Legislation update January 1, 2015                                                                                       

Previous legislation to provide greater protection for the Wild and Scenic Chetco River, and make the temporary mineral withdrawal of its "Scenic" and "Recreational" segments permanent, has expired.

The Senate and House bills are expected to be reintroduced in the current session of Congress. See text of previous bill here. Passage of legislation is critical in order to make the July 2013 five year temporary mineral withdrawal permanent. The temporary withdrawal expires in July of 2018,

  Legislation update February 17, 2013                                                                                  

On February 14, 2013 Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley reintroduced legislation for the Chetco River under the Oregon Treasures Act of 2013. Formerly known as the Chetco River Protection Act, the legislation will provide greater protection for this National Wild and River from the threat of large scale in-river gold mining by an out of state company.

It's based on the recommendation of the USDA Forest Service in 1993 to upgrade the river area classification on two stretches of the river between Boulder Creek and Eagle Creek. Read more below and here.

Scenic River Area that would be re-classified as a Wild River Area by S. 764  (Photo Ann Vileisis)

Legislation update March 18, 2012                                                                                        

With a real-estate developer's forfeiture of 20 miles of existing mining claims on the Wild and Scenic Chetco River, swift passage of the Chetco River Protection Act has become more important than ever. The abandonment of the claims makes the legislation more effective at protecting this world-class salmon and steelhead river and will save taxpayer money—but only if Congress acts within a narrow time frame, before the temporary mineral withdrawal expires. Read about why.

The Chetco River Protection Act

The Chetco River Protection Act (S. 764, and H.R. 1415) was first introduced in the House Representatives by Peter DeFazio in 2008 and in the Senate in 2010 by Senator Ron Wyden and Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon. Its long title is:
A bill to amend the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act to make technical corrections to the segment designations for the Chetco River, Oregon. 
The CRPA makes technical changes within the existing National Wild and Scenic Chetco River corridor as it flows through the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest outside the Kalmiopsis Wilderness on approximately 5,610-acres of National Forest lands.

The changes are supported by the Forest Service and described in the testimony of Joel Holtrop, Deputy Chief of the National Forest Service before the Senate Subcommittee on National Parks on July 28, 2011. The Act:
  • Revises the classification of ~ 2-miles of the river, between Boulder and Mislatnah Creek, from "Scenic" to "Wild;"
  • Revises the classification of ~ 1.5 miles of the river, between the Steel Bridge and Eagle Creek, from "Recreational" to "Scenic;"
  • Withdraws ~ 5,610 acres of National Forest land within the existing corridor (about 17 miles of river) from location and entry under the mining laws of the United States (see Map #1).
The Chetco River Protection Act is simple, straight-forward non-controversial legislation that will actually save the taxpayer money. 

What the legislation does and does not do:

  • CRPA does not affect private land, river access or valid existing rights within the corridor. 
  • There are no O&C lands within the corridor and the legislation does not affect payments in lieu of taxes to O&C Counties or timber revenues from federal lands. 
  • Since mining claims are not taxable property in Oregon, there is no effect on the property tax base.
  • The CRPA will actually save the American taxpayer money but only if Congress passes the legislation before the temporary mineral withdrawal expires.
  • The CRPA will provide greater protection for this world-class salmon and steelhead river, which is a major economic engine for coastal communities.
  • The CRPA will provide greater protection for this exceptionally pure domestic supply for Brookings and Harbor, Oregon.
  • It will not affect the nation's mineral supply. The Chetco Wild and Scenic River Management Plan found that the river corridor outside the Wilderness has low mineral potential.

Support for Chetco River Protection Act

The Chetco River Protection Act is broadly support by the public, fisheries scientist—including Mike Dombeck, former Chief of the Forest Service and Director of BLM and Jack Williams, former Supervisor of the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest—and sport fishing and whitewater groups.

The recent 4 month long public comment period for the Bureau of Land Management's proposed "withdrawal in aid of legislation" demonstrates the popularity of protecting this wild and scenic river and world-class salmon and steelhead stream. Over 11,800 comments were received with only 6 comments in opposition. 90 percent of those testifying at the local hearing supported the withdrawal and legislation.

Wild and Scenic Chetco River's Scenic River Area (Forest Service Photo).
Deputy Chief of the Forest Service, Joel Holtrop's testimony in Support of S. 764 (Chetco River Protection Act) on July 28, 2011 before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources; Subcommittee on National Parks and Forest:
Chairman Bingaman and members of the Subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to provide the views of the Department of Agriculture on S. 764, the Chetco River Protection Act of 2011. 
S. 764 amends Sec. 3(a) (69) (A), (B), and (C) of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act (the Act) to make technical corrections to the segment divisions for the Chetco River in Oregon. The bill would also add language to the Act to provide for withdrawal of the land within the entire river boundary (44.5 miles and all classifications), subject to valid existing rights, from all forms of appropriation or disposal under the public land laws; location, entry, and patent under the United States mining laws; and disposition under laws relating to mineral and geothermal leasing or mineral materials. 
We support the legislation. The Chetco River was added to the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System in 1988 to protect its important anadromous fishery, water quality, and recreational values. The Chetco River supports significant populations of anadromous winter steelhead, fall Chinook salmon, and sea-run cutthroat with resident cutthroat and rainbow trout abundant in its upper reaches. The River has striking water color and clarity, and ability to clear quickly following storm events. It also contributes exceptionally pure and clean water to the domestic water supplies for the communities of Brookings and Harbor, Oregon. The withdrawal proposed in this bill will help protect these regionally significant values. 
There are two technical corrections proposed in this bill. The first would move the divisional boundary to extend the wild segment of the river 2 miles. The second would move the divisional boundary to extend the scenic segment of the river 1.5 miles. Both changes better reflect the respective classifications. There is no change in the overall mileage of the designated portion of the Chetco River. These technical changes are consistent with the recommendation in the decision notice for the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest’s comprehensive river management plan for the Chetco River which was signed in 1993. 
The wild segment of the Chetco River was withdrawn from mining and mineral leasing when the River was designated, as are all wild river classifications by the enabling legislation. To provide time for Congress to consider and take action on legislation introduced in June 2010 (H.R. 5526 and S. 3488), the Forest Service submitted a withdrawal request to the U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management to withdraw the approximate 5,610 acres within the scenic and recreational segments of the Chetco River boundary for 5 years in order to protect this area from future mining claims. This withdrawal request is consistent with the lands described in (this bill) S.764. 
We expect the withdrawal request to be published in the Federal Register within the next two weeks. All withdrawals are subject to valid existing rights and validity exams will have to be conducted on any proposed mining activity.
See Deputy Chief's testimony here.