Nearly two dozen rivers in the West are among those being considered nationally as candidates for President Clinton’s new river heritage program.
Communities across the United States have submitted 126 nominations asking that their local rivers be among the 10 American Heritage Rivers to be designated by the president next year. The application deadline was Dec. 10.
“President Clinton and I are very pleased to see so many communities drawing together around their rivers,” Vice President Al Gore said Monday. “The overwhelming response far exceeds our expectations. It shows real pride of place and a recognition across the country that environmental protection and economic opportunity indeed go hand in hand.”
Residents of Columbia County, Ore., nominated their stretch of the Columbia River for the honor. Oregon’s Willamette River also is on the list of candidates, as are the Puyallup and Snohomish rivers in Washington state.
The Clearwater River was nominated in both Idaho and Montana. Montanans also nominated the Yellowstone and Missouri rivers. Other candidates include the San Joaquin River in California, South Platte River in Colorado and Rio Grand River in New Mexico.
President Clinton unveiled the new initiative in his State of the Union Address last January as a way to provide national recognition to voluntary river restoration efforts.
Although the initiative calls for no new spending, it has drawn sharp criticism from several Western conservatives, including Reps. Helen Chenoweth, R-Idaho, and George Nethercutt, R-Wash.
Chenoweth, Reps. Richard Pombo, R-Calif., Bob Schaffer, R-Colo., and Don Young, R-Alaska, chairman of the House Resources Committee, have filed suit to block the program. The complaint in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia seeks a declaration that the initiative is unconstitutional and the president has no authority to implement it.
“I will not stand by and watch a bunch of Washington bureaucrats take over the management of our state’s most precious resource,” Schaffer said last month.
Chenoweth and other members of Idaho’s all-Republican congressional delegation have already told the administration they want Idaho left out of any initiative proposals and Nethercutt has frowned on any participation in Eastern Washington.
Each community submitted a detailed plan for restoring and protecting the environmental, economic and cultural values of its river and riverfront.
Under the program, a “river navigator” will be appointed to help each community identify federal programs and resources that can be used to help carry out its plan.
Federal agencies also will make field staff available to help match community needs with available resources.
The 10 selected by the president will receive help tapping federal resources to implement their plans.
xxxx NOMINATIONS Here are the rivers nominated in Idaho, Montana and Washington, according to the Interior Department: Idaho - Clearwater River; Montana - Clearwater River, Missouri River, Yellowstone River; Washington - Puyallup River, Snohomish River