- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 19, 2016

LEWISTON, Idaho (AP) - Federal authorities are considering reversing an 80-year-old decision and designating the Salmon River as navigable, causing concern among some local officials.

The change sought by environmentalists would add to the list of regulated activities on the river, the Lewiston Tribune reported (https://bit.ly/1VBmshn).

People currently need a Clean Water Act permit to use the river when discharging dredge or fill material.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Brig. Gen. Scott A. Spellmon is expected to make a decision on the change in May.

Corps Regulatory Division Chief Kelly Urbanek says the Idaho Conservation League’s petition prompted a review. “The conclusion of the report is the waterway is navigable,” she said.

Officials are meeting with area stakeholders to inform them of the proposal.

Lewis County Commissioners expressed concern with the possible added regulations.

“We’re regulated to death,” said Commissioner Don Davis. “Everything that happens is driven by a small community of environmentalists. That’s the thing that scares me. Because of them we have to study this thing to death again.”

Commissioner Carroll Keith said, “We’re kind of waiting for the other shoe to drop and see what happens. If things are working pretty well, why change it?”

The Boise-based conservation group’s petition to re-designate the river says there are modern ways to navigate the waterway.

The group also notes historical uses of the river, like transporting materials.

“We recognize that not everyone will agree that certain uses on the river should be regulated,” said senior conservation associate Jonathan Oppenheimer. “I think we all do agree the Salmon River is truly a gem and deserves to be protected and no one should be allowed to abuse it. From our perspective, there have been instances in the past where the river has seen its share of abuse.”

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Information from: Lewiston Tribune, https://www.lmtribune.com

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