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Oregon Paddlers! Take Action to Protect the NF Smith River!

Posted: 03/24/2016
By: Evan Stafford

Oregon’s Environmental Quality Commission (EQC) is currently considering whether to begin the process of protecting the North Fork Smith and its tributaries under the highest type of water quality protection under the Clean Water Act. The river is threatened by a proposal to develop a nickel strip mine in its headwaters, and you can help protect the North Fork Smith and its tributaries by weighing in. 

The Wild and Scenic North Fork Smith River is a whitewater gem, known for its pristine and clear waters. The river begins in Oregon and flows through California, where it flows into the Wild and Scenic Smith River. The designation being considered, known as Outstanding Resource Waters (ORW), is reserved for water bodies that have extraordinary or unique character, or value, or are critical habitat areas that are an outstanding state resource. 

The North Fork Smith is exactly the type of river that ORW’s were designed for. It holds extraordinarily high water quality, making for a unique and memorable whitewater experience. It provides habitat for salmon and steelhead, and pure drinking water for downstream communities. California is also considering a similar designation on the river. 

The need to protect the pristine water quality of the Smith and its tributaries is strong. The North Fork is currently threatened by an international mining company’s proposal to develop an industrial scale nickel strip-mine in its headwaters. This would have lasting impacts not only to the North Fork, but also to the mainstem Smith in California. 

Take Action to Protect the North Fork Smith River and its tributaries! 


If the ORW designation is granted, it will prevent any new pollution or degradation from entering and impacting one of the cleanest and most beautiful waterways in Oregon and California. You can encourage the EQC to take the next step by asking that they request the Department of Environmental Quality to formally consider an ORW designation for the North Fork Smith. 

Submit a comment: Comments are most effective if received by March 31st, however the EQC will receive comments through April 20th.Contact DEQ via this webform. Be sure to talk about why you love the North Fork Smith and the values it holds. 

Attend a meeting: The EQC will make its decision at an April 20-21 meeting in Portland, and may receive public testimony. Stay tuned to DEQ’s website for details. 

For more information, see the OR Department of Environmental Quality Public Notice

Thanks for taking action today! Stay tuned for updates and future opportunities to protect this amazing river! 

Megan Hooker

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