CONGRESSWOMAN ELISE STEFANIK
On Tuesday, June 5, the House is scheduled to consider H.R. 1740, a bill to designate a segment of Illabot Creek in Skagit County, Washington, as a component of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System, under a suspension of the rules requiring a two-thirds majority for approval. The bill was introduced on May 5, 2011, by Rep. Rick Larsen (D-WA) and referred to the Committee on Natural Resources, which held a mark up and reported the bill by voice vote on October 5, 2011.
H.R. 1740 would designate a 14.3-mile segment from the headwaters of Illabot Creek in the state of Washington to be administered by the Secretary of Agriculture as a recreational and wild river segment of the Wild and Scenic River System. Under the bill, 4.3 miles of the creek would be added to the boundary of Glacier Peak Wilderness Area as a wild river and a 10-mile segment from the boundary of Glacier Peak Wilderness to the northern terminus would be designate as a recreational river. Illabot Creek is located approximately 100 miles northeast of Seattle, Washington, and flows from the glaciers of the North Cascades into the upper Skagit River, the largest tributary to Puget Sound. As a segment of the Wild and Scenic River System, the river would be subject to new federal restrictions and free water flow protection. Under the bill, the Secretary of Agriculture may not acquire by condemnation any land or interest in land within the boundaries of the Illabot Creek Wild and Scenic River. In addition, the bill stipulates that no private property or non-Federal public property shall be included within the boundaries of the Illabot Creek Wild and Scenic River without the written consent of the owner of such property.
The Wild and Scenic Rivers System was created in 1968 with the intent of protecting the natural characteristics of the nation’s “outstanding,” free flowing rivers and their immediate surrounding environments from development. 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 are meant to 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 House Report 112-320, the U.S. Forest Service studied Illabot Creek for a potential Wild and Scenic River designation as part of the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest planning process. The study found that the creek possesses “outstandingly remarkable values,” consistent with the requirements of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.
According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), under the legislation “the agency would spend less than $20,000 a year to maintain, protect, and enhance the creek.”