A 25 Year Timeline of the Methow Valley Citizen’s Council

These are the milestones in the 25-year history of the Methow Valley Citizen’s Council.

  • 1961. Sandy Butte is surveyed by the USFS.
  • 1974.MVCC has its first organizational meeting in response to rumors of large ski resort plans at Early Winters. The statement of purpose of MVCC is “to maintain the rural quality of life and agricultural character of the Methow Valley and to keep the valley a wholesome place for family life” (see mission statement at end). The Methow Valley Preservation Committee, a related group, begins a newspaper ad campaign to make Methow Valley citizens aware of the impending threats from Aspen Corp.
  • Aspen Ski Corporation conducts feasibility studies for a ski resort in the upper valley
  • 1975. The Methow Valley Land Use Advisory Committee is formed to create a comprehensive plan.
  • MVCC members become involved with the development of the Methow Valley Plan, still in effect today.
  • MVCC incorporates.
  • 1976. MVCC appeals large well DOE applications for Early Winters.
  • MVCC helps organize opposition to an industrial/commercial zone in a residential agricultural area by the Smokejumper base.
  • Okanogan county adopts the Interim Zoning Ordinance putting a moratorium on commercial industrial development outside of towns until the zoning ordinance is adopted.
  • MVCC submits comments on the USFS Twisp / Winthrop / Conconully (TWC) Plan DEIS, which considers Sandy Butte for a ski area.
  • 10/01/76. The TWC Plan FEIS is adopted, MVCC's suggestions are ignored.
  • The Methow Valley Plan is adopted.
  • 04/04/1977. The Okanogan Forest Supervisor adopts the TWC Plan. MVCC, together with Cascade Holistic Economic Consultants, appeals the TWC Plan, opposing developed recreation status for Sandy Butte. The USFS responds by closing timber sales throughout the forest. Tension in the valley runs high as MVCC is blamed for economic losses.
  • 07/26/77. MVCC's appeal is denied by the Regional Forester.
  • 08/16/77. The TWC appeal goes to the Chief of the USFS.
  • 06/77. Aspen Corp. drops its plans for a ski hill at Sandy Butte.
  • 03/20/1978. SUCCESS! The USFS Chief remands the TWC Plan and allows timber sales to proceed.
  • 07/78. The RARE II study replaces the TWC Plan, pending outcome.
  • 08/15/78. Methow Recreation Inc. (MRI) applies for a special use permit on Sandy Butte.
  • 01/1979. RARE II recommends non-wilderness for Sandy Butte; Forest Supervisor prepares to authorize remanded TWC Plan.
  • 03/23/79. The Chief of the USFS directs the Okanogan National Forest to use the older Multiple Use Plan authorizing unsustainable levels of timber harvest, rather than the remanded TWC plan.
  • 04/10/79. MVCC objects in writing to the USFS Chief's allowing ski development on Sandy Butte without a revised TWC Plan.
  • 06/27/79. MVCC appeals to the USDA. Rupert Cutler, Assistant Secretary of Agriculture stays project approval, saying that no ski development will be allowed until the new Forest Plan is complete (projected for 12/81).
  • MVCC members give hours of time, testimony and effort to the development of the Methow Review District, a more protective zoning code for the Methow that outlaws strip development and requires a 5 acre minimum lot size per dwelling unit on the valley floor. The Methow Review District zoning is adopted after endless hearings despite vehement organized opposition by Methow Valley real estate developers headed by Pete Arnold (Citizens for Planned Growth).
  • Adoption of Okanogan County Zoning Ordinance with intensive zoning for Methow Review District.
  • MVCC works with the newly formed Okanogan Wilderness League (OWL), lobbying our state representatives to create the Chelan-Sawtooth Wilderness.
  • 04/1981. The scoping process for the Early Winters Draft EIS is begun. MVCC comments.
  • 08/27/1982. The DEIS for the Okanogan Forest Plan and Early Winters are released together.
