John Frewing

Early member & advocate, John Frewing shares in his own words a story about the early days of the Clean Water Act and how Pete Seeger ended up in Hells Canyon.

Jimmy Collier and Pete Seeger in Hells Canyon 1972, Snake River; Lettering on his Banjo reads: “This machine surrounds hate and forces it to surrender.” Pete helped us save the canyon and river from a proposed major dam. Courtesy: Boyd Norton

(Excerpt from 2008) It was 1972. The US Congress passed the Clean Water Act. One amazing provision was for funds to support citizen education. Another provided citizen lawsuits for enforcement. Washington and Oregon citizens worked together for an education conference to be held in Seattle, near the University of Washington. 

Roy Hemmingway was among the Oregon organizers, affiliated with the OEC. Maybe six people from Oregon attended. 

Pete Seeger attended, both because of his personal involvement on the Hudson River and because he provided some entertainment. 

The Oregon group returned and became the Oregon Clean Water Project, sponsoring a series of McKenzie Bridge retreats, with government and citizen representation (40) each spring. Two important players were Marguerite Watkins, from Coos Bay (of the League of Women Voters) and Sidney Herbert from Eugene (wife of an MD who moved to Portland when her husband died later). Both very effective women – lots of common sense – and good organizers. 

I remember returning north from Eugene after one such conference on May 18, 1980 with John Charles, then OEC exec director. We first heard about the Mt. St. Helens eruption and then, from about Salem, saw the huge vertical cloud to the northeast. 

The Clean Water Act led to a variety of Oregon actions, some of which were effective, others with little results. I recall participating with the Oregon Board of Forestry and with another citizen, Carleton Whitehead of Reed College, in an effort to write ‘best management practices’ for forestry under state regulation, producing one of the requirements under Section 208 regarding non-point sources. Pretty weak the first time around, but it has gotten better over the years.


More: People & policies that have shaped a movement. #LovingOregon

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John  Platt

John Platt worked closely with OEC in the early days, eventually serving as Executive Director of both Oregon League of Environmental Voter (now OLCV) and Oregon Environmental Council (1978-79). Here are his reflections on working with OEC at the start of a growing environmental movement in Oregon. Working with OEC 1972 to 1979 (excerpt from 2008): Following my first year of law school at Rutgers University and then a year working with the Puyallup, Nisqually and
January 1, 2018, 12:29 am
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