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Comment Period for Proposed ORW Designations Comes to a Close

Yesterday, the public comment period regarding the proposed Outstanding Resource Waters (ORW) designations for the Cascade, Green, and Napeequa Rivers systems closed. Building a coalition of 211 diverse stakeholders, generating nearly 300 public comments, and with the release of Brewshed® partner Icicle Brewing’s Napeequa Pilsner in support of the designations, Washington Wild is optimistic the Department of Ecology will approve ORW designations by the end of the year.  

A component of the federal Clean Water Act, ORW designation is a critical, proactive layer of protection to safeguard what we have before it is lost. Nominated because of their exceptional water quality, ecological importance, and unique recreational value, ORW designation would ensure that the water quality of these three rivers is protected in perpetuity for current and future generations, strengthening the many benefits they provide to fish, wildlife, and our local communities. 

For over two years, Ecology has been soliciting comments and feedback from interested community members: 

  • In July 2021, the agency highlighted an initial 30-day opportunity for public comment as part of its Triennial Review
  • Due to the strong local support for this process, in April 2022, the agency announced that it would pursue Outstanding Resource Water designations for the waterways
  • For over a year, Ecology held webinars and reached out to Tribes, local elected officials, and surrounding communities for feedback on the proposal
  • On July 18, 2023, the agency initiated a rulemaking which included four public hearings and a 70-day public comment period

ORW designation would safeguard some of Washington’s most pristine waterways by prohibiting future water degradation. Importantly, the proposals for the Cascade, Green, and Napeequa Rivers have been carefully designed based on local input so that they would not impact private or state timber lands. Joint letters of support were submitted as part of the formal comment period by local stakeholders for each of the three proposed rivers:

Designating specific segments of the Cascade, Green, and Napeequa Rivers as ORWs will help ensure that downstream and surrounding communities can always benefit from clean and safe drinking water, salmon habitat, outdoor recreation, and more. 

Every year, Washington is experiencing increasing impacts due to climate change, and preserving these waterways will help mitigate these risks by ensuring that the waters are not impacted by future development or pollution. As Ecology reviews the comments from the public, community members are hopeful that segments of the Cascade, Green, and Napeequa rivers will be preserved as Outstanding Resource Waters for generations to come.