  • 11/30/82. The review period ends for the Early Winters Alpine Winter Sports Study Draft EIS, in which MVCC attended hearings and submitted comments on.
  • MVCC successfully lobbies Okanogan County to adopt the Beck Study, which documents the permeability of upper valley soils and the need for tight sewage regulations to prevent pollution of the Methow River.
  • 01/27/1983. Governor Spellman tells Regional Forester McLaughlin to support Early Winters.
  • 03/16/83. Roadless Area planning delays the Forest Plan and EIS. By year's end, Washington legislators are informed by the USDA that a Wilderness Bill might speed the Early Winters FEIS.
  • MVCC organizes an informational presentation about the effects of large-scale ski development in the Methow on the environment, animals and economics. The presentation is given to large audiences in Twisp, Methow and then in Olympia before the State Winter Recreation Committee. The committee votes to ignore our concerns and one member resigns in protest. MVCC is interviewed for TV news.
  • 1984. MVCC unsuccessfully lobbies the DOE to change the status of Methow River to AA, which would severely limit the amount of allowable degradation. (DOE said the river was too warm in August near Pateros so that it didn't qualify even though the water quality was higher than other AA rivers.)
  • MVCC comments on the Forest Plan, urging sustainable levels of timber harvest and roadless area protection.
  • 01/26/84. The USFS Chief informs the Regional Forester that the Early Winters DEIS may not be released without the Okanogan Forest Plan in place. The Washington Wilderness Bill is signed creating the Chelan-Sawtooth Wilderness Area.
  • 07/05/84. The USFS signs its Record of Decision to issue a permit for 3,900 acres of public land for 8,200 skiers at one time on Sandy Butte. Alternative 4 of the DEIS is chosen in the record of Decision. Developer, Methow Recreation, Inc. (MRI) would develop a ski village on the adjacent 1,200 acres of private lands at the base of the hill.
  • 10/01/84. MVCC appeals the Early Winters EIS.
  • Jeff Sirmon, Regional Forester, rules against MVCC in appeal of the adequacy of the Early Winters EIS.
  • 10/30/84. USFS Chief Dale Robertson rules against MVCC, supporting the Regional Forester's decision.
  • 1985. MVCC enters into talks with Hosey and Associates, who have contracted to do the EIS for MRI, regarding possible acceptable development scenarios. A Draft Settlement Agreement is produced.
  • Methow Valley Interagency Committee is formed by Okanogan County in response to Early Winters Record of Decision. MVCC sends two representatives.
  • Talks with Hosey and Associates and MRI attorneys break down over size of the resort. Proponents planned 4,120 dwellings on their 1,200 acres.
  • Anti-MVCC signs appear throughout the valley upon breakdown of negotiations.
  • 12/17/85. MVCC appeals the adequacy of the Early Winters EIS to Federal District Court. Parties to the suit are MVCC, Washington Environmental Council, Cascade Chapter of the Sierra Club and Washington State Sportsmens' Council, which later drops out.
  • 06/25/1986. Federal Magistrate William Dale rules against MVCC in Federal District Court on appeal of the Early Winters EIS after oral arguments in Portland, Oregon.
  • 08/14/86. MVCC attorney Bricklin files a complaint with the Ninth Circuit Court on issuance of Special Use Authorizations for MRI.
  • 09/30/86. MVCC attorney Bricklin appeals the Regional Forester's dismissal of Special Use Authorizations.
  • The Washington Governor's Commission actively supports Early Winters as the destination resort Washington needs.
  • MVCC members lobby County Commissioners for regulations to disallow subdivision and vegetative disturbance in riparian areas in the new Shorelines Master Program.
  • 06/1987. MVCC unsuccessfully appeals Regional Forest Supervisor Jeff Sirmon’s issuance of the permit for Early Winters.
  • 07/06/87. MVCC Attorney Bricklin presents oral arguments before the Ninth Circuit Court in appeal of the Special Use Permit for MRI.
  • 12/01/87. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals finds in favor of MVCC. The EIS is ruled inadequate in addressing alternative sites, mitigation, and impacts to air quality and the mule deer herd.
