U.S. House and Senate leaders have agreed to include legislation originally written by Congresswoman Chellie Pingree, D-North Haven, in a major defense spending bill that is expected to pass Congress this week. Pingree’s bill—the York River Wild and Scenic River Study Act—would create a 3-year study to determine if the river could be included in the National Park Service’s Wild and Scenic River program. Being included in the program would bring attention, tourism and federal funding to the river to protect its resources and stimulate the local economy.

The bill passed the House unanimously in 2012, but the Senate failed to vote on the measure. Pingree reintroduced the bill in 2013 and it again passed the House. Meanwhile, Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, introduced companion legislation earlier this year that has now been included in the National Defense Authorization Act, which will be voted on in both the House and Senate this week.

“The York River is a special place that is vital to the ecology and economy of the region,” Pingree said. “Protecting it is important for the environment but federal designation could also bring more investment and more attention to the river.”

The study, in conjunction with community input, would determine if the river is eligible for designation as a Wild and Scenic Partnership River by the National Park Service.

“This has really been a community effort,” Pingree said. “The people who live and work around the York River have worked hard to get us this far, and thanks to the leadership of Senator King this effort is about to take another step forward.”

King is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, where the defense bill that comes up for a vote this week was written.

If, based on the study and community support, the York River is designated as a Wild and Scenic Partnership River, it makes it more likely that federal funding will come to the area for activities like preserving and restoring fish and wildlife habitat, for example.  

The study would find whether the river merits one of the designations under the Wild and Scenic River program:  wild, scenic, or recreational.  Then community members would be able to offer their input on whether the designation should move forward.