Posts Tagged ‘State Scenic Waterways’


Press Release: Bills to Curb Suction Dredge Mining Approved by Key Senate Committee

For immediate release
April 18, 2013
Josh Laughlin, Cascadia Wildlands, 541.844.8182
Erik Fernandez, Oregon Wild, 971.230.4484
Forrest English, Rogue Riverkeeper, 541.261.2030
Salem, OR — Outdoor businesses, the commercial fishing industry, fisheries experts, and conservation organizations applaud the passage of Senate Bill 838 and SB 401 by the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee last night. The legislation aims to protect water quality and salmon in Oregon’s iconic river systems from the impacts of harmful suction dredge mining.
“These bills safeguard Oregon’s famed rivers, which means more business and more people enjoying them for the long term,” says Frank Armendariz, owner of River Trail Outfitters in Eugene. “As our population grows so will demand for river access, and that underscores the critical need to protect these special rivers from harmful activity like suction dredge mining.”
Suction dredge mining in waterways involves the use of gasoline-powered vacuums, mounted on floating rafts, which suck up the riverbed in search of gold. Scientific evidence demonstrates that the practice harms the early stages of fish development, fish habitat, invertebrate and bivalve communities (fish food), and stirs up toxic mercury. There has been a spike in suction dredge mining in Oregon since California enacted a moratorium on the practice in 2009 due to its impacts on salmon. Between 2005-2012, there was a 580% increase in suction dredge mining in Oregon, going from 414 to 2,409 permits issued.
SB 838 calls for a time out in the form of a moratorium on suction dredge mining in Oregon waterways currently designated as Essential Salmon Habitat. These rivers have been recognized as being significant due to their importance in protecting and recovering salmon runs. The moratorium would be replaced in 2018 by a modernized permit system for suction dredge mining to better protect river habitat.
“Vacuuming up river bottoms in search of gold flecks is not in the interest of our clean water and wild salmon legacy,” says Josh Laughlin with Cascadia Wildlands. “We need a new permitting system that safeguards these values that make Oregon so special.”
SB 401 would require the state of Oregon to study what rivers should be added to the State Scenic Waterway system. The analysis would consider iconic rivers like the Illinois, Rogue, South Umpqua, Grande Ronde, Sandy, Molalla, and other renowned rivers across the state. State Scenic Waterways have a proven track record of balancing conservation and development. In particular, this level of protection prevents dams and suction dredge mining. Many of these waterways provide communities with clean drinking water. The state is currently 24 years over due to make recommendations to the system. SB 401 requires the state to finalize the study within two years.
"We are very worried about the drastic increase in suction dredge mining in Oregon's iconic rivers, especially rivers that serve as drinking water sources,” says Erik Fernandez of Oregon Wild. “I would certainly prefer to not have toxic mercury stirred up in my municipal watershed."
In early April, the Oregon Chapter of the American Fisheries Society sent a letter to Oregon legislators outlining the myriad impacts suction dredging has on fish. One of the letter’s recommendations was to prohibit or greatly reduce suction dredge mining in areas used for spawning by sensitive fish stocks. This followed a similar letter issued by the Western Division of the American Fisheries Society prior to the California moratorium.
“The science is very clear. When salmon lay eggs in unnatural gravel piles left by mining, the eggs are dramatically more likely to be washed away and destroyed in winter storms,” says Forrest English of Rogue Riverkeeper. “We simply don’t have the threatened salmon eggs to spare.”
Increases in suction dredging in rivers like the Rogue have led to complaints from nearby landowners of illegal trespassing and noisy engines running in the river, as well as river damage to salmon habitat.
The bills now move on to the Ways and Means Committee. At the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee hearing on the bills on Monday, Governor Kitzhaber’s office expressed support for a moratorium on suction dredge mining while a new permitting system is developed. The commercial fishing industry, outdoor recreation industry and fisheries experts also testified in favor of the legislation.
Click here to read SB 838.
Click here to read SB 401.
Click here to read the Oregon Chapter of American Fisheries Society letter to legislators.

Bates Champions Waterways

State Senator, District 3 
Ashland, Jacksonville, Medford, Phoenix, Talent 
Deputy Majority Leader
Co-chair, Human Services Joint Subcommittee
Member, Joint Ways & Means
News Release
February 11, 2013
CONTACT:      Jeff Scroggin (503) 986-1703 or
Bates stands up for Southern Oregon rivers and property owners
Legislation will protect region’s legacy of clean water and river recreation
SALEM—Today, Senator Alan Bates (D-Medford) joined a coalition of fishers, rafters, conservationists, and other river users to encourage the state to evaluate and potentially curb a new wave of suction-dredge mining on the Rogue, Chetco, and other area rivers and creeks. 
“Southern Oregon is home to thousands of us who consider our peaceful, pristine rivers a legacy to pass on to the next generation,” said Bates. “The dramatic increase in this potentially harmful practice may have serious impacts on fish, recreational users, conservationists and affected property owners.” 
Suction dredging, which is the practice of vacuuming up a river bed with a motorized raft to obtain gold, has become more prevalent over the past decade, growing from a few hundred permits a decade ago to nearly 2000 permits last year. “Clean water and healthy fish are cherished Oregon values, and I’m calling for hearings and a thoughtful discovery process to ensure protection for these threatened rivers and streams,” said Bates.
Joining Senator Bates was John Ward of Rogue Flyfishers, who spoke in support of a concept that would add new miles to the successful State Scenic Waterways program for the first time since 1988. “We must protect Southern Oregon and the rest of the state from new, destructive behaviors by expanding the State Scenic Waterways program. This move would be good for fishermen and for the recreational fishing industry,” said Ward. 
Bates will continue to hear from local residents, including property owners, miners, local businesses, and he remains open-minded about possible solutions. “If it’s bad for our rivers and streams, then it should not be allowed in the most vulnerable and beautiful portions of those waters,” said Bates.  “We must ensure that miners offset the costs to property owners and other river users – and we must ensure as little damage to our rivers as possible.” 
Expansion of scenic waterways as proposed in SB 401 would increase protections from just one-third of 1 percent of Oregon’s rivers and streams to only one-half of 1 percent. 
Senator Bates serves on the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee and is the Deputy Majority Whip.

Editors Note: Cascadia Wildlands is part of a broad coalition of conservation, environmental, angler, and recreationalist supporting this legislation. 

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