89-mile segment from Grave Creek to Lost Creek Dam deemed navigable

Fishing the Rogue
Fishing the Rogue

After months of research on the Rogue River’s use since statehood, the Oregon Department of State Lands (DSL) has made an initial determination that the 89-mile study segment of the river is navigable – meaning the public has the right to use its banks for fishing, navigation, recreation and commerce.
   
"We looked at journals of early explorers and settlers, historic maps, surveys from the 1800s, water flow models – any document or piece of information that could help us understand what the Rogue River looked like and how it was used before and at the time of statehood in 1859," said DSL Director Louise Solliday.

To reach its conclusion, DSL used the federal test for navigability:
   

To be considered navigable, and therefore a grant to a state upon its admission to the Union, the river must have been:
   

  • Used, or susceptible to being used,

   

  • In its ordinary and natural condition,

   

  • As a highway of commerce over which trade and travel were, or could have been conducted,

   

  • In the customary modes of trade and travel on water at the time of Oregon’s statehood (1859).

   
"Until
recently, few people paid much attention to whether a waterway was
navigable.  But as Oregon’s population has increased, and as more
people are living next to waterways and using them for recreation,
there’s been a keen interest in public vs. private ownership of the
submerged and submersible land between the high and low water marks,
commonly referred to as a river’s banks," said Solliday. 
   
In
1997, the Josephine County District Attorney requested DSL conduct a
navigability study of this section of the Rogue, which serves as the
starting point for a formal process to determine navigability.  As part
of this process, DSL is now seeking public input concerning the
information contained in the study, still in draft form. 
   
"We
welcome any new information, or corrections to what’s contained in the
draft study, concerning the historical condition and uses of the
89-mile segment of the Rogue," said Solliday.
   
Approximately
3,000 notices have been sent to adjacent property owners, elected
officials, media and others in the region to inform them about the
study and its contents.
   
A public hearing will be held on
Oct. 24, 7 p.m. in the Performing Arts Center at Grants Pass High
School, 830 NE 9th St., Grants Pass. 
   
The public may also
provide written comments about the information contained in the draft
study in the following ways:Email:  roguerivercomments@dsl.state.or.us
Mail:      Department of State Lands
        Rogue River Navigability Study Comments
        775 Summer St. NE, Suite 100
        Salem, OR  97301-1279
   
The
public comment period is open until 5 p.m., Friday, Nov. 9, 2007.The
State Land Board will The public will be notified of the time and place
of the meeting.

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