Waterskiing and Wildlife - My take

On Monday, October 23rd, I stayed for the first five hours of the Deschutes County hearing regarding another attempt by KCDG to skirt local wildlife protections to build a subdivision around an unpermitted recreational waterski lake. I heard emotional testimony from those in favor of the application, both elevating the character of the developers and orating dreams of playing with grandchildren on the banks of an artificial lake reserved for use by those members of the proposed luxury development.

I believe strongly that approvals for these applications should be decided on the facts and the law, rather than the character of the applicants or sentimental dreams of some.

Aerial view of unpermitted waterski lake in Tumalo Deer Winter Range.

Aerial view of unpermitted waterski lake in Tumalo Deer Winter Range.

LandWatch and others opposed to the development presented the facts of the case which you can see here. And again, while decisions should be made on the basis of law, I nevertheless feel compelled to submit my own emotional testimony.

At last week's hearing, I heard a great many people supportive of the development talk about their vision for their family and future. So many folks talked about a passion for waterskiing and a desire to bring up their children and grandchildren on the water and instill their love of watersports in the next generation. Much to my surprise, this testimony, while not based in law, did appeal to me on an emotional level because I was that grandchild.

My grandfather and I at Chatfield Reservoir, ~1990

My grandfather and I at Chatfield Reservoir, ~1990

Like many of those who testified on Mondaynight, my grandparents harbor a passion for boating and water recreation. My grandparents had a houseboat that we took to Lake Powell every summer, dragging one of their two speed boats behind us to a spot on the lake where we could camp out and take off to explore the canyons. Back home in Colorado, I spent countless weekends at a publicly accessible reservoir. I waterskied, I went tubing, I fished off the boat, I swam and sometimes just floated on the water with my grandparents playing eye-spy, listening to bird calls, eating hotdogs, and taking premature “driving” lessons. Now, when I want to harken back to my childhood, I spend summer days at Billy Chinook, Wickiup Reservoir or Cultus Lake, all publicly available and in my proverbial “backyard”. 

To me, those memories and experiences were formative and precious. However, despite being raised on the water, my vision for my children bears little resemblance to that proposed by KCDG’s development. Above my child’s ability to partake in watersports out of their backdoor, I value their opportunity to grow up in a healthy ecosystem, alive with biodiversity and majestic Mule Deer, another of my cherished childhood relics. Unlike waterskiing, Mule Deer are a goal 5 protected resource in the State of Oregon. Beyond state and local protections, Mule Deer and other wildlife are considered a public resource, entitled to protection regardless of the legal status of the land or water where they may live or migrate through. 

Mule Deer belong to all of us and our children. It is our moral, social and legal responsibility to protect them for future generations. 

Construction of KCDG's unpermitted waterski lake in 2014. 

Construction of KCDG's unpermitted waterski lake in 2014. 

Waterskiing is a luxury amenity, not a human right. A healthy Mule Deer population however, is a human right, as it is indicative of a healthy, life-sustaining ecosystem that extends far beyond its positive impacts on Deschutes County’s economy and way of life. Aside from my children’s right to experience a healthy Mule Deer population, the Deer themselves are entitled to a habitat that sustains them and allows them to pass through with minimal disturbance. Those rights should not be overridden by the desires of some to pass on their love of waterskiing to their children, an ability, by the way, that those children have in various other locations throughout Central Oregon.

Tumalo Mule Deer

Tumalo Mule Deer

Children do not have the right to be raised in a luxury development that backs up to an artificial waterski lake in the High Desert so that they may experience the exhilaration of waterskiing from a young age. My children do have the right to a healthy environment, teeming with the wildlife that have kept Oregon in balance long before any of us first strapped on a waterski.

I would never seek to deny any child the upbringing I had, spending quality time with my grandparents in the sun and on the water. However, a small number of lucky grandchildren’s recreation opportunities should not be privileged above the rights of all people to a healthy Mule Deer population. I oppose these applications not because I don’t understand waterskiing, but because I do understand the importance of protecting our natural world.

-Kori 

What you can do...

You can email written comments to Deschutes County Planner Anthony Raguine at anthony.raguine@deschutes.org before 5pm on Monday, November 6.