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2014 Scenic Waterway Assessments

Background for 2014 Scenic Waterway Assessments


The Scenic Waterways Act was created to strike a balance between protecting the natural resources, scenic value, and recreational uses of Oregon’s rivers by designating them.  The state program, which is administered by Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD), currently includes approximately 1,150 miles on 20 waterways.
 
There have been no additions of State Scenic Waterways since 1988. However, under direction from the Oregon Legislature (ORS 390.855), OPRD is required to periodically study new waterways for potential inclusion in the program. In a September 2013 letter, the Governor instructed the Department to analyze at least three waterway segments during each biennium, depending on the availability of operational resources.
 
The evaluation included an assessment of select waterways to determine its eligibility for inclusion in the program. Issues and concerns regarding the potential designation were also evaluated to assess the feasibility of designating the waterway. A report will be submitted to the Governor in January 2015 to summarize the methodology used and to provide findings for each river segment studied.
 
To assess the eligibility of waterways for inclusion in the program, the following general criteria was utilized:
• Free-flowing nature of the waterway;

• Scenic quality, as viewed from the river; and

• Natural and recreational resources, including the ability of the waterway and its setting to sustain recreational use.
 
The feasibility of including waterways in the program will be determined by evaluating public interest and support for the studied waterway. This evaluation will include public input stakeholder interviews, holding public meetings in the counties that could be affected by the designation, and surveying adjacent property owners and the general public regarding the potential designation. The Oregon Parks and Recreation Commission will either recommend for or against designating each waterway studied, depending on the result of the evaluation and public process.
 
For general program information, such as a list of current State Scenic Waterways, visit: www.oregon.gov/OPRD/RULES/Pages/waterways.aspx.
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Preliminary Waterway Screening Process

Prior to the selection of three waterways to be studied in 2014, OPRD completed a preliminary screening process of all Oregon waterways to determine which of these waterways have the potential to meet the Program's eligibility criteria. That list was evaluated by partner state agencies to determine which waterways would be studied during the 2013-2015 biennium.
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Current Waterway Assessments

 

In 2014, OPRD is evaluating three waterways to determine their eligibility and suitability for inclusion into the Scenic Waterways Program. Below is a description of those waterways and areas included in the study:

 
  • Molalla River
     
    The Molalla River has its headwaters in the Table Rock Wilderness Area in Oregon's Cascade Range in rural Clackamas County, eventually flowing into the Willamette River near Canby. OPRD is studying one upper river segment, beginning at the confluence of the Table Rock  Fork and ending at Glen Avon Bridge, near the city of Molalla, Oregon. For a map of the study area, click here
     
    This free-flowing river provides drinking water for the cities of Molalla and Canby, is home to native fish runs and a variety of other wildlife, and attracts a wide range of recreational users.
     
    Molalla River
     Molalla River
  • Chetco River
     
    The Chetco River has its headwaters in the Kalmiopsis Wilderness Area, eventually flowing into the Pacific Ocean near the city of Brookings, Oregon.  OPRD is studying three segments of the river beginning at the Steel Bridge within the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest and ending at Loeb State Park. For a map of the study area, click here.
     
    The free-flowing river provides drinking water for the residents of Brookings-Harbor, is home to native fish runs and a variety of other wildlife, and attracts a wide range of recreational users.
    Chetco River
     Chetco River
  • Grande Ronde River
     
    The Grande Ronde River has its headwaters near the Anthony Lakes recreation area in the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest in Blue Mountains in Union County, eventually flowing into the Snake River once it enters Washington. OPRD is studying three upper segments of the river beginning at the confluence of the Sheep Creek (near the junction with highway 51) in Tony Vey Meadows and ending at Hilgard Junction State Park, near the city of La Grande, Oregon. For a map of the study area, click here.
     
    The river segment under study provides wildlife habitat, fishing, and other recreational activities.
    Grande Ronde River
Upper Grande Ronde River
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2014 Waterway Assessment Schedule

To evaluate the suitability of new waterways for the Scenic Waterways Program, the following general schedule was utilized during the 2014 assessment process:

  • May-July 2014: Waterway eligibility assessments for studied river areas;

  • August-September 2014: Stakeholder interviews for studied waterways;

  • Mid-Late September 2014: Community meetings to review eligibility and feasibility findings and to obtain public input (see specific dates and locations, below);

  • Early October 2014: Three online surveys to obtain public input for the studied waterways will be available until October 15th (the survey links are available below);

  • Late October-Early November 2014: Presentation of findings at County Commissioner meetings;

  • November 2014: Presentation of draft eligibility and suitability report to the Oregon Parks and Recreation Commission; and

  • January 2015: Submittal of the three Scenic Waterway reports and Oregon Parks and Recreation Commission recommendations to the Governor's Office for review.
 For a graphic representation of the waterway assessment schedule, click here.
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2014 Community Meetings and Materials

Community meetings were scheduled to review how the rivers fit the scenic waterway criteria, share identified issues and concerns, answer questions, and ask attendees to share their views on the river.

Chetco River. September 11, 7-9 p.m. at the Brookings Public Library at 405 Alder Street in Brookings, OR. To access the meeting's PowerPoint presentations, click here (2 MB).

Molalla River. September 15, 7-9 p.m. at the Molalla Public Library at 201 E 5th Street in Molalla, OR. To access the meeting's PowerPoint presentations, click here (2 MB).
 
Grande Ronde River. September 24, 7-9 p.m. at the La Grande Public Library at 2006 4th Street in La Grande, OR. To Access the meeting's PowerPoint presentations, click here (3.5 MB).


To access photos taken during field visits to each of the study rivers, visit the following link.
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Oregon Parks and Recreation Commission Review & Recommendations

On November 19th, 2014, OPRD staff presented the three Scenic Waterway reports to the Commission. To access the PowerPoint presentation, click here. (3.95 MB)

  • To access the Chetco River Scenic Waterway Report, click here.  (5.16 MB)

  • To access the Molalla River Scenic Waterway Report, click here. (5.4 MB)

  • To access the Grande Ronde River Scenic Waterway Report, click here. (11.2 MB)

Based on the evaluation of eligibility and public input finding, the Commission unanimously  made the decision to provide the following recommendation to the Governor when the reports are delivered to his office in January 2015:

  • Based on the evaluation of eligibility criteria and public input, drop the Grande Ronde River study area from Scenic Waterway Program consideration.

  • Based on the evaluation of eligibility criteria  and public input, designate the Chetco and Molalla River study areas into the Scenic Waterways Program if the following conditions are met by December 31, 2015:

1) The waterways physically qualify, as described in statute.

(Note: The Chetco and Molalla River reports indicate that this condition has been met.)

2)  Feedback from the general public, direct stakeholders, and any affected county government supports the designation.

(Note: The Chetco and Molalla reports indicate that this condition has been partially met. The Clackamas and Curry County Commissions are currently considering adopting resolutions in support of the designation.)

3) An organized group, including direct stakeholders and local proponents, develops a draft Scenic Waterway management plan in collaboration with OPRD staff and presents it to the Oregon Parks and Recreation Commission for review.

(Note: this condition is currently unmet for both the Chetco and Molalla River study areas.)

 

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