  • Governor Booth Gardner signs legislation earmarking $187,000 for the Department of Community Development to help planning for a destination resort at Early Winters.
  • 1988. Hosey and Associates becomes the principal developer of the lands it has been evaluating for MRI in the EIS.
  • The USFS appeals the Ninth Circuit Decision on Early Winters, requesting review by the US Supreme Court, particularly on issues of mitigations and worst case analysis. The High Court accepts the case as Robertson v. MVCC, which the Court combines with the case Marsh v. ONRC on the Elk Creek Dam in Oregon. Amicus briefs are written to the Supreme Court in support of MVCC and the other environmental groups, by the National Wildlife Federation, Natural Resources Defense Council, the Wilderness Society, the International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, the American Planning Association, and 29 states.
  • 01/09/1989. Oral presentation on behalf of the environmental groups is made before the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C. by David Bricklin of Bricklin and Gendler in Seattle. Several Methow Valley residents attend.
  • 05/01/89. The US Supreme Court leaves the majority of the Ninth Circuit decision in place in favor of MVCC; remands to Ninth Circuit. The Court reverses the Ninth Circuit decision only on mitigation and worst case analysis: A fully developed mitigation plan is not required. An agency is not required to make a worst case analysis if it cannot make a reasoned assessment of a project’s environmental impact.
  • 11/89. The Preliminary Study Draft of the new Okanogan County Zoning Ordinance and Shorelines Program receives MVCC reviews and comments.
  • The USFS and Hosey and Associates begin a Draft Supplemental EIS (DSEIS) for Early Winters, in response to court decisions.
  • 02/1990. MVCC receives a $10,000 grant from Northwest Fund for the Environment for office space and staff. First MVCC office set up; Jason Smith hired as first staff person.
  • 02/90. Friends of the Methow (FOM) hold their first meeting in Seattle to support MVCC's efforts.
  • 06/90. A Federal magistrate indicates that portions of the DSEIS as written will likely be inadequate to meet directives of the Ninth Circuit ruling. A new DSEIS is begun by Hosey & Associates and Okanogan County.
  • 06/90. Hosey & Associates propose a land trade with the USFS, attempting to acquire 123 acres near the proposed development, including Early Winters campground.
  • 06/90. MVCC reviews and comments on Okanogan County Shoreline Management Master Program.
  • 08/90. The USFS withdraws their DSEIS for Early Winters.
  • 11/02/90. MVCC is awarded $211,366.37 attorneys' fees and court costs for prevailing on appeal through the US Supreme Court.
  • 11/90. President Bush signs PL101-560, directing the USFS to analyze the proposed land exchange with Early Winters proponents, who are attempting to acquire 123 acres near the proposed development, including Early Winters Campground.
  • MVCC/FOM file a complaint in Superior Court claiming SEPA violations in Okanogan County’s adoption of the PDR portion of the zoning ordinance.
  • 01/30/1991. DOE declares an emergency moratorium on water permits in certain drainages in the Methow.
  • 06/21/91. A Notice of Intent to prepare a Revised Draft Supplement to the 1984 Final EIS is published in the Federal Register, addressing the land trade, alternatives, and many impact items.
  • 07/91. MVCC comments on the County’s Open Space Taxation Plan.
  • The Methow Regulation Review Advisory Committee, composed of citizen representatives ( including MVCC members), recommends that all well drilling and building stop until water use is determined to be within the limits allowed by state regulation.
  • 05/15/91. Okanogan County proposes a rezone of Mazama area to five units per acre from one unit per five acres, thus requiring a sewer line. MVCC comments against this proposal.
  • MVCC testifies against zoning allowing gas stations and restaurants between population centers.
  • MVCC works on Environmentally Sensitive Areas code addition to County's State Environmental Policy Act.
  • 07/91. The Methow Valley is accepted as one of two state Pilot Planning Projects to study base flows and instream flows per the recent Chelan Agreement. Jason Smith, MVCC staff person, serves as chair of the environmental caucus.
