Posts Tagged ‘steelhead’


Lawsuit Launched to Protect Washington Rivers, Salmon from Destructive Suction Dredge Mining

Harmful Gold-mining Method Already Restricted in California, Oregon

For Immediate Release, January 10, 2017
Gabriel Scott, Cascadia Wildlands (541) 434-1463 
Jonathan Evans, Center for Biological Diversity, (510) 844-7118, 
OLYMPIA, Wash.— Conservation groups filed a notice of intent today to sue the state of Washington for allowing highly destructive suction dredge mining in rivers and streams critical to endangered salmon and steelhead. The Washington Department of Wildlife approves the harmful recreational gold-mining technique in rivers throughout the state that are home to numerous imperiled fish species. Conservation and fisheries groups have also introduced bills in the state legislature to better monitor and regulate suction dredge mining.
“Suction dredge mining pollutes our waterways with toxic mercury, clouds streams with sediment, kills endangered fish and destroys irreplaceable cultural resources that are important to all Washingtonians,” said Jonathan Evans, environmental health legal director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “This is a dirty, outdated form of mining that our families, waterways and wildlife shouldn’t be subjected to.”
Suction dredge mining uses large, gas-powered vacuums to suck up gravel on the bottom of rivers and streams in search of gold flakes. Miners target gravel beds critical to salmon spawning and reproduction and pollute waterways with sediment and toxic mercury and heavy metals in their search for gold. Suction dredge mining also threatens important cultural resources important to American Indians. 
“Suction dredge miners are killing endangered salmon and polluting our waterways and it needs to stop,” said Gabriel Scott, in-house counsel for Cascadia Wildlands. “We intend to enforce the law ourselves if the state won’t.” 
The harm done by suction dredging is well documented by scientists and government agencies. In recent years Oregon and California have halted suction dredge mining for gold in areas that are important for rivers and fisheries because of its damage to water quality and wildlife. In Idaho the EPA has stepped in to regulate the practice. Today’s notice, filed by the Center and Cascadia Wildlands, notifies Washington’s Department of Fish and Wildlife and Department of Ecology of ongoing violations of the Endangered Species Act and Clean Water Act.
While the state doesn’t track individual mining locations, the majority of Washington’s rivers and streams are open to mining. Because the state of Washington has never squared state laws regulating suction dredge mining with the Endangered Species Act or Clean Water Act, two bills were introduced in the state legislature this week to better monitor and regulate the activity. House Bill 1077, introduced by Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon (D-Seattle), would create important safeguards in environmentally sensitive areas to protect salmon and water quality. House Bill 1106, introduced by Rep. Gael Tarleton (D-Seattle), would require miners to comply with the Clean Water Act to reduce pollution when mining.
Numerous other commercial and recreational organizations have raised concerns that suction dredge and other motorized mining practices are disruptive and harmful to fishing. Statewide, commercial fisheries generate more than $1.6 billion annually and sport fishing generates more than $1.1 billion annually. Suction dredge mining also undermines the tens of millions of dollars invested in salmon recovery efforts in Washington.
For detailed mapping of rivers and streams with suction dredge mining or endangered fish habitat click here.

Of Dynamite, Lead, Mercury, Storms and the Myths of Suction Dredging

By Bob Ferris
About a decade ago I watched a giant front-end loader pull a metal culvert  that was restricting fish passage out of a steelhead stream in Southern California.  It was fun to watch and gratifying because my organization at the time had a hand in making it happen, but I did not for one second think that front-end loaders in streams were always good for fish.  I suspect being part of a discipline like ecology that has a lot of special rules and exceptions helps with this type of discernment.
I wonder if suction dredge miners have this same discernment “chip” or if they hope others do not.  The reason I raise this issue is that dredgers seem to be promoting the notion that because suction dredges are occasionally used to clean gravel beds in waterways hopelessly choked with silt or to move materials quickly, that suction dredgers and dredges are actually good for fish.  
East Fork of the Lewis
One example that at least one miner is using to seemingly prove this point is his participation in an impressive restoration project on the East Fork of the Lewis River near Vancouver, Washington (see above from Northwest Mineral Prospectors Club facebook page).  This project was undertaken by Friends of the East Fork who are really doing some incredible work to restore chum salmon and other salmonid runs in fish-poor wastelands created by gravel mining and other activities.  
While I would like to commend suction dredgers for the work of some dredgers to restore streams and rivers, that does not balance out or change the fact that they are doing much more damage at other times. (The above poster of this Facebook story, for example, neglected to mention his Hydraulic Project Approval permit issued in 2009 to move up to 50 cubic yards of material in the same waterway system). Can suction dredges be an effective tool for fish habitat restoration? Yes in rare instances, but the same can also be said for dynamite, front-end loaders and other agents of destruction.  

