Dear Mr. Vandiver:
Thank you for this opportunity to comment on the Chetco Wild and Scenic River Mineral Withdrawal Environmental Assessment. Please accept these comments on behalf of the following conservation organizations in support of the proposed mineral withdrawal of national forest lands along the Chetco Wild and Scenic River. The mineral withdrawal is in aid of legislation (S. 764, H.R. 1415) to protect approximately 19 river miles within the river corridor designated Wild and Scenic in 1988.
The environmental assessment (EA) makes the correct determination that suction dredge mining results in unacceptable detrimental impacts to all of the Outstandingly Remarkable Values (fishery, water clarity and recreation) for which the river was designated.
We fully agree and support the EA’s conclusion that, “Full protection of the river's Outstandingly Remarkable Values – recreation, water quality and fish – can only occur through a mineral withdrawal.” Moreover, the EA makes clear that these Outstanding Resource Values are a crucial economic driver for local communities, whereas there is no documentation that suction dredge mining plays a significant economic role on the Chetco.
The proposed mineral withdrawal (Alternative 2) is a vital bridge for legislation (S. 764, H.R. 1415), and it enjoys overwhelming public support as signified by the 11,800 people who wrote in support of the withdrawal notice — with over 99 percent in favor of the proposed withdrawal.
Associate Deputy Chief of the Forest Service Jim Peña testified in support of HR 1415 on March 8, 2012, stating that, “The Chetco River was added to the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System in 1988 to protect its important anadromous fishery, water quality, and recreational values. The Chetco River supports significant populations of anadromous winter steelhead, fall Chinook salmon, and sea-run cutthroat with resident cutthroat and rainbow trout abundant in its upper reaches. The River has striking water color and clarity and the ability to clear quickly following storm events. It also contributes exceptionally pure and clean water to the domestic water supplies for the communities of Brookings and Harbor, Oregon. The withdrawal proposed in this bill will help protect these regionally significant values.