The local York River Wild and Scenic River Study was largely completed in 2018, with development of the York River Watershed Stewardship Plan and community votes to support the plan and river designation. However to achieve river designation, Congress must approve bills to designate the York River into the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System. Milestones and events that are part of the river designation process are described below, with most recent events listed first.
DESIGNATION ACHIEVED, December 2022: The York River designation bill was rolled into H.R. 2617, the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023 (the omnibus government spending bill). Congress approved H.R. 2617 on December 23, 2022, and President Biden signed it into law on December 29, 2022 (Public Law No. 117-328). This designates York River and its major tributaries into the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System as a partnership river.
Senate Committee approval, November 2021: The Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources passed Senate Bill S. 491 on November 18, 2021. The Committee reported the bill favorably, without amendment, to the full Senate in December.
House and Senate subcommittee hearings on York River designation bills, November & June 2021: The House Committee on Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands held a hearing on H.R. 1469 on November 9, 2021. The Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks convened a hearing on S. 491 on June 23, 2021. Testimony in support of the bills was provided by the bill sponsors, York River Study coordinator Jennifer Hunter, and National Park Service representatives.
Designation bills re-introduced, March 2021: Designation bills were reintroduced this session (117th Congress) in the House and Senate: House Bill H.R. 1469 and Senate Bill S. 491, both introduced March 1, 2021 with support from the full Maine Congressional delegation. READ MORE: Press release from Maine delegation.
In addition, Congresswoman Pingree introduced an amendment to the Wilderness Protection Act (H.R. 803) that included designation of the York River into the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System. H.R. 803 passed the House on February 26, 2021 and now is being taken up by the Senate. READ MORE: Press release from Congresswoman Pingree.
Designation Bill introduced in the Senate, December 2020 (116th Congress): On December 1, 2020, Senator King and Senator Collins introduced Senate Bill S.4938 to designate York River into the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System. Read more here: Press Release – King, Collins Introduce Legislation to Designate York River as Wild and Scenic.
Maine House and Senate support river designation, February 2020: The Maine legislature gave unanimous approval to a Joint Resolution supporting designation of the York River into the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System on Thursday, February 27, 2020. The resolution was sponsored by Representatives Lydia Blume, Patty Hymanson, Michele Meyer, Tiffany Roberts, and Deane Rykerson and Senator Mark Lawrence. York River Study Committee members were guests at the House Session on February 25.
NPS York River Study Report: On January 10, 2020, the National Park Service released its York River Wild and Scenic River Study Report. The report describes the approach and findings of the local York River Wild and Scenic Study, including suitability and eligibility for river designation. It includes outcomes of votes taken in the four watershed communities in support of designation in late 2018, and it includes 33 letters of support from local groups and community leaders. The report was posted on the National Park Service’s Planning, Environment, and Public Comment (PEPC) website for review and comment through April 10, 2020, https://parkplanning.nps.gov/YorkRiverStudy. See NPS Press Release.
Designation Bill introduced in the House, February 2019 (116th Congress): York River designation bill HR1248 was introduced by Congresswoman Pingree and Congressman Golden in February 2019. A subcommittee hearing on the bill was held in May 2019, with testimony in support from Congresswoman Pingree, York River Study Committee chair Chuck Ott, and NPS acting director Dan Smith. The bill was favorably reported to the House of Representatives by the House Natural Resources Committee on November 27, 2020.
Communities’ support for river designation, November and December 2018: Voters in York and Eliot, and town councils in Kittery and South Berwick, approved the York River Watershed Stewardship Plan and efforts to pursue designation of York River into the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System.