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Upper Deschutes State Scenic Waterway Limited Segment Review

Note: This project has ended, and this page is being kept online for historical purposes only. No one is editing it these days.


Oregon's State Scenic Waterways are designated by public referendum, the state legislature, and the governor to protect the recreational and fish and wildlife qualities of the designated river or lake. Afterward, the public and local/state/federal government agencies work together to create specific rules that protect the waterway. As these groups write rules, they break each scenic waterway into segments and assign each segment to one of six classifications, ranging from the most pristine with the tightest controls--the Natural River classification--to the most urban with the most relaxed approach: River Community.

A portion of the Deschutes River between Wickiup Reservoir and Bend was designated through two actions in 1987 and 1988. First, the Oregon Legislative Assembly designated portions of the river from the reservoir to Bend through a bill in 1987. In 1988, Oregon voters approved Measure 7 and added the last, most-downstream mile inside Bend's Urban Growth Boundary. A group of several tribes, agencies, irrigation districts, and local government worked out a joint management plan in 1996. They saw growth coming down the track -- Bend is four times larger now than when the waterway was designated -- and they did two interesting things as they set up Upper Deschutes rules:

  • They classified the part of the river inside the Urban Growth Boundary as a "River Community," and ...
  • They added some restrictions on development that are unusually tight for this category, such as an outright prohibition on new bridges or any other kind of crossing.

In 2015-2016, the Bend Park and Recreation District petitioned the Oregon State Parks and Recreation Commission to amend the scenic waterway rules and loosen the restriction on new bridges. The amendment would have allowed a bicycle/pedestrian crossing, but after taking public comment and seeing a mix of both strong opposition and support for the idea, the Commission declined to amend the rules.

Instead, it directed Oregon Parks and Recreation Department staff to look at the rules for the portion of the river closest to Bend at a higher level, rather than specifically targeting the one restriction that affects crossings. This review is not rulemaking, and while it is controlled by staff, it will include conversations with public agencies, neighborhood associations representing people who currently live along the scenic waterway, and other stakeholders. The review will ask some fundamental questions:

  • Since the waterway rules were drafted more than 20 years ago, are they still helpful and relevant?
  • Do they serve community and state scenic waterway needs well?

... but this review will not make any decisions about amending rules.


To help organize the meetings, staff have contracted with Community Solutions of Central Oregon, a local nonprofit. Their job is to guide groups through a defined process, and create an environment conducive to open dialogue and collaboration. They are neutral, and do not back any position, nor favor any participant. In addition to organizing meetings with staff and stakeholders, they will also pull in thoughts from a much broader cross-section of the public, including recreational groups, nonprofits, and people who care about the river and recreation.

The review is expected to produce a report to Oregon Parks and Recreation Department Director Lisa Sumption by Spring 2017. Based on the report, Director Sumption will decide whether to ask the Oregon State Parks and Recreation Commission to open a public rulemaking process. If that happens, the department will convene a Rules Advisory Committee, draft rule text, hold public meetings and take comment, and make a recommendation to the Commission. It is also possible this review will stop with the report, and no rulemaking will be necessary.

As staff work with the reviewers, we will post summaries here in the documents section below.

There were three neighborhood meeting February 2017: 2/16, 2/17, and 2/23. These were open forums for anyone to come and offer their opinions about the current status and future needs of this 1-mile stretch of the river as a scenic waterway.

A final report was published May 5, 2017. The department's director decided not to pursue any new rule amendments, as explained in this news release.

Stakeholders invited to the table

  • US Forest Service
  • Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife
  • Bend Park and Recreation District
  • Deschutes County
  • City of Bend
  • Southwest Bend Neighborhood Association
  • Century West Neighborhood Association
  • Deschutes River Woods Neighborhood Association
  • Property owners within the waterway boundary
  • Central Oregon Trail Alliance
  • Bend Paddle Trail Alliance
  • Central Oregon Flyfishers
  • Sunriver Anglers
  • East Cascades Audubon Society
  • Central Oregon Running Klub
  • DogPAC
  • Sun Country Tours
  • Wanderlust Tours
  • Ouzel Outfitters

Documents and links

Public open house audio
Get Microsoft SilverlightFeb. 16, 2017

Get Microsoft SilverlightFeb. 17, 2017

Get Microsoft SilverlightFeb. 23, 2017