In November 2017, the York River Study Committee unanimously endorsed pursuing a Partnership Wild and Scenic River designation for the York River and its major tributaries. Here’s an overview of the York River Study Committee’s recommendation: Designation Recommendation Overview and a Letter to Watershed Residents. The committee’s recommendation to pursue a Partnership Wild and Scenic River designation was endorsed by the York Harbor Board, the York Lobstermen’s Association executive committee, the York Planning Board, the York Land Trust, and the York Weekly.
- The York River meets criteria for a Partnership Wild and Scenic River designation into the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System. Its clean water and exemplary historic, ecological, economic, and cultural resources meet eligibility criteria. The York River watershed communities’ policies and priorities from comprehensive plans, their existing local ordinances, and their support for river conservation initiatives all demonstrate suitability for a Partnership designation – meaning there is support and capacity for river stewardship.
- A Partnership Wild and Scenic River designation would provide funding and technical assistance, enhance coordination among the four watershed communities, and engage citizens to continue to preserve what makes the York River special.
- The locally-developed York River Watershed Stewardship Plan is a guide for future outreach, habitat and river surveys, and river stewardship projects that could be supported with funding. Each year, a local stewardship committee that includes members appointed by towns’ selectmen/councils would identify outreach, research, and habitat improvement projects to undertake with grant funding.
A Partnership Wild and Scenic River Designation maintains existing local control. Private property rights are not affected. A Partnership Wild and Scenic River designation does not put land under federal control, does not require public access to private land, does not change any existing land uses, does not force any changes in local land-use decision-making processes or objectives, does not create new federal permits or regulations, does not prevent access to or use of the river or watershed lands, and does not affect hunting and fishing laws.
There are 116 communities – mostly in the northeastern US – that have pursued Partnership Wild and Scenic River designations to support their local river protection efforts, some with more than 25 years of experience. Learn more about these 13 Partnership Wild and Scenic Rivers that involve 116 communities. Each time a new river is added to the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System, the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act is amended. The bills that designated these Partnership rivers uphold the Partnership Wild and Scenic River principles of local governance and no federal takeover or management of private property. See summary table for recent and proposed Partnership designations, including Public Law citations and House Bill citations.
Community votes: Town select boards in York and Eliot placed warrant items on the November 6, 2018 ballot to allow voters to decide whether to endorse a Partnership Wild and Scenic River designation for the York River and its major tributaries, and to accept the accompanying York River Watershed Stewardship Plan. Community support – a majority of ‘YES’ votes on the warrant articles – is needed for the US Congress to consider a Partnership River designation into the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System. This is a final key step in demonstrating suitability for the York River to be designated, by showing communities’ interest in and support for long-term river stewardship.
- In York, Article #2 related to the designation; OUTCOME: 63% of voters in York supported pursuing designation and accepted the Stewardship Plan.
- In Eliot, Article #10 related to the designation; OUTCOME: 73% of voters in Eliot supported pursuing designation and accepted the Stewardship Plan.
In Kittery and South Berwick, town councils were asked to decide whether to adopt a resolution supporting Partnership Wild and Scenic River designation. Both councils unanimously adopted resolutions on November 26 (Kittery) and December 11 (South Berwick).
Earlier in 2018, the 22 towns that were involved with studies on the Nashua River and Wood-Pawcatuck River unanimously approved pursuing Partnership Wild and Scenic River designations for their river systems. These 22 New England communities are working with their respective Congressional delegations that have introduced bills for designation (see H.R.6825 – Nashua River Wild and Scenic River Act of 2018 and H.R.6950 – Wood-Pawcatuck Watershed Wild and Scenic River Act of 2018).