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Speak Up for our Outstanding Rivers!

From snowcaps to whitecaps, water connects us all. Washington’s rivers are vital resources that provide us with clean drinking water, sustain fish and wildlife populations, irrigate the farms that feed our families, and offer world-class outdoor recreation opportunities, to the benefit of both Washingtonians and visitors, supporting hundreds of thousands of local jobs. Our rivers are essential for a thriving, sustainable, and resilient future for our local communities. But our freshwater ecosystems are in danger—as impacts from development, pollution, and the climate crisis become increasingly evident, now is the time to proactively safeguard the pristine rivers we have left utilizing all available tools.

Photo: Cascade River, Chris Chappell

A component of the federal Clean Water Act, Outstanding Resource Water (ORW) designation allows states to identify waterways that constitute an outstanding state resource due to their exceptional water quality, statewide ecological importance, and unique recreational value. Once a waterway is designated as such, it protects that waterway from any future activities or development that would degrade water quality. ORW designation is consistent with the hundreds of millions of dollars that have already been invested in salmon recovery, river restoration, and ensuring clean drinking water. It is a critical step to protect what we have while we continue to invest in the hard work of restoring what we have lost, which is why Washington Wild is leading the charge to ensure Ecology does just that.

Right now, we have the opportunity to utilize this powerful conservation tool; on July 18th, Ecology opened a 60-day public comment period for the proposed regulation to designate the Cascade (North Cascades National Park area), Green (Mount St. Helens area), and Napeequa (Glacier Peak Wilderness area) Rivers as Washington State’s first-ever ORWs.  

Nearing the end of this public comment period, the WA Department of Ecology is hosting a series of public hearings, and we need your help to ensure our rivers gain this valuable protection. Please join staff from WA Wild and our coalition partners to show support for safeguarding our wild rivers!

Green River Hearing

📅 Tue., Sept. 12th
⌚ 2:00 pm
📍Kalama Community Building
216 Elm St
Kalama, WA 98625

Cascade River Hearing

📅 Thu., Sept. 14th
⌚ 2:00 pm
📍Skagit County PUD
(Aqua Room)
1415 Freeway Dr.
Mount Vernon, WA 98273

Napeequa River Hearing

📅 Wed., Sept. 20th
⌚ 2:00 pm
📍Bavarian Lodge
(Hintertux Room)
810 US Hwy 2
Leavenworth, WA 98826

These public hearings hosted by the WA Department of Ecology provides an opportunity to gain more insight into the proposed ORW designations, learn more about the waters that have been nominated, and express your views to Ecology. You do not have to speak—unless you want to!—simply by showing up you will be taking strong action to protect these special rivers.

However, if you do plan on attending the public hearing and speaking in favor of ORW designation, here are some prompts that may be helpful for preparing your comments…

  • Have you paddled or fished one of these rivers? — Speak about your experiences on the water! Share a story highlighting what makes the Cascade, Green, or Napeequa River unique, worth protecting, and/or special to you personally. 
  • Are environmental justice and our salmon important to you? — Write about salmon recovery and tribal treaty rights; these rivers provides critical salmon and steelhead habitat and are some of the last, best-remaining sources of clean, cold water.
    (Key Talking Point: It is significantly easier and less expensive to protect what we have rather than restore what has been lost. As evidenced by our still-imperiled Pacific salmon populations, despite over $1 billion spent over the last two decades on recovery in Washington State alone, successfully implementing restoration projects is challenging and complex. Protecting the river systems that remain healthy and intact avoids adding to an already overwhelming need.)

  • Do you work for a recreation retailer, outfitter, or as a guide? — Write about how critical healthy rivers are to your livelihood; share the impact these outdoor experiences have on your fellow Washingtonians or visitors from afar. 
    (Fact to Share: Outdoor recreation supports $26.5 billion in annual expenditures and 264,000 jobs throughout Washington State.)

  • Are you a youth climate activist, or parent, guardian, or educator? — Write about how the climate crisis is here and the deep anxiety felt by young people. While there is much out of our control, we have a responsibility to do what we can, utilizing every available conservation tool to protect these wild rivers for the health and well-being of future generations. 
    (Fact to Share: Based on a 2020 survey, 60% of youth experience some degree of eco-anxiety.)