Rogue River navigability ruling: the facts

and Pete Price

The Mail Tribune editorial "Rogue ruling" (July 14) is the most uninformed and biased opinion in the history of the printing press. It consists of state positions, without any facts from the private property advocates nor opinions and reasoning by the judge.

The Josephine County district attorney, under pressure from the special interests, decided to inflate a story of possible incidents on the river and start the process by which the state made a complete and total mess. To start the procedure, the Josephine County DA could not find any incidents in Josephine County so he had to rely on a 30-year-old Jackson County case which was a planned intrusion, not an incident.

In this case, the sheriff was called and the men cited. The result: Two were found innocent, one guilty of trespassing. There are no other recorded cases regarding conflict between river users and property owners.

As a member of the majority of riverfront property owners and people using the Rogue, we have no major problems with recreational river users. There has been an accord between the river users, property owners and law enforcement for years on the Rogue River as verified by letters from the county sheriff's deputies and police officers in local riverfront communities.

The state conducted public hearings in Grants Pass and Medford where the majority of people spoke out against the state action. This culminated at the final public hearing, in which 90-95 percent of attendees were against the taking of private property by the state. Yet, regardless of "overwhelming public opinion,' the state yielded to special interests and its desire to expand its Salem power over the land in question for management purposes.

Although nonresident special interest groups (Northwest Steelheaders, and others) generally do not have any ownership interest in the Upper Rogue, they hired a lawyer to intervene in these proceedings, joining the state.

In fact, special interest groups even participated in writing the regulations for the law being utilized for confiscation of private property. Their primary objective is unfettered use of the river for their members. (Lots of rights but no responsibilities).

The MT falsely claims that the Land Board had no interest in non-submerged land. If that was the case, the state easily could have released its interest in the declaration and returned the houses and other structures the state claimed by its declaration. It did not do so.

The declaration causes substantial harm to property owners by unnecessarily reducing their surveyed title property. The state expects the property owners to pay for their own new surveys and to suffer non marketability of their property until the state bungles along to solve the legal title mess it created. Understand that these riverfront owners cannot sell their property nor mortgage it at a fair value until this cloud is lifted.

The MT opinion failed to mention that riverfront owners were granted a partial summary judgment for the state's failing to properly identify the property in which it claims an interest. As to the location of the newly recognized state-owned property, the judge said, "this declaration does nothing to assist that effort and may arguably make it more confusing to all concerned." The judge also said that "... since the law states a lay person should be able to identify the location of the state's claim this declaration is woefully insufficient."

The judge recognized what the MT does not, that this procedure will result in a patchwork of ownership in the Upper Rogue River area with a river user going in and out of state-owned riverbank, thus the situation will be made substantially worse and unclear while at the same time the riverfront property owners will be substantially damaged. Remembering that the study was done to create and obtain certainty of ownership of the riverbed and banks, it is a dismal and expensive failure in that regard and a waste of the taxpayers' and property owners' money.

The state of Oregon already recognizes a "floatage easement" for river users and that accord has worked fine for years. We do not need state ownership of the river bed and banks and correspondingly the state's intrusion into the local management of the Rogue River. This clearly should be and remain a local concern and responsibility.

A small group in Shady Cove started the battle on this issue and they continue to fight for their property rights and local management of our assets. We must continue to fight every time the government wants to take and misuse private property.

Gary Endicott and Pete Price own riverfront property in Trail. Riverfront property owners Roger King of Eagle Point and Russ Logue of Shady Cove also signed this opinion.

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