Protecting the Wild and Scenic Chetco River


Chetco River

Photo courtesy of Save Our Chetco River

Almost one year ago American Rivers listed the Wild and Scenic Chetco River in Oregon as one of America’s Most Endangered Rivers. The Chetco River is a beautiful Oregon gem of a river with crystal clear water and huge chinook salmon. It also provides the drinking water for 14,000 people.

So why would a Wild and Scenic River be endangered?

It turns out the Chetco and many other rivers in Oregon are threatened by the archaic practice of suction dredge mining for gold (imagine mining with a huge underwater vacuum cleaner!). The 1872 Mining Law trumps many protections offered by the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, and while this is a larger problem that needs to be addressed, the Chetco River needs additional protections that prohibit mining now to protect its drinking water and world class salmon.

So today we want to thank Oregon’s Senators Wyden and Merkley and Congressman DeFazio for introducing the Chetco River Protection Act of 2011.

The legislation will reclassify sections of the river as ‘wild’ (which would withdraw them from mining) and will prohibit new mining claims along the entire Wild and Scenic stretch. Of course, now we need Congress to pass this legislation, but introducing this bill is an important step towards protecting one of Oregon’s prized rivers.