue of fishing in someones yard.

    Additionally, the issue of the existing development footprint in my view is a canard as the proposed development would increase the number of units in the basin by a factor of 10 or so, I’ll pull the numbers in a moment.

    Regarding what to do if the Warm Springs tribe decides to build on their land in the basin, I suspect there isn’t much that could be done but that threat (which I am not aware is on the table right now) would have to be addressed at the time that it actually exists. For now, we are dealing with concrete not speculative threats to the basins water quality.

    Now, I think that question helps my argument though more than what I am assuming yours to be. I’ll put the question that logically follows yours back to you: Say the resorts are allowed and the Warm Springs Tribe decides to build a resort?

    A bad situation will be made worse.

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