TU statement on new surface waters classification for North Fork Smith River

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For Immediate Release

December 11, 2017

Contact: Dean Finnerty, (541) 214-0642, 

 

Wild Steelheaders United, Trout Unlimited applaud new classification of surface waters for North Fork Smith River

New rules enhance water quality protections for the headwaters of one of the best wild steelhead and salmon fisheries on the West Coast

 

COTTAGE GROVE, Ore—On Thursday, December 7, the Oregon Water Resources Commission adopted a new rule that reserves the surface waters of the North Fork Smith River in Curry County, Oregon for the specific purpose and support of human consumption, livestock, and instream public uses including pollution abatement, fish life, wildlife, and recreation.

The Commission also limited groundwater development in the sub-basin. The Commission’s decision adds another layer of protection for fish, wildlife, recreation, and water quality in a remote area that has been proposed for large scale nickel mining.

Dean Finnerty, northwest regional director for Trout Unlimited’s Sportsmen’s Conservation Project, hailed the decision as “Another major victory for fish and anglers in the headwaters of one of the finest steelhead and salmon fisheries in the Lower 48.

North Fork Smith River.

Finnerty said that the commission’s decision recognizes the importance of protecting water quality in the Kalmiopsis region to sustain steelhead and salmon spawning grounds and downstream fisheries. He added, “Like Bristol Bay in Alaska, the fish values and sustainable fishing economy of the Kalmiopsis far outweigh the potential returns of hard rock mining here.”

Finnerty noted the new classification of surface waters for the North Fork Smith is the most recent in a string of actions taken by resource agencies to better protect this unique sub-watershed. In July 2017, the Oregon Environmental Quality Commission designated the North Fork Smith as an Outstanding Resource Waters under the Clean Water Act. In January 2017, the Bureau of Land Management extended a mineral withdrawal of 101,000 acres of federal land in the area. This withdrawal prevents development of new mining claims and was boosted from five to twenty years, to give Congress more opportunity to consider legislation that would permanently protect the region.

The North Fork Smith provides habitat for winter steelhead, fall Chinook salmon, resident rainbow trout, and both resident and sea-run cutthroat trout. Downstream fall Chinook and winter steelhead fishing seasons attract anglers from around the world.

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Since 1959, Trout Unlimited's mission has been to conserve, protect, restore and sustain trout and salmon and their watersheds in North America. Trout Unlimited is the largest and oldest sportsmen's organization dedicated to coldwater conservation in the United States, with more than 300,000 members and supporters and more than 400 chapters nationwide. www.tu.org  

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