Lead Better
Suction dredgers are also quick to crow about how much lead they remove from waterways as a rationale for their presence on the water.  This too is not as it seems.  While lead is certainly a huge problem for birds while it remains mixed with the surface materials and accessible, legacy lead—older lead that is buried—is not as serious a problem once it sinks beyond the reach of birds
With the banning of lead shot for waterfowl hunting in 1991 and awareness in the fishing community about the dangers of certain lead devices, "new" lead in the system has been greatly reduced and the rest continues to do what lead does best: Sink.  Therefore, claims of massive amounts of lead recovered by suction dredgers has less to do with environmental benefit and more to with massive amounts of materials moved and damage to waterways and streambeds. 

The Mercury Blues
"The impacts of suction dredging on mercury mobilization and transport are potentially more significant than what is presented in the report." From Mercury section of External Peer Review of the Water Quality Impacts of Suction Dredging for Gold Presented in the Draft Subsequent Environmental Impact Report of February, 2011
Another of the “benefit myths” promulgated by suction dredgers and probably the most complicated is the one dealing with mercury removal.  We all know that mercury contamination is an important environmental issue and that gold miners polluted waterways with this toxic metal during gold rushes of the past.  While it is commendable that suction dredge gold miners want to remediate the sins of their predecessors, the question remains: Are they best equipped to do it?  And when that question has been asked of experts, the answer given is: No.  
Gravel and cobbles that entered the sluice at high velocity caused the mercury to flour, or break into tiny particles. Flouring was aggravated by agitation, exposure of mercury to air, and other chemical reactions.
"Gravel and cobbles that entered the sluice at high velocity caused the mercury to flour, or break into tiny particles. Flouring was aggravated by agitation, exposure of mercury to air, and other chemical reactions." From Mercury Contamination from Historical Gold Mining in California
A study conducted in 2005 that examined the removal of mercury by suction dredges found that the dredges removed 97% of the elemental mercury.  This is the finding that the suction dredgers tend to focus on and promote.  But there is a "Paul Harvey" moment here too, and that is that the discharge from those dredges would be considered a toxic waste and contains “floured” mercury which is mercury that is easily transformed into a biologically harmful form and transported in the river current.  An independent review of the 2005 study reinforced the findings and said that the peril described was conservative.  
The basic message being that it is better to leave the mercury where it is and undisturbed than to try and remove it with recreational suction dredges.  Now suction dredgers—wanting to confuse the issue—have claimed that a proposal to remove mercury from Combie Reservoir in the foothills of the Sierra using modified suction dredges for sediment acquisition proves that suction dredgers should be allowed to perform this “service” and they see this as equivalent to their actions.  My only possible and appropriate response is: Poppycock. 
Combie Reservoir
The proposed Combie project protocol takes the water and sediments, and pumps them into what is essentially an onshore laboratory which uses centrifuges to extract elemental mercury (see above excerpt from Combie plan).  Then the remaining materials are subjected to sophisticated magnetic and chemical treatments, before being sent to the equivalent of a high-tech sewage treatment facility with frequent testing happening at every step of the process.  Comparing recreational suction dredge mining with the above process is about as appropriate as comparing an abacus with a modern calculator.

Dredging Only Mimics Natural Processes
The last related myth we see is that some are arguing that suction dredging mimics natural processes like storm events and what suction dredgers do is no different than what nature does.  There are obvious problems with that in terms of timing and magnitude.  Our salmon have evolved over the years to make the best use of fluctuating, but fairly predictable cycles of rain, snow melt and dryness.  The lifecycles and life stages of these fish are dependent on these cycles.  Suction dredges inject disturbance during a time when these systems are least able to deal with disturbance.
The magnitude issue is a little more complicated.  Winter storms bring massive changes to rivers, streams, and other waterways.  These seem absolutely chaotic and without pattern or purpose, yet they also leave significant elements and often those are gravel beds and riffles that have become “armored” by a complex combination of cobble, gravel and silt over time.  Suction dredging disassembles these structures and redeposits the constituent parts in tailings that are more likely to be scoured from the streambed.  
While this may be characterized as trivial in the big picture view of rivers and tributaries, when you are dealing with endangered and challenged fish, actions that cause or are likely to cause redd failure cannot be allowed or enabled.  
AMRA Salmon
People who love an activity are very resistant to being told that it causes problems. Because of that, a system of myths has been developed by those who want to feel good about their actions or who gain economically from the continuance of the activity.  Unfortunately, for the former, these myths are simply not supported by science or experience.  

