News and Notes

Chetco Uh-Oh

One of Oregon’s Wild and Scenic Rivers is headed for troubled waters.

June 3, 2010

Well, here’s a top ten list that Oregon definitely doesn’t want to be a part of.

Yesterday, the Washington D.C.-based conservation group, American Rivers, which also has offices in Portland and Seattle, placed the Chetco River at the No. 7 spot on its annual list of America’s Most Endangered Rivers.

Known for its world-class steelhead and salmon fishing, the Chetco, which flows to the coast through the city of Brookings and is already designated as of one the state’s National Wild and Scenic Rivers, certainly isn’t polluted. At least not yet. But according to American Rivers, the river is threatened by a proposal to mine half of its designated 44-mile length for minerals like gold.

The mining proposal, which was reportedly submitted in 2008 by a Seattle-area developer, means work could begin as soon as July 15. Hence, the reason the Chetco wound up on the list. The ability to mine here stems from the river’s inclusion within mineral entries listed within the Stone Age-era Mining Law of 1872. A fact Oregon Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, along with congressman Peter DeFazio, Governor Ted Kulongoski, and groups like the Ashland-based Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center are attempting to un-do.

On the upside, the last time an Oregon river—the lower Rogue in 2008—was listed by American Rivers as one of America’s Most Endangered, swift action resulted in the proposal for a wilderness area surrounding the river in order to protect it from logging.

For the entire list of endangered rivers check out And for a primer on Oregon’s Wild and Scenic Rivers, see our picks for some of the state’s most treasured wonders in our July 2009 issue.

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