This is a formal response about the mineral withdrawal for Methow Headwaters from the Washington Fly Fishing Club in coordination with other related organizations. All contacted fishing/conservation groups including conservation chairs for local clubs support this withdrawal. A number of various organizations’ members are year-around or part-time residents in Methow Valley — including myself and Anne Roberts Thorpe for 30-plus years on Northcott Road, with 500 feet of Chewuch River frontage — who have voiced their support for withdrawal.
RW Thorpe & Associates was hired by then Washington state Gov. Booth Gardener’s Task Force on new ski resorts in the state, and the Okanogan County commissioners in 1989 to update the county comprehensive and shorelines plans, development regulations and deer migration preservation plan — authored by Len Zickler of Parron Associates — as well as the environmental impact statements for all documents. The team worked for four years on updating regulations and as expert witnesses in the ensuing litigation.
All fishing, wildlife, conservation, agriculture, citizen groups, the Methow Conservancy, neighbors and property owners we have worked with over the last 30-plus years have favored this action to withdraw the mining designation. All of these individuals and organizations have followed the significant degradation of the Upper Columbia resources and the impact on local and migratory fishing from the pollution of improperly or poorly utilized protection measures from mineral extraction in British Columbia.
Following the long litigation over Early Winters, the decisions not to build Early Winters set a very strong precedent and affirmed the voice of citizens and environmental groups to preserve the Methow Valley, its setting and its wildlife and natural resources. This precedent has been reinforced over the last 25 years in Okanogan County land use and environmental regulation updates at the local, state and federal levels.
Further, the expansion of the North Cascades Wilderness area by Congress was supported by both parties — that mining would not only be inconsistent with plans, rules and regulations but also seriously threaten the quality of life for residents and wildlife including fish resources. The development of the United States’ largest cross country ski area, the largest mule deer herd in the lower 48 states, world-class fly and spiny ray fishing, rafting, mountain climbing and the No. 1 rated new U.S. golf course, Gamble Sands, all effect the quality of these valley resources and the local citizens and guests to the valley.
I have been a practicing professional planner and economist for over 50 years in Washington state, expert witness in state and federal courts and lead author of many of Okanogan County’s early land use/SEPA regulations and comprehensive plan, and have processed permits and reviewed updated county plans and regulations for over 30 years. My conclusion is that mining this area would not be consistent with many of the Okanogan plan’s goals and policies and state regulations. Future air/water pollution from improperly controlled mining would have significant adverse impacts on the farm, orchard, recreational and tourist elements of the Okanogan, and potentially other Columbia downriver communities’ economic and environmental well-being.
Robert W. Thorpe is conservation chair of the Washington Fly Fishing Club and a part-time resident of the Methow Valley.