Suction Dredge Reform Bill Passes Legislature

Salem Statesman Journal by Zach Urness
July 8, 2013
A bill that would scale back the number of suction dredge mining permits issued in Oregon has passed the House and Senate and heads to the desk of Gov. John Kitzhaber, who is expected to sign the bill into law.
Senate Bill 838 restricts the number of permits to 850 statewide — the number issued in 2009 — and directs the governor’s office to create a regulatory framework for how, where and when suction dredging can occur. If revisions aren’t implemented in two years, a five-year moratorium on most salmon rivers would go into effect in January 2016.
The bill, which also limits the number of miners to one every 500 feet on a river and prohibits mining in salmon spawning areas year-round, passed the House 33-27 on Sunday and the Senate 17-13 on July 3.
The bill was spurred by a sharp increase in suction dredge mining on Oregon’s rivers, most noticeably in the southwest on the Rogue and South Umpqua. The number of permits issued jumped from 414 in 2005 to 2,409 in 2012, due largely to a moratorium issued by California in 2009 and the skyrocketing price of gold during the recession.
Proponents of the bill claimed that section dredges, large gasoline-powered vacuums that suck gravel from stream bottoms and run it through a device that collects minerals such as gold flecks, is damaging to salmon habitat and water quality.
Miners contend that the practice is harmless — that natural high water events alter stream beds far more than mining — and actually improve fish habitat by breaking up stream bottoms for spawning and removing harmful metals such as mercury.
“They’re basically killing off an industry,” said Robert Stumbo, who owns the Armadillo Mining Shop in Grants Pass. “Our suction dredge sales have dropped to zero with just the threat of this bill. You can’t grow a business with only 850 permits being issued. Miners that live outside the state won’t be able to come in and work their claim.
“This bill is not about harming fishing; it’s a personal vendetta against miners.”
Environmental groups say the law provides a chance to step back and come up with common-sense regulations while still allowing miners the chance to use suction dredges. The law gives preference to miners who held permits in 2009, which would largely favor Oregonians.
“There will be over two years of public process to ensure that these new regulations are well thought out, scientifically based and effective,” said Josh Laughlin of Cascadia Wildlands. “This is a fair and balanced process that will benefit clean water and salmon into the future.”
The bill is something of a compromise, considering the original called for a statewide moratorium.
"This legislation doesn’t solve the problem,” said Erik Fernandez of Oregon Wild, a Portland-based conservation group. “But it’s an important step forward in dealing with the invasion of Californians looking to mine Oregon rivers.”

Oregon Suction Dredge Hearing April 15, 2013 3PM

If you care about salmon and steelhead recovery in Oregon's most precious rivers like the Rogue, Umpqua and Chetco and want to protect these waterways from the harmful effects of suction dredge mining for gold, please come to Salem this coming Monday April 15, 2013 to have your voice heard.  Please speak up for the fish and for quiet on the rivers we all enjoy and cherish.  Public testimony starts at 3PM so come earlier and get signed up.  Be prepared to give thoughtful and respectful testimony for no more than 2-3 minutes. Email Josh Laughlin to carpool from Eugene.


Hearing on Suction Dredging Moratorium


Hearing Room C

900 Court St NE  Salem, OR


3pm on Monday April 15th.

Oregon residents, if you cannot make the above please submit comments and spread this notice around.

For additional background please see:

