Section of Nehalem River to be considered for State Scenic Waterway Program – Meeting to be held Sept. 12

The Oregon Parks and Recreation Department is asking for feedback on an important study evaluating a 17-mile section of the Nehalem River for possible inclusion in the State Scenic Waterways Program. The feedback will be used to write a report that will either recommend for or against designating a portion of the river as a state scenic waterway.


A public meeting and hearing will be held 5:30 – 7 p.m. Sept. 12 at the North County Recreation District, 36155 9th Street in Nehalem. Comments can also be sent to or to OPRD Scenic Waterway Study, 725 Summer St NE Suite C, Salem, OR 97301. The comment period closes Oct. 13, 2017.

Nehalem River at Cook Creek – Photo by Don Best

Comments will help scenic waterways staff to develop a report that explains whether this waterway would make a good addition to the system. Findings will be included in a report that will go to the Oregon State Parks and Recreation Commission, Water Resources Commission and eventually to the Governor’s Office.

The Nehalem River study area starts at Henry Rierson Spruce Run Campground and ends at the boundary of Cougar Valley State Park, near Cook Creek Road. A scenic waterway designation would help protect the scenic, natural and recreation value of this section of river by subjecting some activities within ?1/4 mile of the bank to a review.

No decisions have been made yet about whether or not to recommend this part of the river as a scenic waterway. As part of the designation process, scenic waterways staff involve the local community, evaluate public support, and objectively study the river to determine if it meets specific criteria.

The meeting September 12th will begin with a presentation to explain the scenic waterways program and the criteria the river segment must meet to be included in the program, followed by a question and answer session. The second half of the meeting will be a public hearing, when attendees can comment orally or in writing.

For more information about the meeting, contact Alexandra Phillips, Bikeways and Waterways Coordinator, at 503 986-0631 or

The study includes an assessment of eligibility to meet the following general criteria:
• Free-flowing nature of the waterway;
• Scenic quality, as viewed from the river; and
• Natural and recreational resources, including the ability of the waterway and its setting to sustain recreational use.

This assessment process includes consultation with the State Fish and Wildlife Commission, the State Department of Agriculture, the Environmental Quality Commission, the Department of State Lands, and the Water Resources Department.

Scenic Waterways Program
Oregon’s diversity of river systems contribute richly to our quality of life. Oregonians decided to protect special waterways in 1970 when they voted two-to-one to establish the Oregon Scenic Waterways Program. The program seeks to balance protection and use through cooperation between federal, state, and local agencies as well as individual property owners and those who recreate along a waterway. Scenic Waterway Brochure

Potential Scenic Waterway Study
Under direction from the Oregon Legislature (ORS 390.855), OPRD is required to periodically study new waterways for potential inclusion in the program.

Purpose of Act
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 Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD), currently includes approximately 1,200 miles on 22 waterways.

Scenic Waterways Rules and Regulations
Oregon Parks and Recreation Department must be notified of certain activities proposed within a quarter mile of the banks of Oregon’s designated scenic waterways.  Such activities may include certain logging, mining, and construction actions. The proposed uses or activities may not be started until the written notification is approved, or until on year after the notice is accepted.