By: Thomas O'Keefe
Earlier this month the Oregon Environmental Quality Commission unanimously voted to designate the waters of the North Fork Smith River in southwest Oregon as the first Outstanding Resource Water in the Pacific Northwest.
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. American Whitewater worked with our many partners to support this designation and hundreds of paddlers who know how exceptional the North Fork Smith is weighed in as part of the robust public process to establish this protective designation.
The authority to establish Outstanding Resource Waters comes under the Clean Water Act and the Environmental Quality Commission adopted Oregon’s ORW policy, part of the state’s antidegradation policy, in 1991 (OAR 340-041-0004).
"The Environmental Quality Commission’s action recognizes that the North Fork Smith River is a special place with exceptional water quality,” said Thomas O'Keefe, Pacific Northwest Stewardship Director for American Whitewater. “In a state with many spectacular rivers, paddlers throughout the region know the North Fork Smith as a river with great rapids and crystal clear water."
This action by the state complements the recent administrative ban on new mining claims for the watershed that was adopted in January of 2017 as well as the efforts of U.S. Senators Wyden (D-OR) and Merkley (D-OR) and U.S. Representatives DeFazio (D-OR) and Huffman (D-CA) to secure permanent federal protection of the North Fork Smith watershed.
photo credit: Nate Wilson