  • 1992. R.D. Merrill forecloses on the Early Winters Project before the Revised DSEIS is completed. The only bidder is Merrill, buying the acreage for $830,000.
  • 10/92. MVCC cosponsors bimothly forums with the USFS, extending into 1992, with topics including Noxious Weeds, salmon, grazing, forest health, and a live gray wolf who also visits area schools.
  • 11/25/92. MVCC/FOM, represented by David Bricklin, challenges Okanogan County's adoption the new County Zoning Ordinance in Okanogan County Superior Court, citing failure to identify and protect critical areas, sensitive areas, and inconsistency with the County’s Comprehensive Plan.
  • 04/23/1993. MVCC sponsors a 3-day regional Environmental Education Conference under a $10,0000 Bullitt Grant for Environmental Education. Thom Henley flies in from Thailand as keynote speaker. The USFS and the Methow Valley School District join in sponsorship; teachers and others from across Washington State attend.
  • Ron Judd, FOM, initiates talks among MVCC, FOM, R.D. Merrill, and Lowe Development regarding possible agreement on development of the Merrill property.
  • 09/15/93. MVCC, Friends of the Methow (FOM) and R.D. Merrill sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the Wilson Ranch. Among other things, the smaller Wilson Ranch PD is allowed to proceed, while Merrill agrees not to pursue a downhill ski resort. MVCC/FOM reserves the right to challenge any PDR and acquires a right of first refusal on the purchase of the property previously owned by Hosey, etc. ( See related article on Merrill negotiations)
  • Ground Water Advisory Committee formed. MVCC gives input on water conservation measures and unsuccessfully asks for adoption of more stringent controls on wasteful practices.
  • 03/1994. Merrill has changed plans and is now pursuing approval of a PDR (Planned Destination Resort) rather than two Planned Developments (PDs). The Shaffer development would become part of a two-phase destination resort and would have 166 dwelling units.
  • 10/94. Merrill/Lowe are now talking about the Wilson Ranch with 41 units and two phases of a “River Trace” PDR with a total number of 495 units. The MVCC Board brings this proposal to the general membership, and it is agreed to proceed with caution.
  • 11/15/94. Charlie Wright begins to take over as leader of negotiations on behalf of R.D. Merrill.
  • 01/20/1995. Now Merrill “proposes” 495 units at Arrowleaf, employee housing and “affordable” units bringing the total to 577, along with the possibility of “holdback units”, bringing the total to 689.
  • 02/28/95. MVCC reluctantly agrees to a tentative proposal for 689 units (with hotel units counting as 1/2 and other conditions still under discussion, making the total number actually higher) if performance standards and other items still being negotiated could be agreed upon.
  • 12/13/95. Okanogan County and Merrill release a Draft EIS on Arrowleaf before final agreement is reached between Merrill and MVCC/FOM.
  • MVCC petitions the Okanogan County Commissioners to limit the development of the Arrowleaf PDR to Phase 1 with a total density of 250 residential units.
  • 01/1996. Okanogan County holds public hearings on the Arrowleaf DEIS. MVCC and various government agencies raise serious concerns in written comments.
  • 03/96. 830 people sign a petition asking for limits on density of the resort.
  • 05/10/96. MVCC attempts to reopen negotiations with Merrill, but no meetings materialize.
  • 05/14/96. The Final EIS for the Arrowleaf Proposed Destination Resort is issued.
  • 05/29/96. MVCC files an eleventh hour Administrative Appeal on the adequacy of the Final EIS for the Arrowleaf PDR, rather than lose future appeal opportunities.
  • 07/09/96. The County Commissioners hold two days of hearings on the adequacy of the EIS and whether to approve the Preliminary Development Plan and Program (PDPP) and rezone. MVCC is not allowed to subpoena government witnesses.
  • 08/96. Okanogan County Commissioners vote to deny the MVCC Appeal of Adequacy of the Final EIS for the Arrowleaf PDR. The resort is approved subject to 126 conditions of approval including stipulations that the resort will have adequate water, restrictions on wood burning and a monitoring plan for air and water.
