State Capitol
The Willamette River: Oregon's Legacy
April 15, 2004
The Willamette River Legacy
As I announced in my 2004 State of the State speech, my top environmental priority is to clean up and restore the Willamette River, from the headwaters east of Eugene to the mouth of the river as it enters the Columbia.

The Willamette River is the perfect example of what I call the “Oregon Equation,” or O = C + E2. The Oregon Equation means that Oregon´s future equals a sum of its children, its economy and its environment - and the Willamette River plays an important role in all three areas. It is a key environmental resource, providing fish and wildlife habitat. As a “working river,” the Willamette is also the lifeblood of our economy in the Valley, supporting businesses, industries and communities. Finally, the Willamette contributes to the quality of life that Oregonians enjoy and it is part of the legacy we will leave for our children.

Before and during his governorship, Tom McCall had a legendary vision for this river and its importance to our state and our communities. We must continue the work that Tom McCall started back in the 60´s and 70´s, cleaning up and restoring the river so that our children will be able to fish without worry and swim in the river without a second thought.

My two-day trip along the length of the Willamette River on April 14 and 15 is only the first step in this long-term effort. No one group can accomplish this critical goal alone - it´s going to take all of us working together to restore the health of the Willamette. Everyone who lives, recreates and does business in the Willamette Basin has a role to play, as do Oregon´s private sector and our federal partners.

As we move forward, I intend to involve all the stakeholders in this process to make sure we are developing and implementing an effective, comprehensive strategy.

Repair, Restore, Recreate
My plan for the Willamette Legacy focuses on three themes: “Repair, Restore, Recreate.”

The first theme - REPAIR - means we must clean up the industrial pollutants and toxins that have contaminated the river.

The second theme - RESTORE - means we must return the river to its natural state, restoring its abundant wildlife and pristine riverbanks.

The final theme - RECREATE - addresses the incredible role that the Willamette River plays in Oregon´s quality of life. We must make it possible for Oregonians to enjoy the many activities the river offers - and to do so responsibly so that it will be here for future generations.

Below are some of the initial efforts I am undertaking with local, state and federal partners as the first steps in this important effort.

  • I am working with Oregon´s Congressional delegation to secure $6.2 million in additional federal funding for temperature control structures for the Cougar Dam Reservoir on the McKenzie River. I will work with the Corps of Engineers to build similar structures on several dams on other Willamette tributaries.
  • I am asking the Corps of Engineers for $8 million dollars to help the state cleanup the abandoned Black Butte mine site that is currently leaching mercury into the river.
  • I am working with the U.S. Attorney's Office to better coordinate our combined capacity to investigate and prosecute environmental crimes. My office, the state's natural resource agencies and the Oregon Attorney General are all committed to working with the U.S. Attorney to coordinate our environmental enforcement actions.
  • I will work to increase citizen participation in volunteer river clean-up activities such as SOLV´s "Down by the River" program. I will also reach out to educate Oregonians about the impact people have on water quality and simple ways they can prevent household pollution from entering the Willamette.
  • I have asked state natural resource agencies to come together as they did for the Oregon Salmon Plan to help me develop a plan to select the highest priority actions to clean and restore the river. The plan must include specific actions to restore critical fish and wildlife habitat.
  • The state will work with cities, counties, and citizens to establish the Willamette River Water Trail, a trail for paddlers following the river from Corvallis to Newberg. Investments will include improving access to the river and providing support facilities for river users such as parking, restrooms, waste disposal, signage, and protection of adjoining private lands from trespass. I have directed the parks department to use existing Parks and Natural Resource Funds for local grants, capital improvements and trail infrastructure. I will also ask the Oregon State Parks Trust to make the Willamette River Trail one of their signature projects.

Page updated: October 22, 2006

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