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Action Alert: Protect the Smith River with “Outstanding Waters” Designation

Smith River by Amber Shelton

Take action to defend the North Fork Smith River from strip mining and other harmful activities by giving the river the best protection possible. A petition before the Oregon Environmental Quality Commission seeks to designate the North Fork Smith River and its tributaries as “Outstanding Natural Resource Waters” to protect public health and welfare, wildlife, fish and aquatic life, and many beneficial uses of the state’s waters. This designation would also protect the river and its tributaries from a strip mine that is proposed in Baldface Creek watershed, a tributary to the North Fork Smith River. Comments are due by April 19th.

The Wild and Scenic Smith River is one of the last undammed major rivers in the U.S. and deserves the best protection that can be given to ensure its pristine condition is maintained for future generations. The protected waterways of the Smith River provide as habitat for Coho salmon and the last uninfected stands of Port Orford cedar in the world. The Smith River is considered one of the crown jewels of the region as the river winds through the old growth forests of Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park. The North Fork Smith River and its tributaries serve as valuable wildlife habitat corridors providing connectivity between protected wilderness and park areas.

There are currently no waters in Oregon that are designated as Outstanding Natural Resource Waters, but there is no better candidate than the Smith River. Designation as “Outstanding” would help protect it from a proposed strip mine. In recent years, the Canadian based Red Flat Nickel Corporation has proposed a nickel strip mine near the river. While the proposal was denied, the foreign corporation has appealed the process. The best way to protect the river into the future from this threat and others is to designate it as an Outstanding Natural Resource Water.

Sample letter:

Dear Commissioners,

I respectfully request that the Oregon Environmental Quality Commission initiate rulemaking to designate the North Fork Smith River and its tributaries and wetlands as “Outstanding Resource Waters of Oregon.”

The pristine Wild and Scenic Smith River is one of the last un-dammed rivers in the country. With stretches within several protected state parks, the important, unique and ecologically sensitive North Fork Smith River has been recommended by numerous environmental organizations, and senior staff of the California North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board, as deserving the highest water quality designation of Outstanding National Resource Waters. Designating the North Fork Smith River as an Outstanding National Resource Water will protect the ecology of the river as well as the other use values we currently enjoy. Designation as Outstanding National Resource Water will close antidegradation policy loop holes to prevent degradation of the River from pollution.

The Outstanding National Resource Waters designation would better safeguard national values that include: protection of critical habitat for the West Coast’s last Coho salmon and a botanical riparian legacy of the last uninfected stands of Port Orford Cedar in the world; enjoyment of a recreational treasure, including small water craft boating and fishing; the longest stretch of National and State Wild and Scenic River (over 300 miles); and an aesthetic focal point for both Redwood National and State Park, which is an UNESCO world heritage site, as well as Smith River National Recreation Area, which traverses wilderness and roadless areas. Also included in this long list of beneficial uses is supplying most of Del Norte County with the highest quality drinking water, and an important cultural heritage resource of the Tolowa Native American Tribes. All of these features place the Smith River as a top quality Outstanding National Resource Water.. It is our duty to take action to ensure this pristine river is protected for future generations.

Thank you,


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