The Skykomish River is one of the nation's spectacular whitewater resources emerging from the high country of the North Cascades, the river and its tributaries are a popular destination for paddlers from across the country.
American Whitewater supports protection of rivers in the Skykomish drainage through Wild and Scenic designation. We have previously worked to support protection of the headwaters of the drainage through Wild Sky, wilderness legislation that was signed into law in May 2008. The Forest Service has recommended the Skykomish River and many of its tributaries for Wild and Scenic River designation (Mt. Baker Snoqulamie Forest Management Plan 1990, Appendix E). American Whitewater supports the designation of the Skykomish River and its two forks that include the South Fork and North Fork as well as its major tributaries of Deception Creek, Beckler River, Rapid River, Foss River, Miller River, Troublesome Creek, Tye River, and West Cady Creek under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.
Wild Sky Legislation
SEC. 101. WILD SKY WILDERNESS.
(a) ADDITIONS TO THE NATIONAL WILDERNESS PRESERVATION SYSTEM.—
(1) ADDITIONS.—The following Federal lands in the State of Washington are hereby designated as wilderness and, therefore, as components of the National Wilderness Preservation System: certain lands which comprise approximately 106,000 acres, as generally depicted on a map entitled ‘‘Wild Sky Wilderness Proposal’’ and dated February 6, 2007, which shall be known as the ‘‘Wild Sky Wilderness’’. (2) MAP AND LEGAL DESCRIPTIONS.—As soon as practicable after the date of enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Agriculture shall file a map and a legal description for the wilderness area designated under this section with the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources of the Senate and the Committee on Natural Resources of the House of Representatives. The map and description shall have the same force and effect as if included in this section, except that the Secretary of Agriculture may correct clerical and typographical errors in the legal description and map. The map and legal description shall be on file and available for public inspection in the office of the Chief of the Forest Service, Department of Agriculture. (b) ADMINISTRATION PROVISIONS.—
(1) IN GENERAL.— (A) Subject to valid existing rights, lands designated as wilderness by this section shall be managed by the Secretary of Agriculture in accordance with the Wilderness Act (16 U.S.C. 1131 et seq.) and this section, except that, with respect to any wilderness areas designated by this section, any reference in the Wilderness Act to the effective date of the Wilderness Act shall be deemed to be a reference to the date of enactment of this Act. (B) To fulfill the purposes of this section and the Wilderness Act and to achieve administrative efficiencies, the Secretary of Agriculture may manage the area designated by this section as a comprehensive part of the larger complex of adjacent and nearby wilderness areas. (2) NEW TRAILS.— (A) The Secretary of Agriculture shall consult with interested parties and shall establish a trail plan for Forest Service lands in order to develop— (i) a system of hiking and equestrian trails within the wilderness designated by this section in a manner consistent with the Wilderness Act (16 U.S.C. 1131 et seq.); and (ii) a system of trails adjacent to or to provide access to the wilderness designated by this section. (B) Within 2 years after the date of enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Agriculture shall complete a report on the implementation of the trail plan required under this section. This report shall include the identification of priority trails for development. (3) REPEATER SITE.—Within the Wild Sky Wilderness, the Secretary of Agriculture is authorized to use helicopter access to construct and maintain a joint Forest Service and Snohomish County telecommunications repeater site, in compliance with a Forest Service approved communications site plan, for the purposes of improving communications for safety, health, and emergency services. (4) FLOAT PLANE ACCESS.—As provided by section 4(d)(1) of the Wilderness Act (16 U.S.C. 1133(d)(1)), the use of floatplanes on Lake Isabel, where such use has already become established, shall be permitted to continue subject to such reasonable restrictions as the Secretary of Agriculture determines to be desirable. (5) EVERGREEN MOUNTAIN LOOKOUT.—The designation under this section shall not preclude the operation and maintenance of the existing Evergreen Mountain Lookout in the same manner and degree in which the operation and maintenance of such lookout was occurring as of the date of enactment of this Act. (c ) AUTHORIZATION FOR LAND ACQUISITION.—
(1) IN GENERAL.—The Secretary of Agriculture is authorized to acquire lands and interests therein, by purchase, donation, or exchange, and shall give priority consideration to those lands identified as ‘‘Priority Acquisition Lands’’ on the map described in subsection (a)(1). The boundaries of the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest and the Wild Sky Wilderness shall be adjusted to encompass any lands acquired pursuant to this section. (2) ACCESS.—Consistent with section 5(a) of the Wilderness Act (16 U.S.C. 1134(a)), the Secretary of Agriculture shall ensure adequate access to private inholdings within the Wild Sky Wilderness. (3) APPRAISAL.—Valuation of private lands shall be determined without reference to any restrictions on access or use which arise out of designation as a wilderness area as a result of this section. (d) LAND EXCHANGES.—The Secretary of Agriculture shall exchange lands and interests in lands, as generally depicted on a map entitled ‘‘Chelan County Public Utility District Exchange’’ and dated May 22, 2002, with the Chelan County Public Utility District in accordance with the following provisions:
(1) If the Chelan County Public Utility District, within 90 days after the date of enactment of this Act, offers to the Secretary of Agriculture approximately 371.8 acres within the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest in the State of Washington, the Secretary shall accept such lands. (2) Upon acceptance of title by the Secretary of Agriculture to such lands and interests therein, the Secretary of Agriculture shall convey to the Chelan County Public Utility District a permanent easement, including helicopter access, consistent with such levels as used as of the date of enactment of this Act, to maintain an existing telemetry site to monitor snow pack on 1.82 acres on the Wenatchee National Forest in the State of Washington. (3) The exchange directed by this section shall be consummated if Chelan County Public Utility District conveys title acceptable to the Secretary and provided there is no hazardous material on the site, which is objectionable to the Secretary. (4) In the event Chelan County Public Utility District determines there is no longer a need to maintain a telemetry site to monitor the snow pack for calculating expected runoff into the Lake Chelan hydroelectric project and the hydroelectric projects in the Columbia River Basin, the Secretary shall be notified in writing and the easement shall be extinguished and all rights conveyed by this exchange shall revert to the United States.
