Protection for water - Move to protect water on private land grows

Everett Herald staff


Washington state is following a nationwide trend in bringing state water-quality rules in line with federal Environmental Protection Agency criteria.

Most rivers given the "outstanding" label are in wilderness areas or other public refuges. So far, only 22 states have waters listed as outstanding, and of those, only eight have outstanding rivers with significant stretches that cross private land, according to a survey done by the Washington State Department of Ecology.

None of the Pacific Northwest states has any outstanding resource waters, but nominations are only beginning. Other states, including California and Texas, have never adopted the criteria because of public opposition.

Oklahoma has six outstanding rivers that cross private land. But even there, each river already had been on that state's highly restrictive wild and scenic rivers list long before they received the outstanding distinction, said Dean Couch, general counsel of the Oklahoma Water Resources Board.

"Those wild and scenic restrictions have been in place so long that most private landowners go into the situation with their eyes open," Couch said, adding that no litigation has resulted there related to the outstanding criteria.

In Washington, the Sauk River's nomination could be analogous to those Oklahoma rivers, because the Sauk has long been wild and scenic.


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