Strong opposition emerges against Thornburgh Resort
Last updated 3/23/2022 at Noon
The public raised a unified voice against the sale of 400 acres of Department of State Lands (DSL) land on Cline Buttes to the developer of the proposed Thornburgh destination resort.
DSL staff heard testimony at their virtual public hearing on March 10.
With more than 200 attendees via Zoom, there was only time allotted to take questions and testimony from about 55 attendees, all of whom spoke against the sale for a variety of reasons.
Two weeks ago, Central Oregon LandWatch put out a call to the regional community to provide input to DSL regarding the land that lies to the east of Sisters. At this time, more than 4,150 businesses, groups, and individuals have signed a community letter opposing the sale. According to DSL, more than 1,800 written comments were submitted into the public record as of the March 10 hearing. All comments, written and oral, will be part of the report prepared by DSL staff for the State Land Board.
The opposition to the land sale is based on several water concerns, the current use of the land by many for recreation, its use by large wildlife as a winter range as well as habitat for other non-game wildlife species, and its proximity to the already established Eagle Crest Resort. Thornburgh proposes the development of three golf courses and six manmade lakes requiring millions of gallons of water daily, as well as over 900 homes.
According to Central Oregon LandWatch, the enormous withdrawal of water will adversely affect Whychus Creek and the Deschutes River. To withdraw water from the aquifer, Thornburgh Resort must demonstrate that it has mitigation water to offset any negative impacts to surrounding rivers and streams. In an initial application, Thornburgh identified what those cold-water sources would be. That application was approved.
But something has changed. The mitigation water the resort promised may no longer be available. The resort says they have it, but they won’t tell anyone what the source is. If the water sources have changed, it must be publicly demonstrated the new source meets the standards requiring full mitigation of the effects on fish and wildlife.
The period to submit written testimony to the DSL has now been extended to April 15. Comments can be submitted via email to [email protected] or by mail to 951 SW Simpson Avenue, Suite #104, Bend OR 97702.
The next scheduled hearing on the land sale is planned for June 2022, most likely in Salem, as the three-member State Land Board that will meet to deliberate and make a decision is made up of Governor Kate Brown (chair), Secretary of State Shemia Fagan, and State Treasurer Tobias Read. After the comment period is closed on April 15, citizens may still send letters directly to the members of the Board voicing their support of or opposition to the land sale.
Opponents include not only private citizens, but many nonprofit organizations and state government agencies, including Central Oregon LandWatch, Eagle Crest residents, Oregon Land and Water Alliance, and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW).
During the hearing, Bend City Councilor Anthony Broadman stated, “Generations to come will look back at this moment in Oregon’s land use history, at the decisions we’re making now in rooms all across our state and ask whether we’ve upheld Oregon land use system and honored the land. So, I would ask [that] you would consider what we need as a region instead of what a very few want.”
Andrew Walch, district wildlife biologist for ODFW in Bend, in a letter regarding the Cline Buttes tract, wrote, “The parcels in question lie within biological mule deer and elk winter ranges.
Big game winter range is an essential and limited habitat type that supports wildlife through the winter months.
In areas, such as Central Oregon, with large amounts of land use development, alterations, and human disturbance, big game species are often forced to alter historic patterns and utilize winter habitats that are less suitable and more fragmented.
This makes remaining tracts of winter range habitat essential to the long-term preservation of these wildlife species… ODFW is concerned about the potential conversion from public to private ownership and the subsequent possibility of future development, increased human presence, and associated loss of habitat functionality.”
The land overseen by the DSL was granted to Oregon following statehood by the federal government for the purpose of generating revenue for the Common School Fund for K-12 education. The DSL and the State Land Board are responsible to manage, control, and protect the common school grazing lands to secure the greatest permanent value of the lands to all people of the state.
According to ORS 273.051(2)(b), the State Land Board must “give due consideration, in the sale, exchange or leasing of any state lands under its control, to the protection and conservation of all natural resources, including scenic and recreational resources, of such lands, so as to conserve the public health and recreational enjoyment of the people, protect property and human life, and conserve plant, aquatic and animal life.”
There are different names connected to the proposed Thornburgh development and the adjacent 400 acres – Thornburgh Resort Company LLC and Kameron DeLashmutt, manager and founder, and Central Land and Cattle Company (CLCC), applicant for the purchase of the 400 acres. Up until recently, DeLashmutt was listed as the agent for CLCC but as of 2022, that has been changed to AW Services in Portland, although the contact address is DeLashmutt’s Redmond address.
Central Land and Cattle Company has been leasing the state-owned land it is seeking to buy, for annual lease payments of $28,720, which have been repeatedly deferred and later paid. If the sale is approved, there are no water rights or permits associated with the land in question.
The Thornburgh development has been a contentious issue since the early 2000s, with Deschutes County decisions appealed to the State Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA) and remanded by LUBA back to Deschutes County, with other appeals going to the Court of Appeals and one all the way to the Oregon Supreme Court, which sent it back to the Court of Appeals to hear. Deschutes County did approve the master plan for the 1,970-acre destination resort southwest of Cline Buttes, but there are several appeals still pending.