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Letter to the Editor Regarding Outstanding Resource Waters Published in Skagit Valley Herald

Timothy Manns, Courtesy of Skagit Audubon Society

OPINION—Protect Skagit River’s Tributaries 
Skagit Valley Herald | Thursday, July 27, 2023

It was a great moment in January 2022 when the support of hundreds of conservation groups, local governments, elected officials, and others on both sides of the international border led to permanent protection of the Skagit River’s headwaters from the threat posed by mining.

Safe drinking water, spawning salmon, fishing, irrigation: all depend on protecting the Skagit. As important as guarding the Skagit’s headwaters is protecting its tributaries, and now comes an opportunity to beef up the protection of a major one, the Cascade River.

As reporter Emma Fletcher-Frazer describes in her July 20 Skagit Valley Herald article, the Department of Ecology is proposing to use its authority under the Clean Water Act to designate the upper Cascade River and its tributaries as Outstanding Resource Waters.

To truly protect the Skagit we need to protect its tributaries too, and the Cascade River is a very significant one. The proposed designation would specifically focus on protecting the unusually pristine water quality of the Cascade watershed within the lands managed by the National Park Service and the U.S. Forest Service.

This is a modest proposal, including only those nationally managed areas, but an important one: the first time the Department of Ecology will have used its Clean Water Act authority to designate Outstanding Resource Waters. Congress’ 1978 designation of some of the Cascade River as part of the Skagit Wild and Scenic River System did not include its tributaries nor did it focus on protecting the Cascade’s all-important water quality. As Skagit County residents who depend on this river system in so many ways, we should all support designation of the Cascade River as an Outstanding Resource Water. It’s one more protection for a superlative and vital aspect of Skagit County.

—Timothy Manns, Mount Vernon