County Court opposes adding more Wild and Scenic rivers

In this photo from 2016, anglers from around the region enjoy fishing on the Lower Owyhee River. A proposal to expand Wild and Scenic rivers in Oregon includes a portion of the middle fork of the Owyhee River, as well as four other streams in the South Owyhee Drainage.

VALE — The Malheur County Court has taken exception to The River Democracy Act, which U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, both Democrats from Oregon, have co-sponsored in hopes to expand Wild and Scenic river designations in Oregon, as well as widening the corridors.

According to the resolution adopted by the Court on July 28, the senators’ bill would expand river corridors from a quarter-mile to a half-mile on both sides of the rivers.

The resolution reads that Oregon already has more than 2,000 miles of Wild and Scenic rivers, and the new act would triple that number by adding 4,684 miles rivers, streams or tributaries to protected status. When added with a 1-mile corridor, more than 3 million acres of land would be on the protected list.

For Malheur County, the act would add 279.5 miles in 32 segments of streams and rivers along with 178,880 acres of land in the corridors for protection.

The list includes five streams in the South Owyhee Drainage, including the middle fork of the Owyhee River, two segments in the North Owyhee Drainage, Dry Creek and Lower Owyhee River, Succor Creek Drainage, five streams in Malheur Drainage, including the Malheur River, and 18 streams in the Trout Creek Mountains.

The document also notes that many of the streams are intermittent or dry up during the summer, and the 32 segments in Malheur are already covered in a variety of federal land and resource planning documents for Malheur County.

The Court argues the bill would give most of control over these streams to the federal government, adding that there is no provision for consultation or coordination with the County Court, there is no research that shows the additional designations will benefit the county and the act would restrict recreational activities along the streams.

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