  • 09/10/96. MVCC appeals the Commissioners’ decision on adequacy of the EIS, and files a Land Use Petition.
  • 11/1/96. In a preliminary hearing, Judge Carol Wardell of Chelan County Superior Court rules that the Okanogan County Commissioners denied MVCC due process in not allowing MVCC to cross examine witnesses and not giving MVCC time to rebut their testimony. Consequently, the court provided both parties with a limited opportunity to supplement the record.
  • 11/96. MVCC and Mazama residents object to Merrill's burning of slash piles, which pollute the upper Methow for weeks, and degrade Pasayten Wilderness Class I air.
  • 12/30/96. Okanogan County issues a Shoreline Substantial Development Permit allowing construction of a portion of the golf course within the 100-year floodplain and its associated wetlands at the former Shafer and Cassal ranches.
  • 1996. MVCC and Okanogan Wilderness League (OWL) appeal the Conditional Use Permit (CUP) given to Merrill to develop a golf course in the 100-year floodplain, and for construction within floodplain channels.
  • 02/03/1997. Judge Wardell orders changes in the jurisdiction of the EIS appeal by MVCC against the Arrowleaf resort and PDR. The Washington State Shorelines Hearing Board will now preside.
  • Spring, 1997. Fearing an unfavorable outcome before the State Pollution Control Hearings Board in Chelan Superior Court, Merrill withdraws shoreline permits. Jurisdiction returns to Wardell in Chelan Superior Court.
  • 03/31/97. The County Commissioners approve the Final Development Plan and Program (FDP) for Phase I of the Arrowleaf PDR.
  • 07/14/97. MVCC appeals the FEIS before Judge Wardell in Chelan Superior Court. MVCC is allowed only to cross-examine the developer's witnesses who testified before the commissioners and rebut them on new factual information and opinions. Important MVCC experts are not allowed to testify in court. Important witnesses from government agency employees supporting MVCC are not allowed to testify because they did not testify before Commissioners. (They did not testify before Commissioners because MVCC was not allowed by the Commissioners to subpoena them.)
  • 10/09/97. The MVCC Board votes to join PACE in an appeal if the Okanogan PUD makes a Determination of Non-Significance (DNS) for the power line project.
  • 12/08/97. Judge Carol Wardell of Chelan Superior Court rules in MVCC's favor regarding water quantity and quality. In addition, the Commissioners’ findings were not adequate concerning whether the PDR complies with the zoning ordinance; the Commissioners must further address how the resort “compliments” the area.
  • 02/17/1998. The PUD announces its DNS for the proposed Pateros - Twisp power line.
  • 04/98. The Methow Valley is included in the 1000 Friends of Washington's Ten Most Endangered Places.
  • 05/98. The Arrowleaf EIS Addendum is released by Okanogan County.
  • 05/98. New employee cabins are discovered built on Arrowleaf property. DOE confirms that water issues for Arrowleaf have not been resolved and permits have not been issued.
  • 05/26/98. MVCC sends a letter to DOE protesting Arrowleaf's water rights applications.
  • 06/03/98. An Arrowleaf site tour is held with representatives from R.D. Merrill, OWL, Okanogan County, Washington Dept. of Fish and Wildlife, US Fish and Wildlife, DOE, Shorelines, and MVCC.
  • 06/30/98. The Arrowleaf EIS Addendum Hearing is held before the County Commissioners.
  • 07/27/98. The County Commissioners approve the Arrowleaf EIS and re-approve the Arrowleaf PDR with substantial Conditions of Approval. MVCC's appeal is denied.
  • 08/98. The press discovers that the Arrowleaf site houses rare bats.
  • 09/17/98. DOE documents indicate a tentative decision for Arrowleaf water has been reached, finding water available to irrigate 100 acres and domestic water for 3 or 4 home sites.
  • 09/23/98. The Draft Upper Methow Valley Comprehensive Plan is released.
