WaterWatch Applauds Designation of Two New State Scenic Waterways

For Immediate Release
January 27, 2016

WaterWatch Applauds Designation of Two New State Scenic Waterways
Chetco and Molalla river segments gain new protections for flows supporting fish, wildlife, and recreation

Chetco River by Ken Moorish

Chetco River by Ken Moorish

WaterWatch of Oregon welcomed Governor Kate Brown’s announcement today designating portions of the Chetco and Molalla rivers as State Scenic Waterways. After a lengthy process with considerable public input and support, state officials determined that these two segments met the Scenic Waterways Act criteria for outstanding scenic, fish, wildlife, geological, botanical,cultural, and outdoor recreation opportunities. The two iconic waterways are the first designated under the Act since 1988.

“The Molalla and Chetco are truly among Oregon’s finest watersheds and their inclusion into Oregon’s network of Scenic Waterways is a fitting way to reinvigorate a valuable state program,” said John DeVoe, WaterWatch’s Executive Director. “We applaud the Governor, the Oregon Department of Parks and Recreation, the Oregon Water Resources Commission, and all the Oregonians who showed support for protecting these invaluable waterways.”

The stretches of the Chetco and Molalla rivers now protected under the Scenic Waterway Act are among the most beloved in the state. The clear waters of the Chetco River on Oregon’s southern coast support a myriad of recreational opportunities, are the home to important populations of steelhead trout and salmon, and provide exceptionally clean drinking water to downstream communities. People flock from all over the nation to recreate on this unique river. The Molalla River in the foothills of the northern Oregon Cascades supports native winter steelhead and salmon runs, is full of geological wonders, and supports a wide range of recreational activities, including boating, swimming, camping, and hiking.

“Both of these watersheds are invaluable assets to all Oregonians and deserve to be protected foremost for their outstanding aesthetic, recreational, and ecological benefits,” said Kimberley Priestley, WaterWatch’s Senior Policy Analyst. “One of the most important benefits of the State Scenic Waterways designations for fish populations in the Chetco and Molalla are the protection of scenic flows against future developments.”

The State Scenic Waterway Act, voted into law by Oregon citizens in 1970 by a two to one margin, exists to protect Oregon’s most beloved wild and scenic rivers. This visionary Act mandates that the highest and best uses of waters in state scenic waterways are fish, wildlife, and recreation.

Not unlike National Wild and Scenic status, once designated, Oregon manages these waterways to protect their natural resources, scenic values, and recreational uses. The protections afforded to Oregon’s State Scenic Waterways, including safeguards for water quality and instream flows and prevention of dams, also benefit fish populations.

“As commendable as today’s announcement is, it’s important to mention that we can’t afford to wait another 28 years to grant these protections to more of Oregon’s most cherished rivers,” added DeVoe. “The impacts of climate change and population growth will only increase the need for these designations in the years to come. We look forward to working with the Governor, state officials, and all Oregonians to get this important work done.”