More Questions than Comments at Scenic Waterway Designation Meeting for Nehalem River

By Julie Chick

Nearly 50 people gathered in Nehalem on September 12th to listen to Oregon Parks and Recreation Dept. (OPRD) present the idea of a ‘Scenic Waterway’ designation to a 17-mile portion of the Nehalem River. The designation would begin at Henry Rierson Spruce Run Campground and end at the boundary of Cougar Valley State Park, near Cook Creek Road, and expand 1/4 mile out on each river back. Most of the land within the proposed designation area is owned by Oregon Dept. of Forestry with the exception of a couple of swaths on the upper reach of the proposed area.

The Scenic Waterways Act was created to strike a balance between protecting the natural resources, scenic value, and recreational uses of Oregon’s rivers by designating them. The state program, which is administered by (OPRD), currently includes approximately 1,200 miles on 21 rivers and one mountain lake. This program would apply to all new development within the designated area. Under this Act, OPRD must be notified of certain changes that landowners may want to make to their property, and those changes may be subject to review.

No decisions have been made about the designation, the OPRD was in town to gather feedback and comments from the local community. Generally, questions from the public leaned primarily toward trying to understand the conservation aspect of the Act. In short, the Act is fundamentally focused on the scenic value of the river by encouraging new development to blend in with what is already there. That being said, the Scenic Waterway Act can protect the river’s hydrology flow so that the entire river flow is not available for out of stream appropriation, which, in the end supports, healthy rivers, fish, and wildlife. The Oregon Dept. of Forestry, the primary landowner within this proposed area was also in attendance. Kate Skinner, Tillamook District Forester says, “The Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) has been talking with OPRD, trying to learn what this designation would mean for them as a landowner. ODF is interested in hearing what the public has to say and will continue to follow the process at the meetings”.

It was made clear by the OPRD this designation is not intended for promotional use, or to increase tourism. The few public comments that were made during the Public Hearing were concerns of the potential of an increase in visitation, possibilities of over-visitation spoiling natural areas, and more conservation efforts be put in place. If moved forward, a process including development of Management Plan and Advisory Committee will take place so that ultimately the OPRD Commission will decide if they will then make a recommendation to the Governor for approval.

Public Comments regarding the Scenic Waterway designation on the Nehalem River are open until October 13, 2017, send comments to: or to OPRD Scenic Waterway Study, 725 Summer St NE Suite C, Salem, OR 97301. For more information about the program: