Wyden, Merkley, DeFazio, Huffman Urge Continued Chetco Protections

Washington, D.C. – Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley and Reps. Peter DeFazio and Jared Huffman today strongly urged federal officials to extend interim mineral withdrawal protections for the Chetco River in southwest Oregon.

The lawmakers’ letter to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue notes that their request for the iconic river is urgent because the current five-year mineral withdrawal for 17 miles of the Chetco will expire on July 25.

If the current protection is not extended, they wrote, “we will lose precious ground in protecting this world-class salmon and steelhead river and source of clean drinking water for two communities while Congress considers our legislation to make the withdrawal permanent.”

Legislation to make the Chectco’s mineral withdrawal permanent has been introduced in the House and Senate since 2010. Wyden, Merkley, DeFazio and Huffman also note that the interim five-year withdrawal has earned strong local and federal support.

“Earlier progress reports to our staffs indicated that the extension was on schedule and that the reasoning for an extension was still valid,” the four lawmakers wrote federal officials. “However, now, with the expiration date of the current 5-year withdrawal fast approaching, and what appears to be insufficient time to complete the process to extend it, our staffs cannot learn anything concrete about what is happening or what is causing what appears to be an inexcusable delay.”

“Time is of the essence and we are seeking your assurance that the Department of Interior is expeditiously working to administratively extend the withdrawal protecting the Chetco River before it expires,” they wrote. “We will continue to work with our colleagues in the Senate and House of Representatives to pass the legislation that would permanently protect the Chetco, but we ask that you turn your immediate attention to providing the extension while the legislative branch completes its work.”

A copy of the entire letter is here.