Today, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar ensured the long-term protection of Thunder Creek, a
tributary of the Skagit River, by administratively designating the river corridor as
"As a highly valued backcountry kayaking destination once considered for hydropower
development, paddlers are pleased with today's decision to protect Thunder Creek as a
free-flowing river by designating it as wilderness," said Thomas O'Keefe, American
Whitewater's Pacific Northwest Stewardship Director.
While designating a wilderness area usually requires an act of Congress, the Washington Park
Wilderness Act of 1988 granted the Secretary of the Interior the authority to convert the
potential wilderness area to designated wilderness. Thunder Creek was at one time considered a
candidate for hydropower development, but in April 2008 Seattle City Light formally abandoned
hydroelectric development plans for the potential wilderness area within the Lower Thunder
Creek Valley after determining the proposal was not economically or environmentally feasible.
Consequently there are no current, or proposed, uses of the 3,559 acres of Thunder Creek
Potential Wilderness which are incompatible with wilderness designation. Having completed this
analysis as part of the development of a new General Management Plan for the Ross Lake National
Recreation Area, the National Park Service was able to formally request the Secretary of
Interior to designate the river corridor as wilderness.
In addition to recommending the river corridor along Thunder Creek as wilderness, the General
Management recommended the segment of the Skagit River administered by the National Park
Service as a wild and scenic river and recognized the value of the Park for whitewater paddling
by specifically stating that “selfâ€propelled and nonâ€mechanized recreation will be
encouraged throughout Ross Lake NRA.”