Comment Deadline for North Fork Smith

February 28, 2017 - 6:00 PM
Best Western Harbor Inn
16008 Boat Basin Rd.
Brookings, OR

Baldface Creek, North Fork Smith tributary.  Photo by Jon Parmentier.
Baldface Creek, a tributary of the North Fork Smith. Photo by Jon Parmentier.

Oregon’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is considering the designation of the North Fork Smith River, along with its tributaries and wetlands, as “Outstanding Resource Waters” of the state under Oregon’s anti-degradation regulations under the federal Clean Water Act.  Two public hearings were scheduled for Portland and Brookings to take comments in person, but concerned citizens can also comment in writing online.

To do so, go to the DEQ’s comment page.  The deadline is close of business on Tuesday, February 28.

Achieving this designation could provide a very important level of protection, because the North Fork Smith River is threatened by a foreign-owned mining company that wants to develop a nickel laterite strip mine on about 2700 acres of National Forest in the Oregon half of the North Fork’s pristine watershed.  (The river continues into California.)

In formal terms, DEQ is considering proposed permanent rule amendments to Chapter 340 of the Oregon Administrative Rules.  DEQ is proposing changes to OAR 340, Division 41 that will declare the North Fork Smith and tributaries to be Outstanding Resource Waters and therefore establish policies to ensure no degradation to the water quality or ecological values and characteristics of the river system.  This would be the first time this special designation has been put into use. 

A great deal of background information on the issue can be obtained from the Kalmiopsis Rivers website, http://kalmiopsisrivers.org/.