The Oregon Department of State Lands (DSL) is proposing to increase the number of stream miles within the state that are regulated as essential salmon habitat (ESH). ESH includes streams that DSL and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife have deemed to provide habitat for sensitive, threatened or endangered salmonid species under state or federal law, including chum, sockeye, Chinook and coho salmon, and steelhead and cutthroat trout. DSL is in the midst of rulemaking to revise its ESH designation to include an additional 500 stream miles throughout the state. Many in the regulated community see the proposed designation as an example of regulatory overreach, similar to the Environmental Protection Agency's proposal to redefine the limits of waters of the United States (see: http://www.schwabe.com/showarticle.aspx?Show=13558).
Oregon law generally requires a removal-fill permit for any activity that removes and/or places 50 cubic yards or more of material in waters of the state. But the ESH designation expands DSL's jurisdiction to include any amount of removal or fill, no matter how small, unless the project fits within special exemptions for certain agricultural activities, small-scale prospecting and non-motorized activities. As a result, the proposed ESH designation increases the likelihood that a permit will be required for projects that would otherwise be exempt from regulation.
DSL is accepting public comments on its proposed ESH designation through November 28, 2014. Maps and other information are available online at: http://www.oregon.gov/dsl/Pages/Rulemaking-Activity.aspx.