For nearly a century the Skykomish has been identified for its hydropower potential. While the City of Everett constructed a water storage reservoir on the Sultan River that was enlarged for hydropower by Snohomish PUD, the rest of the river and the major tributaries remain free-flowing. Several proposals have been advanced for hydropower development at Sunset Falls and in the early 1980's dozens of sites were identified for hydropower development in the tributaries. Recent interest in hydropower development has focused on Youngs Creek (a new project constructed by Snohomish PUD in 2011), Sunset Falls, Martin Creek, and Barclay Creek. American Whitewater is actively engaged in efforts to keep the Skykomish and its major tributaries wild and free-flowing.
American Whitewater has partnered with the conservation community to highlight the value of more than a dozen parcels — totaling about 3,000 acres — owned by private timber companies that includes roadless, high-elevation old-growth forests and lands along the Miller, Beckler and Tye rivers as well as near Lake Serene, Mount Persis and Index Creek. American Whitewater seeks to bring parcels adjacent to the river, most threatened by development, into public ownership to protect the water quality and scenic vistas of the Skykomish River.
American Whitewater advocates for public access to the Skykomish River and its tributaries. While many of the tributaries flow through public Forest Service lands, access along the Skykomish and the lower reaches of the North Fork and South Fork has presented challenges. Washington State Parks conducted a Skykomish Scenic River Recreational Access Study in an effort to begin to resolve uncontrolled public access along the Skykomish River. Local citizens and other river interests directed the State Parks Scenic Rivers Program to study the problem of private property trespass and high concentrations of public use along the Skykomish Scenic River System. Access at Big Eddy is now maintained by Washington State Parks. Access at the Railroad Bridge and Split Rock is in private ownership but American Whitewater seeks to maintain positive relations with landowners. Outdoor Adventure Center owns access in Index and Trout Creek on the North Fork Skykomish that they have made available to the boating community as long as individuals sign in and fill out a liability waiver at the Riverhouse in Index.
American Whitewater's Goals
Please contact us if you have additional ideas or would like to assist.
Today, numerous partners joined American Whitewater in filing comments in opposition to Snohomish PUD No. 1's proposed hydroelectric project on the South Fork Skykomish river at Sunset Falls in Washington. Our comments highlight the significant impacts the project would have to fish and wildlife habitat, water quality and quantity, recreation and scenic values, and call out the questionable economics of the project.
The contacts below include staff and volunteers working on this project. Make sure you are logged in if you wish to join the group.
American Whitewater's survey of 165 whitewater enthusiasts on whitewater rivers of the North Cascades.
Washington State Parks Scenic Rivers Program study of access needs and concerns along the Skykomish River corridor, a designated State Scenic River.
American Whitewater's survey of 165 whitewater enthusiasts on whitewater rivers of the North Cascades.
Complete Appendix E of the Forest Plan that includes the Wild and Scenic River review.
Comments on the Environmental Assessment for the proposed Skykomish Geothermal Consent to Lease project
Scoping Comments on the proposed Skykomish Geothermal Consent to Lease project
Scoping comments of American Whitewater on repair the North Fork road from mile 6.4 to 6.9.
Wild Sky Signed Into Law
May 14, 2008
Sky River Access Fund Established!
May 15, 2001
(WA) Working to Improve Skykomish River Access
July 23, 2001
Hydropower Investigation Underway at Sunset Falls (WA)
October 5, 2011
North Fork Skykomish Road Repair Public Comment Period Open (WA)
February 3, 2012
2012 Most Endangered Rivers Report Released
May 15, 2012
Skykomish River Access Updates
July 9, 2012
New Wilderness Proposed for Skykomish River (WA)
May 14, 2008
AW Comments on Proposed Sunset Falls Hydro Project (WA)
July 19, 2013
Sustainable Roads Analysis on Mt. Baker - Snoqualmie NF (WA)
August 23, 2013
Plan for Index-Galena Road Repairs on North Fork Sky Open for Comment (WA)
September 30, 2016