Updated 2/27/2017 – The State of Oregon is proposing to designate the National Wild and Scenic North Fork Smith River, its tributaries and associated wetlands as Outstanding Resource Waters, There could be no better candidates. However, despite this provision of the Clean Water Act being on the books for 45 years, the proposed North Fork Smith designation would be the first in our state. Overwhelming public support is needed.
Please submit your comment before 4:00 p.m. Tuesday, February 28th.
See below for why your input is so important, how you can comment easily and talking points.
Protect the North Fork Smith River, all its tributaries and associated wetlands
Outstanding Resource Waters are high quality waters that constitute an outstanding state resource due to their extraordinary water quality or ecological values, or where special protection is needed to maintain critical habitat areas.
If accepted in its entirety, the designation of the North Fork Smith River, its tributaries and wetlands as Outstanding Resource Waters will be a forward thinking measure that will help protect one of the cleanest clearest rivers in the nation and the drinking water of thousands. Click here to learn why the North Fork Smith’s tributaries and wetlands are so important.
The North Fork Smith flows through the remote, rugged congressionally protected Kalmiopsis Wilderness and the unprotected South Kalmiopsis and Packsaddle Roadless Areas and into the Smith River National Recreation Area. It joins the National Wild and Scenic Middle Fork Smith at Gasquet. Together with the Wild and Scenic South Fork, the three tributaries become the National Wild and Scenic Smith River, which winds its way through the Redwoods State and National Parks to the Pacific Ocean.
In California, almost all tributaries of the Smith River are protected under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. Not so in Oregon where only the mainstem of the North Fork is a designated National Wild and Scenic River. While Baldface Creek and all of its perennial tributaries are U.S. Forest Service Eligible Wild and Scenic Rivers, it will take an act of Congress to provide them with the protection they deserve. Baldface Creek is a major tributary of the North For Smith River with nationally outstanding water quality and fisheries values.
The North Fork Smith and its tributaries provide exceptionally clean water and pristine habitat for coho and chinook salmon and steelhead, rainbow and cutthroat trout. The community of Gasquet gets its drinking water directly from the North Fork Smith and a high percentage of the rest of the population of Del Norte County gets its drinking water from the Smith River downstream.
Why your help is important and how and where to comment
While support has been overwhelming so far, there’s no assurance the proposal will be finalized or that it won’t be amended. This is why substantive input from the public before 4:00 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 28th is crucial,
The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality explained at the Feb. 22nd public hearing in Brookings, that the decision could be one of three options;
- to accept all of the proposed designation,
- part of it, or
- none of it.
Another possible option is to not make a decision and ask for additional public comment and analysis.
So we’re urging you to submit a substantive comment in support of the designation as proposed—for the North Fork Smith River, its tributaries and associated wetlands—before 4:00 p.m. on Tuesday, February 28th. DEQ has said that late comments will not be included in the record.
You can easily submit your comments online. Click here to go to the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality comment form for the North Fork Smith River Outstanding Resource Waters.
See our suggested talking points below. Note that you can submit attachments to your comments online also. Please share this with friends and family,
Key points to make in your comment
It always helps to provide a personal statement about your interests or experience. You can write something as simple as that you “support the designation of the North Fork Smith River, its tributaries and associated wetlands as Outstanding Resource Waters.” However, it would be an even bigger help if you makes these key points:
- The National Wild and Scenic North Fork Smith River, its tributaries and associated wetlands are among some of the highest quality waters in the nation.
- The clarity, purity and beauty of these waters is exceptional and a reflection of the integrity of the North Fork Smith River watershed, which is managed by the U.S. Forest Service as Wilderness, Wild and Scenic River, Inventoried Roadless Area and as a Tier 1 Key Watershed.
- Springs and wetlands in the watershed not only form unique rare plant habitat, but also supplement late summer flows in the North Fork Smith’s pristine tributaries. They input cool clean water creating important refugia for native coho and chinook salmon, rainbow, steelhead and cutthroat trout, and for the Foothill yellow-legged frog, a state and federal sensitive species.
- Tributary Baldface Creek and all of its perennial tributaries are U.S. Forest Service Eligible Wild and Scenic Rivers, with outstandingly remarkable water quality and fisheries. They have been found to meet the highest potential classification for a National Wild and Scenic River. Other tributaries also provide critical habitat for coho salmon.
- The 555 acres of state land in the headwaters of Cedar Creek should be included in the ORW designation. Cedar Creek, its tributaries and associated wetlands are high quality waters and an essential part of the North Fork Smith River hydrologic unit.
- The North Fork Smith River, its tributaries and wetlands are important to local economies and to the quality of life for residents in both Oregon and California. As a unique hydrologic unit, they provide clean, clear drinking water, prized native fish runs and contribute to high quality recreation opportunities in downstream reaches of the National Wild and Scenic North Fork Smith, Middle Fork Smith and mainstem Smith rivers.
Suggested closing: Thank the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality and Oregon Environmental Quality Commission for making the proposal and accepting your comment. You could also say that the “the State of Oregon holds these exceptional waters in trust for all its citizens. I urge you to protect and preserve the waters of the North Fork Smith River, its tributaries and associated wetlands as Outstanding Resource Waters under the Clean Water Act.”
Please submit comments before 4:00 p.m. Tuesday, February 28th. Click here to go directly to DEQ’s comment form.
Setting good precedent
The few opponents of the proposed Outstanding Resources Waters designation for the North Fork Smith River, its tributaries and associated wetlands are concerned that it will set precedent. But protecting our highest quality waters is exactly the precedent we should be setting—especially when it benefits thousands of homeowners and businesses downstream. Further, the science shows us the importance of protecting tributaries and associated wetlands to downstream waters. Learn more about why this is so important for the North Fork Smith River here.
- Click here for Oregon Department of Environmental Quality’s webpage for the North Fork Smith River Rulemaking for the Outstanding Resource Waters designation.
- Click to learn more about the National Wild and Scenic North Fork Smith River.
- Click to learn more about Baldface Creek, a major tributary of the North Fork Smith.
- Click here for an earlier post discussing why concerns raised by the Oregon Farm Bureau and others are not valid.
 The North Fork Smith River’s tributaries in Oregon include: Horse Creek, Chrome Creek (entirely in the Kalmiopsis Wilderenss), Baldface Creek (South Kalmiopsis Roadless Area and the U.S. Forest Service’s recommended South Kalmiopsis Wilderness Addition); Packsaddle Creek (Packsaddle Roadless Area and Lemingworth Gulch Research Natural Area), Cedar Creek (Cedar Creek state land and Packsaddle Roadless Area), North Fork of Diamond Creek (South Kalmiopsis Roadless Area) and Fall Creek.
These are low gradient streams providing pristine habitat for the National Wild and Scenic Smith River’s world class fishery and exceptionally clean clear water. The U.S. Forest Service has found Baldface Creek and all its perennial tributaries to have Outstandingly Remarkable water quality and fisheries values and to meet the highest potential classification of a Wild River Area as defined by the National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.
 The watershed of the North Fork Smith River in Oregon is approximately 57,000 acres, 88% of which is either within the Kalmiopsis Wilderness or the Inventoried South Kalmiopsis and Packsaddle Roadless Areas. It’s entirely in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest. Half of the North Fork Smith River lies in Californa, within the Smith River National Recreation Area and the Six Rivers National Forest.
In January of 2017, Senators Wyden and Merkley and Representatives DeFazio and Huffman re-introduced the Southwest Oregon Watershed and Salmon Protection Act (S. 192 and H.R. 310 ). Years of work have gone into an interim administrative proposal to protect the area. Read press release here.