CONGRESSWOMAN ELISE STEFANIK
The House is scheduled to consider H.R. 1593 on Tuesday, October 13, 2009, under suspension of the rules, requiring a two-thirds majority vote for passage. H.R. 1593 was introduced on March 18, 2009, by Rep. Rick Larsen (D-WA) and referred to the Committee on Natural Resources, which held a mark-up and reported the bill, as amended, by unanimous consent on September 10, 2009.
H.R. 1593 would designate 14.3 miles of Illabot Creek, in Northwest Washington, for federal restrictions and free water flow protection as a segment of the Wild and Scenic River System. The Wild and Scenic River System is overseen by the Department of Interior and a council including representatives from the Bureau of Land Management, the National Park Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Forest Service. According to CBO, the Illabot Creek segment would be managed by the U.S. Forest Service at an annual cost of approximately $20,000.
The State of Washington's Illabot Creek is a tributary of the Skagit River. According to the non-profit Skagit River System Cooperative, "Illabot Creek is a highly productive tributary of the upper Skagit River that supports relatively large populations of Chinook, chum, coho, and pink salmon, native char, and steelhead trout. Due to its importance in providing spawning and rearing habitat, much of the watershed has already been protected or restored. However, there is an approximately half-mile reach of Illabot Creek that is heavily degraded." In 2006, the Skagit River System Cooperative conducted a feasibility study to analyze restoration alternatives for the river. The study concluded that years of straightening and diking of Illabot Creek had resulted in the degradation of the habitat and that the natural channel should be restored.
The Wild and Scenic Rivers System was created to protect the natural characteristics of the nation's "outstanding" free flowing rivers and their immediate surrounding environments. The Wild and Scenic Rivers Act provides three separate designations for rivers: wild, scenic, or recreational. According to the National Wild and Scenic River System, a river, or section of river, is designated wild if it is free of impoundments, has primitive shorelines, is only accessible by trails, and has unpolluted waters. Scenic rivers have largely undeveloped shorelines, may be accessible by roads in places, and are more developed than wild rivers. Rivers are designated as recreational if they are readily accessible by road, have some development along the shoreline, and may have had some impoundment or diversion (like a dam) in the past. If a river receives a Wild and Scenic River designation, no new dams may be constructed and federally assisted water resource development projects would not be allowed. Specifically, the designation prohibits federal construction of dams or other facilities that endanger the free flow and/or resource value of the river. In the past, some segments of rivers that Congress has included in the Wild and Scenic River System have been scrutinized because they seemingly lacked the essential natural qualities needed to be designated as a scenic river.
According to CBO, enacting H.R. 1593 would cost about $20,000 annually for the U.S. Forest Service to maintain the designation.