Western Mining Alliance and Brain Surgery by Dentists

Ted Williams article on Suction Dredging in Fly Rod and Reel Magazine

Statements by the Oregon Chapter of the American Fisheries Society 




Western Mining Alliance and Brain Surgery by Dentists


By Bob Ferris

Would you go to a dentist if you had serious head aches or needed a brain tumor removed? The obvious answer to that is: No, even though both dentists and brain surgeons are highly educated, work on your head and use drills. But that is basically what the Western Mining Alliance and their suction dredging allies are asking you to do by rolling out Joseph Greene and Claudia Wise as experts on suction dredge mining and the risks posed by that activity to our precious rivers and imperiled salmon and steelhead. Actually it is worse than that because the credentials of these two scientists in their own fields make it more akin to asking a senior and skilled dental technician to dig around in your brain pan.
Too harsh? Not really. While this pair of retired US EPA scientists—one a toxicologist (Greene) and the other a physical chemist (Wise)—have certainly provided some good science in their time and in their respective fields, they have aggressively inserted themselves in a debate where they lack credentials and stature; are behaving unprofessionally; and have serious conflicts of interest. While they are certainly entitled to have their say as private citizens and have said it, now they are acting a lot like uninvited and obnoxious house guests who were supposed to spend one night and ended up staying a week or more.
Wrong Field, Grounding, and Stature
Toxicology (Greene) and the physical sciences (Wise) are primarily test tube disciplines and though they share some methodologies and philosophies with field-oriented disciplines like fisheries biology and ecology there are many differences in terms of language, expectations, logic, and awareness.  All are valuable fields and their science meritorious but we also should acknowledge that they attract different minds, personalities and professional approaches.  In short, having skills and experience in one area does not always directly transfer into another.  
Now I could go into great detail here on degrees held—which Mr. Greene and Ms. Wise are pretty cagey about—and quality, quantity and thrust of work, but I will use a surrogate device: The New York Times editorial department.  Much has been made on the mining blogs of the fact that two PhD-level fisheries scientists—Bob Hughes and Carol Woody—wrote an opinion piece in the New York Times in January 2012 on the need for reform of the 1872 Mining Act which contained a sentence on suction dredging.  Mr. Greene and Ms. Wise wrote a rebuttal of sorts and were incensed—along with their cadre of supporters—that their piece was not accepted and printed.  The mining community saw this as another example of them not getting a fair shake, but the reality is more revealing. 
There are several elements at work here.  First is that while members of the mining community salute this pair and celebrate their self-manufactured stature, others do not.  Most see the supreme irony of a pair of mid-level non-fisheries scientists saying that two senior-level fisheries scientists are “fishes out of water.” The hard truth of the matter is that our intrepid pair simply do not meet the minimum entry level on this issue—i.e., they are not recognized experts in this field in spite of their self-labeling, not even close.  
Moreover, there is the writing.  The New York Times has very high editorial standards.  The piece written by Mr. Greene and Ms. Wise is simply not very strong or compelling and has typographical glitches and errors in grammar.  They are certainly entitled to grouse about this rejection but in the end their expectations were unrealistic and their execution wanting.
Unprofessional Behavior
“I have reviewed the declaration of Toz Soto filed in support of the plaintiff’s summary judgment in the above-captioned lawsuit as well as the “Summary of Fishery Issues Concerning Suction Dredge Mining” prepared by Jon Grunbaum and dated April 20, 2005.
3.  The papers authored by Mr. Grunbaum and Mr. Soto are rife with qualifying statements. Examples are, “could”, “could be”, “appear to be”, “are quite possible”, “assume”, “may not be”, and “should be.” These are not scientific statements and in general represent subjective opinions.” From the declaration of Joseph Greene (2005)
The above comment by Mr. Greene is telling on a number of different levels.  First his criticism is unfair and demonstrates insensitivity to the challenges of field versus lab science, i.e., you can control variables in the latter and have to design around variables in the former.  He is basically criticizing them for being responsible in their comments and exhibiting prudence.  But there is more here because he is also being disingenuous.  To explore the depth and implications of this latter issue we have only to look at Mr. Greene’s own publications.  
