Last week, Deschutes County hearings officers ruled in favor of Central Oregon LandWatch and neighbors on two similar cases in which waterski lakes were created without the requisite land use permits. In both cases, landowners built the lakes and asked for permission afterward.
In Tumalo, KCDG built lakes to be used for waterskiing using Tumalo Creek water in a peaceful, rural neighborhood in a wildlife zone. In Alfalfa, KG Ranch built a lake in an agricultural community. Thanks to the efforts of Central Oregon LandWatch and others, both of these lakes remain unpermitted.
"It became clear that they were building a seasonal recreational lake under the guise of agricultural use," said Alfalfa resident Dave Fox. The lake is built to almost the exact dimensions of what the International Water Ski Federation describes as a regulation size water ski slalom course. "Let's be honest about this," Fox says, "we all know this is not an agricultural reservoir."
In addition to being inconsistent with the agriculturally focused neighborhood, the lake displaced a federally recognized wetland. The previous farm pond had been a refuge for antelope, elk, and deer, which passed by in the nearby winter range. The new lake is lined with rocks and 8-foot berms, which are insurmountable for wildlife.
"We are pleased with these decisions showing how the county and other agencies work together to make good decisions about land use planning – that's what Oregon is all about," said Fox.