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Action Alert: Protect a Free-Flowing Skagit River

Posted: 09/25/2008
By: Thomas O'Keefe

North Cascades National Park is currently revising the management plan for the Ross Lake National Recreation Area, which includes the lands and rivers along Highway 20 in the North Cascades. As part of this planning effort American Whitewater formally requested a review of rivers that may be eligible for Wild and Scenic designation.

The Park Service has responded to our request and this month the Park Service formally announced their intention to conduct an eligibility and suitability study of the Skagit River, the primary river that flows along Highway 20 through the popular S Bends (Goodell Creek to Copper Creek). While the downstream section of the Skagit, which is popular for eagle floats, is designated as Wild and Scenic, what many paddlers do not know is that the well-known whitewater run upstream has no such protection. In fact this section was originally the site of a massive dam and hydropower project in the 1970's which would have inundated this run. The Skagit Wild and Scenic River was established by Congress in 1978, but the Seattle City Council did not kill the hydropower project until August 1981. While there are no current plans to construct this dam, the Park Service will use public support as a key factor in deciding whether to recommend this river for permanent protection in its free-flowing condition. For this reason it is extremely important that boaters who enjoy this reach weigh in during the public comment period this month (the deadline for comments in October 31, 2008).

The Park Service is hosting two public meetings next month and we encourage whitewater paddlers who enjoy this reach to attend. If you can not attend please consider submitting written comments by mail or email.


Tuesday October 14, 2008, 4 pm - 6 pm
Klondike Historic Park (classroom on lower level)
319 Second Avenue South
Seattle, Washington

Wednesday October 15, 2008, 6 pm - 8 pm
North Cascades NPS Complex Headquarters (Baker and Shuksan Rooms)
810 State Route 20
Sedro-Woolley, Washington


1) Review the Skagit Wild and Scenic River Eligibility and Suitability Studies Newsletter and Comment Form

2) Respond to the Following Questions:

  • Do you agree with the findings of the draft Wild and Scenic Eligibility Study for the Skagit River?
  • Do you support Wild and Scenic River designation of the Skagit River below Gorge Powerhouse to the Ross Lake National Recreation Area boundary and its largest tributary Goodell Creek? Why or why not?
  • Do you have any other thoughts or comments you would like to share?

3) Suggested talking points:

The most useful comments are those that are based on personal experiences. We have made the following general observations that could be included in your comments

  • American Whitewater fully supports designation of the Skagit River as Wild and Scenic. Doing so will protect the river from any future water development projects, will coordinate management, protect water quality, and enhance interpretive opportunities along the river.
  • In the preliminary eligibility analysis the Park Service determined that the fishery, geology, wildlife, pre-history, and scenery were all identified as outstanding remarkable values--noticeably absent from this list is recreation. Agency guidelines state that "for a river to be eligible for designation to the National System, the river, with its adjacent land area, must have one or more outstandingly remarkable values." An outstandingly remarkable value is "a river-related value must be a unique, rare, or exemplary feature that is significant at a comparative regional or national scale." For recreation to be considered outstandingly remarkable, recreational opportunities must be popular enough to attract visitors from throughout or beyond the region of comparison or are unique or rare within the region. The Skagit River is one of the most consistent beginner-intermediate runs on the west side of the Cascades and during summer months can attract visitors from across the country and around the world. A case can be made for recreation as an outstanding remarkable value.
  • This is also an opportunity to tell the Park Service that they should do full eligibility and suitability studies for other rivers in the North Cascades National Park Service complex. A preliminary analysis in the 1980's found that Big Beaver Creek, Ruby/Granite/Canyon Creeks, Thunder/Fisher Creek, Chilliwack River, Stehekin River, North Fork Nooksack River and Baker River were all potential candidates for Wild and Scenic designation. Lightening Creek and Little Beaver have more recently emerged as backcountry kayak runs that were never examined in the 1980's analysis. Anyone with experience on these rivers should identify potential recreation or other values that make them worthy for designation. Some of these creeks have seen past proposals for small hydropower installations.

4) Comments may be mailed to
Skagit Wild and Scenic River Eligibility and Suitability Studies
North Cascades National Park Service Complex
810 State Route 20
Sedro Woolley WA 98284-9918

or by email to:

Thomas O'Keefe

3537 NE 87th St.

Seattle, WA 98115

Phone: 425-417-9012
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