In Mr. Greene’s co-authored 1996 paper on dye toxicity we see the following phrases:  Almost certainly exists…It probably is significant…is likely to result…this, in turn, suggests…may be a strong function…could be due…there is little reason to believe…is probably strongly affected.  These statements are very similar to those Mr. Greene snidely criticizes above.  But my all-time favorite from this paper is: it is not possible to rule out the possibility that…  
To be clear, I am not criticizing this paper nor am I criticizing Mr. Greene or his co-author for inserting qualifying language or speculating in the absence of testing or quantifying doubt about why certain effects were not observed or manifested during their laboratory testing.  All this is prudent and what we expect from experts.  What I criticize is his calling out other scientists for engaging in the same exercise and making this seem—at least to his “audience”—something unusual, underhanded or compromising of their expert conclusions.
64 See Email from Joe Greene, supra note 31. Greene erroneously relies on the Oregon State University study, stating that “Dr. Bayley’s study and other works confirm that even when analyzed from a cumulative effects perspective, there is no reason to believe that suction dredge mining is deleterious to fish.” Id. Bayley’s study did not actually test the cumulative effects of suction dredge mining due to the constraints of the experiment. Adrianne Delcotto Suction Dredge Mining: The United States Forest Service Hands Miners the Golden Ticket in Environmental Law Vol. 40 No. 3
Mr. Greene’s attention to detail is often lacking.  Whether this is just a question of lack of rigor or some larger issue is not completely clear.  He has made the above erroneous statement repeatedly in letters and other communications.  This and other easily verifiable misstatements have been brought to his attention, and I can see no evidence of self-editing.  As science is constantly evolving and becoming more complex, we all frequently adjust our comments in light of more current findings.  When one does not do so, there is a problem.  My sense is that Mr. Greene is driven much more by his hobby and politics than science.  
 “A lifetime of biological testing on toxicity and nutrient pollution in the aquatic environment provides a sound basis for appreciating the magnitude of impacts associated with the asserted environmental contaminants, and gives a quantitative perspective generally lacking in general biologists, which leaves them less able to ascertain which environmental effects are significant and which aren’t.”  Joe Greene Letter to Katharine Carter North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board March 23, 2010 
The field of science is full of egos, but rarely do you see them get as out of control as the above and with less reason.  Mr. Greene frequently talks about his 30-year experience and 14-page resume, but is very elusive about basic information such as where he went to school and what degree or degrees he holds.  In the world of science this is not normal.  We talk openly about our degrees and publications.  Perhaps Mr. Greene is unaware that since he entered college in the late 1950s that all sub-disciplines of the biological sciences have become more quantitative in their approaches.  Yes we still talk about “Physics envy” but that is not because we lack quantitative skills or understanding but rather that we have to work much harder and use increasingly complicated statistics and multivariate analyses to answer our questions in situations where we have little or no control over the variables.  Reviewing Mr. Greene’s body of work, I see scant employment of these higher order analyses, certainly nothing to justify his vaunted opinion of his skills versus those with more advanced credentials that he frequently criticizes.  
Vested Parties and Conflicts of Interests
And now we come to what brings our two retired scientists to the dance in the first place—they are both officers in the Millennium Diggers organization.  In addition, Mr. Greene, his wife and partners owned mining claims in Oregon totaling several hundred acres of federal public land.  So they are participants and at least one of them was financially vested in the outcome of this debate.  That for me and many others raises red flags about their participation in this debate and the relative value of their input.
Now I understand as a fisherman and one who frequently uses waterways for other forms of recreation that I have a vested interest in this issue and therefore a conflict.  I freely admit that my views are colored by my recreational activities, that said, I think my situation and that of other anglers in the conservation arena differs.  How?  I think it is a matter of our relationship with those waters and our attitudes towards what I would call mitigating stewardship.  I do fish, raft, and kayak but I spend more of my spare time restoring and caring for those resources than I do utilizing them.  My wife and I, for instance, have been on more weekend river clean-ups or riparian tree plantings than we have been on fishing trips.  When I lived on the Chesapeake I planted way more oysters than I ate and when we lived in Santa Barbara we dedicated more of  our free time to habitat restoration or other actions that raised public awareness than we did enjoying our past-times. 