  • 11/19/98. The Press tours the Winthrop Interpretive Trail Project, begun and undertaken by MVCC intern, Sarah Locke.
  • 01/07/1999. The Washington Supreme Court affirms the decision of the Pollution Control Hearings Board in favor of OWL and Aaron Burkhart. Only three of five water rights changes applied for by Merrill can be approved. One right had never been perfected , and facts as to relinquishment or abandonment of the remaining right must be determined by further proceedings.
  • 01/15/99. The Attorney General of Washington notifies Arrowleaf developer Merrill that the “Wilson Ranch does not appear to have sufficient water to meet Merrill's estimate of annual demand”.
  • 03/04/99. PACE appeals the power line DNS with Toby Thaler and Peter Goldman as attorneys. Okanogan Highlands Associates, Kettle Range Conservation Group, and MVCC join the appeal.
  • 03/99. The Methow Basin Watershed Planning Unit is formed. Controversy over environmental representation results in the addition of an “Environmental Groups” representative.
  • 06/99. PUD Commissioners listen to six days of testimony in the appeal of their DNS for the transmission line and substation.
  • 06/10/99. DOE hosts a public hearing at the Winthrop Barn on a proposed Basin rule which would allow conversion of agricultural water rights to development rights, extend seasonal rights throughout the year, and allow water rights to be bought and sold. The public overwhelmingly objects to this commercialization and loss of agricultural water. DOE subsequently withdraws the proposal.
  • 06/29/99. PUD Commissioners affirm their decision that the power line will not have significant environmental impacts.
  • 07/12/99. The County Commissioners hold reconsideration hearings on Arrowleaf's Final Development Plan, MVCC comments against approval.
  • 07/20/99. The Arrowleaf Golf Course Management Plan receives County approval. MVCC prepares objections.
  • 10/99. DOE Shorelands releases their Ordinary High Water Mark Report for the Methow River adjacent to the Arrowleaf property indicating many floodways are omitted from Merrill's site plan.
  • 12/99. DOE issues a preliminary ruling that the Arrowleaf proposal lacks enough water rights to proceed. Merrill decides to drop plans for development at Arrowleaf when it becomes apparent that no final ruling will be made in the near future.
  • 11/99. FOM, possessing a joint right of refusal with MVCC, renews active interest in the Merrill property. FOM engineers connections with conservationists who could purchase the property for larger sums of money than MVCC could raise.
  • 12/14/99. Trust for Public Land agrees to act as representative for MVCC/FOM in arranging a conservation buy-out of the Arrowleaf property.
  • 01/24/2000. The appeal of the PUD's affirmation of the DNS is heard before Judge Jack Burchard in Okanogan County Superior Court.
  • 03/06/00. Judge Burchard rules against the PUD, following the January hearing, stating that the court “is left with the definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been committed” and the power line will have a significant environmental impact.
  • 03/00. Merrill makes a final agreement for purchase of Arrowleaf by MVCC/FOM contingent upon a settlement with the Okanogan Wilderness League on water issues.
  • 04/00. A settlement agreement is reached between Merrill and OWL. Merrill agrees to relinquish questionable water rights associated with the Arrowleaf property and Wilson Planned Development, allowing conservation buy-out plans for the Arrowleaf property to continue.

DOE - Washington State Department of Ecology.

DNS - Determination of Non-Significance.
EIS, DEIS, DSEIS, FEIS, SEIS - Environmental Impact Statement (Draft, Draft Supplemental, Final, Supplemental).
FOM - Friends of the Methow.
MOU - Memorandum of Understanding.
MRI - Methow Recreation, Inc.
NEPA - National Environmental Policy Act.
OWL - Okanogan Wilderness League.
PACE - People for Alternatives, Conservation and Education.
PUD - Public Utility District.
SEPA - State Environmental Policy Act.
TWC Plan - Twisp / Winthrop / Conconully Unit Plan by the USFS.
USFS - US Forest Service.

Environmental Issues In The Methow

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