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Methow Headwaters Protection Act of 2016 Introduced

Posted: 05/25/2016
by Thomas O'Keefe

Senator Murray and Senator Cantwell introduced the Methow Headwaters Protection Act of 2016 to protect Washington’s Methow River from the impacts of industrial-scale mining. The bill supports the efforts of recreational interests, civic and business leaders, farmers and ranchers, and Methow residents to safeguard the lands and waters of the Methow Valley and protect them permanently from mining.
 
“The Methow River is a highly valued river resource with exceptional water quality that flows from the high peaks of the North Cascades,” states Thomas O’Keefe of American Whitewater. “Our members enjoy the whitewater resources of the river and its tributaries during spring snowmelt, but also come to experience hiking, climbing, skiing, climbing, and mountaineering throughout the year. Industrial scale mining in the headwaters would threaten the water quality of the entire Methow River. It is simply incompatible with the recreational activities that occur in the Methow Valley and economic benefits they provide. We appreciate the leadership of Senator Murray and Senator Cantwell in working to protect this special place.”
 
 
Background
 
In April 2014, a Canadian Company—Blue River Resources—filed for permits to conduct exploratory drilling for copper on Flagg Mountain on U.S. Forest Service land, in the headwaters of the Methow River near Mazama, Washington. Under the antiquated 1872 mining law, any citizen or private company can stake such claims, and the agency must entertain and evaluate such proposals. The low-grade deposit on Flagg Mountain would likely require an open-pit approach and impact a minimum area of six square miles. The impacts of industrial-scale mining are incompatible with the Methow Valley, its character, and economy. Full-scale mining will cause years of disruption to the area through increased heavy truck traffic and industrial activity, visual impacts, and direct impacts to outdoor recreation. It will also threaten the water quality of the Methow River.
 
The Methow Valley is one of the most important landscapes in the state of Washington and of national significance for outdoor recreation with a diversity of opportunities for the recreational pursuits our members enjoy. Every spring, whitewater boaters enjoy the experiences on the Methow River and Chewuch River that have easy access for day trips, while the Lost River offers one of the finest backcountry whitewater adventures in the North Cascades.
 
When the rivers are not flowing, dozens of Forest Service trails and the Pacific Crest Trail pass through the valley providing hiking and backpacking opportunities. Mountain biking trails that include Slate Peak, Rendezvous Loop, and West Fork Methow, Yellow Jacket, Cutthroat, and Cedar Falls attract riders from across the region. Many enjoy riding the Methow Community trail which connects to other riding areas and the communities of Mazama and Winthrop. Nordic skiers have access to the most extensive network of groomed trails in North America with over 120 miles to choose from. Backcountry skiers explore nearly endless terrain on the east slope of the Cascades. Climbers have easy access to Goat Wall, Fun Rock, and Propsector Wall while winter adventures can include ice climbing at Goat Wall and Gate Creek. For mountaineers, Golden Horn is a trip deep in a Forest Service roadless area that provides spectacular views of the North Cascades. Some of the best alpine climbing in the United States is a short drive up Highway 20 to the iconic Liberty Bell Group and Burgundy Spires at Washington Pass. These alpine destinations, that also include classic backcountry ski terrain such as Silver Star, are within the North Cascades Scenic Highway Zone that is currently withdrawn from mineral entry and protected from mining. This protection needs to be extended to include the rest of the nationally-significant outdoor recreation resources in the Methow Valley and Senator Murray and Senator Cantwell’s bill is an important step in achieving this goal of extending permanent protection to the rest of the Methow Valley.
 
Industrial scale mining in the headwaters is simply incompatible with the recreational activities our members enjoy and the significant local economic benefits they provide. Polluted waters, disturbed lands and viewsheds, lost recreational access, and noisy industrial activity would erase the very reasons our members choose the Methow Valley as a recreation destination. Large-scale surface mining would drastically alter this landscape forever through impacts to water quality and the health of the Methow River.
 
Thomas O'Keefe
3537 NE 87th St.
Seattle, WA 98115
Phone: 425-417-9012


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American Whitewater supports the conservation and stewardship of the Methow River.