Yes, suction dredgers like Mr. Greene remove some fishing lead from waterways but that is a byproduct of materials movement and gravity, not proactive stewardship.  Mr. Greene’s version of proactive stewardship appears to be his lobbying actions to make sure that cars, trucks and OHVs are still allowed to drive through the waters of the cherished Chetco River.  

“There is no science supporting the claims that vehicular traffic crossing the river is damaging it.” Joseph C. Greene Research Biologist USEPA Retired
He argues for this—as he typically does—via a misleading statement about documentation of damage.  Yes there is likely no specific science indicating that vehicle traffic is harming the Chetco.  That is very different, however, than saying vehicles driven through the river are not compromising water quality or harming fish habitat.  There is a body of science with sufficient scope of inference to conclude that driving vehicles through most waterways impacts fisheries.   As humans we would hope that we would be able to learn from the missteps and mistakes of others rather than having to do the same ill-advised actions time after time.  
“There is no science showing oil and other chemicals washed off vehicles harm the river any more than that of chemicals that wash off roads.  The State Fish and Game [sic] Department has never investigated industry along the river because fish survivability has never been impacted.” Joseph C. Greene Research Biologist USEPA Retired.
The above is a novel, school-yard argument, but how is it in any way biologically defensible?  Something does not have to be worse than something else to have an impact.  It is biologically prudent to minimize road runoff just as it is biologically prudent to keep vehicles out of waterways wherever possible.  The two are not in conflict nor are they mutually exclusive.  Further the state agency is the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife rather than “game” and it looks like Mr. Greene has failed to notice the general decline in native salmon fisheries over the last fifty years which happened during the time that vehicles were driving through the river.
“This issue is best left to the local residents of Curry County.  Please vote no on House Bill 3251.” Joseph C. Greene Research Biologist USEPA Retired.  
This last section is also interesting.  Perhaps Mr. Greene forgets that he lives in Philomath which is Benton County not Curry.  Further this bill deals with Oregon state lands not Curry County’s, and we have fish that are of concern nationally and internationally.  All of this demands a broader public involvement.  
Applicable Standards and Thresholds of Proof
Section 7 (2) Each Federal agency shall, in consultation with and with the assistance of the Secretary, insure that any action authorized, funded, or carried out by such agency (hereinafter in this section referred to as an ‘‘agency action’’) is not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of any endangered species or threatened species or result in the destruction or adverse modification of habitat of such species which is determined by the Secretary, after consultation as appropriate with affected States, to be critical, unless such agency has been granted an exemption for such action by the Committee pursuant to subsection (h) of this section. In fulfilling the requirements of this paragraph each agency shall use the best scientific and commercial data available.  Section 7 (2) of the Endangered Species Act (1973)
The Endangered Species Act and other similar pieces of legislation are rightfully designed to give the benefit of the doubt to species that are on the list because they require special protections.  The Act does not say that all actions can take place unless they are proven to cause harm—there is an element of the precautionary principle (i.e., first do no harm) explicitly woven into the Act.  This is a thread or theme that seems to escape Mr. Greene and Ms. Wise which is interesting given that so much of what the USEPA does unfolds in a similar fashion—i.e., proceed with caution and require reasonable proof of safety prior to use.  
Certainly they and their colleagues in the mining sector have provided studies that indicate minimal or temporary harm.  Fair enough, but there are also many studies that indicate actual harm to individuals within an imperiled population, their supporting food cycles, or the variety of habitats they need to survive.  Fisheries scientists and other toxicologists (when it comes to the release of sequestered mercury) are simply exercising the same prudence and commendable caution exhibited in the above cited paper on fabric dyes or the cautionary wording included in Ms. Wise’s work with Douglas firs and elements of climate change. 
This above caution should also be anticipatory.  Suction dredging permits in Oregon have doubled recently.  And there are groups in California and elsewhere such as Gold Pan California and The New 49er’s that are looking to maximize the number of permits through schemes to put multiple permit holders simultaneously on claims—sort of a condominium scheme that seems hardly legal or ethical.  Should not the most responsible action of any legislature or agency seeing a rapid rise of any activity with negative or unknown consequences be to say “time out” until more is known?
And then there is the Western Mining Alliance
“THIS IS REALLY IMPORTANT- they [Gold Pan California] want you to sign in as joe public and NOT AS MINERS. Create a name like "naturelover2" or "fielddreamer" or "soccermom" or something that makes you sound like you are the public and NOT MINERS. They want you to make pro-miner comments, but not to the point that you sound like miners- they want it to sound like you are the common public standing up for the miners. 
There needs to be a lot of buzz on this so it gets picked up by bigger and bigger press. The more buzz we create about the topic, the more exposure it will get.” E-mail by Rick Solinsky suction dredger and co-founder of Western Mining Alliance
The Western Mining Alliance itself is a castle of deceit. Its “.org” designation makes one think that it is a benign 501(c)3 non-profit organization though it is not registered as such. Its president goes by the moniker of Molon Labe which is an alias. Molon Labe is the phrase reportedly uttered by the Spartan king Leonidas to the Persians at Thermopile. It basically means “come and take.” It seems in poor taste that this modern day small force that aggressively promotes bad science, loopholes and subterfuge like the above has elected to use this phrase that is associated with one of the most straight-forward and courageous acts in history.  But I suppose in all of this gold fever and greed often bring out the worst in mankind. 
Needed Actions:
Other Documents:

Excerpt from:Sucking Up Riverbeds–Is suction dredging ruining your favorite trout stream?


