May the segment division (description between differently classified segments) of a wild and scenic river be clarified when such description is included in Section 3(a)?*

(*For certain rivers, Congress directed the river-administering agency in Section 3(b) to determine which classes “best fit the river or its various segments.”  These administratively segmented rivers should reflect on-the-ground practicalities and, therefore, are unlikely to require subsequent amendment.)

Yes. While Congress specifies the segment divisions of a designated river, in some instances congressional language may require interpretation. For example, a segment division between a wild and scenic classification described as “from the bridge” may inappropriately include the bridge in the wild river segment. Consistent with a wild classification, the boundary may be established a very short distance below the bridge to exclude its inclusion in a wild river segment.

The river administrator is well advised to consider on-the-ground practicalities at the initial boundary setting stage, to the extent congressional language allows for it. Qualifying the segment divisions to fit on-the-ground circumstances does not require amendment of the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act (i.e., it would not change the description of a river’s segment divisions in Section 3(a) of the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act). Clarifying a segment division must be carefully considered so as not to change the intent of Congress. Such consideration should include review of the legislative history, including any maps developed in the study process or as a part of the legislation, and full disclosure through a public process prior to clarifying a segment division.

Clarification of a segment division should not be used to change classification of a segment(s).

Interagency Wild & Scenic Rivers Council