Wild and Scenic Rivers:

Certain Rivers Not in National System Generally Retain Original Values

RCED-87-39: Published: Dec 16, 1986. Publicly Released: Jan 6, 1987.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO provided information on development activities on 13 wild and scenic rivers under nonfederal protection, specifically: (1) water projects; (2) shoreline development; (3) resource development; (4) road and utility construction; (5) water quality; and (6) recreational use. GAO also ascertained whether the federal wild and scenic river studies included required estimates of federal land acquisition and river management costs.

GAO found that: (1) there were no new dams or other water project developments on any of the rivers since the federal studies; (2) modifications for hydroelectric production to existing dams on several of the rivers should not endanger the rivers' preexisting flow conditions; (3) although state authorities are considering major water supply diversions from two rivers, the effects of reducing the flow of water and degrading the scenic values on the rivers may well prevent development; (4) few of the rivers experienced industrial, residential, or utility developments that dramatically affected their qualities; (5) 4 rivers suffered deteriorating water quality or degrading scenic values from resource development activities; (6) water pollution is a major concern on 6 of the rivers; (7) 9 of the 27 studies GAO reviewed for cost estimates did not contain detailed, specific land acquisition and management cost estimates that would better enable Congress to decide which rivers to include in the system; (8) 11 of the studies included excessive federal costs as part of the rationale for recommending against including the rivers in the national system; and (9) the Department of the Interior believed the expenditure of funds to prepare specific cost estimates for adding certain rivers to the national system would be imprudent because of strong local opposition.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Interior, in a memo to regional Chiefs of Planning and the Denver service center, cited the GAO report as the reason that all future wild and scenic studies should include cost estimates for federal land acquisition and administration.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Interior should ensure that future wild and scenic river studies transmitted to Congress contain specific cost estimates of potential federal land acquisition and management costs of adding a study river to the national system.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior


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