Excerpt from: 

Sucking Up Riverbeds–Is suction dredging ruining your favorite trout stream?
By Ted Williams Fly Rod and Reel Magazine Spring 2013
“Part of the [suction dredgers’] pitch seems to be that mucking up rivers flowing through public lands is an honest-to-goodness, Don’t-Tread-On-Me, all-American right,” submits Cascadia Wildlands director Bob Ferris. “Poppycock . . . . Suction dredging is not a ‘right’ nor is mucking up the water for the rest of us—particularly in streams and rivers that run though public lands or hold imperiled species such as coho and Chinook salmon or bull trout.”
Feeding the flow of what Ferris calls “poppycock” are retired EPA scientists Joe Greene and Claudia Wise, both officers in the mining support group Millennium Diggers and both self-proclaimed experts on the effects of suction dredging. According to Ferris, they don’t initially disclose their passion for dredging or their mining affiliations. He chides the more loquacious Greene for quoting “laughable” conclusions from a nearly 75-year-old water-chemistry study and making public statements that are “deceptive, unprofessional in nature, and politically and personally motivated.”
Nothing I have read by Greene and Wise has led me to disagree with Ferris’s assessment of their credibility. Still, they were the spokespeople the dredgers turned to after the Karuk tribe filed a 2005 complaint in Superior Court of Alameda County against the California Department of Fish and Game, for allowing suction dredgers to damage the habitat of listed fish in the Klamath, Scott and Salmon rivers and specified tributaries.

Op-ed: Gold Dredging Damages Habitat, Harms Economy

Register-Guard guest opinion by Frank Armendariz and Chris Daughters
March 24, 2013

In his March 10 guest viewpoint, Darold Smith suggests that suction dredge mining benefits endangered fish — but his claims are not supported by science, do a disservice to those focused on recovering our ailing wild salmon populations and offend businesses that rely on Oregon’s clean water for their livelihoods.

In fact, fisheries experts have documented myriad deleterious effects that suction dredge mining has on imperiled fish. That’s why the state of California recently placed a moratorium on the practice, and it’s why the Oregon Legislature is considering how best to safeguard our iconic waterways from this harmful activity. Decisive action to curb this reckless practice would create a lasting benefit for water quality, wild salmon and economic activity in Oregon.

As owners of river-based companies that rely on clean water and healthy fish runs for our success, we are encouraged that the Legislature is considering meaningful action to curb this practice that is fouling our common waterways. In search of gold, suction dredge miners require a noisy, gas-powered hydro pump and hose mounted on a raft. This equipment is used to aggressively vacuum sensitive gravel formations from the bottom of a river.

The river bottom and all the life it houses are passed through a sluice, where any gold flecks settle. The silt, debris and gravel are discharged back into the waterway, creating sediment plumes as long as a quarter-mile downstream. This makes an already compromised situation for aquatic life even worse.

With gold at near-record prices and the moratorium in California in place, a new gold rush is invading Oregon’s iconic waterways, with motorized dredges sucking up and spitting out the river bottoms that are critical to the ecological health of our waterways. Wild salmon strongholds such as the Illinois, Chetco, Rogue and South Umpqua rivers have become ground zero for this destructive hobby — and ironically, these are rivers where millions of dollars of taxpayer money and thousands of volunteer hours have been used to restore wild salmon.

For Smith to suggest that suction dredge mining is beneficial for fish is like saying secondhand smoke is good for your children. The contemporary research suggests that fish mortality occurs from destruction of eggs and fry from the suction process; that spawning habitat is reduced due to sedimentation created from suction dredge plumes; and that invertebrates and bivalves (read: fish food) on the river bottom are violently sucked up and displaced.

Researchers have also documented that suction dredge mining resuspends toxic mercury that settled in our waterways during the original Gold Rush, and that this has a lasting negative effect on the food chain.

Designating new State Scenic Waterways by the Legislature will not just be positive for water quality and salmon, but also for business in Oregon. Our pristine waterways are a gift to our economy that keeps on giving. People from around the world come to catch trout on the beloved McKenzie,­ ride the whitewater of the Rogue, land a salmon on the free-flowing Chetco and camp on the rugged Illinois.

These are the hundreds of thousands of people who fill the coffers of motels and bed-and-breakfast inns, gas stations and grocery stores off the beaten path. And they are the people who help sustain small businesses like ours.

A state of Oregon study recently concluded that outdoor recreation is a $2.5 billion industry in our state and growing. Clean water is big business. Adding to the State Scenic Water­way System will only bolster this impressive statistic.

We are encouraged that legislators like Sen. Alan Bates, D-Ashland, are pursuing a remedy to the destruction of our common waters. Additions to the State Scenic Waterway System will protect many of Oregon’s iconic river systems from harmful suction dredging and safeguard water quality for salmon and future generations. An action like this will pay dividends into the future for river-based business in Oregon and will further the legacy of clean water in our great state.

