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OR Breweries Give Cheers to Wyden, Merkley for River Protection Bill


Thursday, June 17, 2021   

PORTLAND, Ore. - Support is brimming from Oregon's craft breweries for a bill that would give nearly 4,700 miles of the state's rivers and streams greater protections.

Fifty-one breweries from across the state have sent a letter to Sen. Ron Wyden - D-OR - and Sen. Jeff Merkley - D-OR - thanking them for introducing the River Democracy Act.

Michael LaLonde, president and CEO of Deschutes Brewery in Bend, is among the signers. He said clean, healthy watersheds are important for the major ingredient in beer - water.

He also noted the crossover between the customer base for craft breweries and outdoor recreation.

"They love to go outside and enjoy recreation on the rivers," said LaLonde, "as well as wildlife habitat if they're fishermen or hunters."

The legislation would designate rivers and streams from every corner of the state as Wild and Scenic, which affords them federal protection.

To identify them, Wyden asked Oregonians to send in their nominations for their favorite rivers in the state. His office received 15,000 nominations.

LaLonde said Oregon's senators had an important process for crafting this bill, noting that it didn't stop with hearing from Oregonians.

"Wyden and Merkley spent a lot of time with their constituents making sure that the waterways identified were protected," said LaLonde. "And then, they continued to work with industries that rely on those locations to make sure that there's a compromise that is satisfying to all."

Currently, a little more than 2,000 miles of Oregon rivers are protected as Wild and Scenic. That's about 2% of the state's 110,000 miles of river.

The River Democracy Act was introduced in February. It's scheduled for a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing next Wednesday.

Support for this reporting was provided by The Pew Charitable Trusts.

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