This was on passage of legislation that added parts of the Molalla River in Oregon to the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System. That System consists of rivers or parts of rivers that have unique beauty, recreational or environmental value, historic or cultural significance or some other attribute deemed to be worth preserving. No component of the System can be dammed or impeded in any way.
Rep. Grijalva (D-AZ), who was leading the support for the legislation, said that the designated section of the Molalla River “is a popular destination for thousands of people who recreate along the river every year. Steelhead, salmon, and cutthroat trout rely on the river for crucial spawning and nursery habitat. The river corridor served as a trail for indigenous tribes long before European settlers reached its banks, and early pioneers found the river a vital source of drinking water for homesteading, as well as an important trade route.”
Grijalva added: “In more recent times, however, the river was the victim of neglect, with illegal dumping and other activities degrading the water quality. This degradation prompted creation of a broad-based coalition of more than 45 nonprofit, civic and conservation groups; local, regional, state, and federal agencies; numerous waters users; and property owners dedicated to protecting and preserving the Molalla River. The alliance is a leading supporter of (the) bill . . . .”
He referenced an issue, which had been raised as a point of concern by some Republicans, about including 400 acres of potentially revenue-producing timber land in the protected area. He acknowledged that “this is a significant issue in Oregon because the revenue generated by harvesting federal timber is used to fund public education in the state.” Grijalva said that it has been clarified that the designation “does not prohibit logging, and there are no logging contracts in place or planned for the river corridor anyway.”
Rep. Hastings (R-WA) was leading the opposition to the measure. He said he was concerned with “the impacts that wild and scenic river designations can have on surrounding property owners . . . and the restrictions that such designations can have on private citizens. Most importantly, such designations preclude the ability to make future decisions . . . without an act of Congress. There are many ways to protect and manage our rivers without imposing such absolute, permanent, and inflexible mandates that do not allow us to adapt to new circumstances . . . .”
Hastings then referred to the potentially revenue-producing timber acreage and said “funds that come from these harvestings are provided directly to the local schools and communities in that area . . . and they're critical to the ability of hundreds of schools to properly educate their children and for the communities in these areas to provide essential services.” He then claimed that no “provision or protection or offset (for the potential lost revenue from logging restrictions) has been included . . . .”
The bill passed by a vote of 292-133. Two hundred and fifty-two Democrats and 40 “Republican voted “aye” All one hundred and thirty-three “nay” votes were cast by Republicans. As a result, the House approved and sent to the Senate legislation adding parts of the Molalla River in Oregon to the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System.