Frank Armendariz is the owner of River Trail Outfitters in Eugene. Chris Daughters is the owner of the Caddis Fly in Eugene.


Oregon Considers Gold Dredge Ban on Salmon Streams

Associated Press by Jeff Barnard, March 5, 2013

GRANTS PASS, Ore. (AP) — The Gold Rush of the 1850s helped settle Oregon, enticing sailors to jump ship and farmers to take a detour from the Oregon Trail.
More than a century later, some state lawmakers want to clamp down harder on modern gold-mining gear known as suction dredges in salmon streams, particularly in southwestern Oregon, where the Gold Rush first struck.

Powered by gasoline engines, suction dredges act like a big vacuum cleaner, sucking gravel off the river bottom and settling out the gold.

Suction dredging permits have doubled from 934 in 2009 to 1,941 in 2012, according to the state Department of Environmental Quality. Sen. Alan Bates, D-Medford, said the idea has been rattling around the Legislature for years, but he became concerned when the number of dredge permits started to approach 2,000.

"What we want to do is not have dredging in sensitive waters for salmon and steelhead rearing," Bates said.

Just what form restrictions would take is under discussion. Bates said an expansion of rivers protected under the Oregon Scenic Waterways Act is one likely method, since the act prohibits mining in protected rivers.

Another could be a moratorium like the one adopted by California in 2009, which sent some miners across the border into Oregon.

"When it comes out, hopefully there will be something to protect the rivers and allow some mining yet in areas we think are safe," Bates said. "We need to get the science right, and we're still gathering that."

Oregon protects 19 segments of rivers as scenic waterways, including parts of the Rogue, Illinois and Klamath rivers, which have long been mined for gold.

One bill, SB401, proposes expanding the scenic waterways list by 31 rivers, including 13 in southwestern Oregon. Among them is Josephine Creek near Kerby, where the discovery of gold in 1851 set off the Oregon end of the Gold Rush.

Another bill, SB115, would prohibit placer mining statewide, leaving open recreational mining with a small dredge. A third, SB370, would require gold dredgers to pay $125 for a commercial placer mining permit, and restrict them to small dredges with hoses less than 4 inches in diameter.

Violations would be a misdemeanor punishable by 30 days in jail and a fine of $1,250.

The proposals have outraged gold miners, scores of whom rallied on the Capitol steps last week in Salem.

"You have the state now trying to pass a law that would prohibit mining on your mining claim (on federal land), which is a taking," said Tom Kitchar, president of the Waldo Mining District outside Grants Pass, who spoke at the rally. "There are numerous court cases that say the states and local governments cannot subvert the federal law.

"As far as I'm concerned, the environmentalists are parasites on society. They produce absolutely nothing," he added. "If (all the bills) passed, we probably wouldn't be able to do anything anywhere. Gold mining has been going on for 5,000 years. You are not going to stop it. They can pass all the laws they want, they are still going to mine. Especially on federal lands."

Salmon advocates have been tightening the screws on gold mining in rivers for decades, citing research that it releases toxic mercury into the water, alters the structure of river bottoms, and produces silt that chokes spawning gravels.

They have had trouble getting new federal river protections through Congress.

"Southwestern Oregon is where we are seeing the most destructive suction dredging activity," said Erik Fernandez of the conservation group Oregon Wild. "It goes back to the heart of this issue being clean water."

Oregon already prohibits suction dredging when salmon and steelhead lay their eggs in the river gravel. The state also sets limits on how much muddy water dredges can produce.


Protecting Oregon’s Rivers from Suction Dredge Mining

Editorial by the Register-Guard
March 4, 2013
Nearly a quarter century has passed since Oregon last updated the State Scenic Waterways Program, which increases protection for the state’s most treasured rivers and limits destructive activities such as suction-dredge mining.
The program, overwhelmingly approved by state voters in 1970, is long overdue for an update — especially in light of a recent surge in suction dredge mining on the state’s waterways, including the Rogue, Chetco and Illinois rivers.

State Sen. Alan Bates, D-Ashland, has introduced a bill that would expand the inventory of rivers in the scenic system to 30 from the current 19. It’s a modest yet strategically important proposal that would provide protection for one-half of 1 percent of the state’s rivers and streams, up from a current one-third of 1 percent. That’s hardly a conservation overreach, especially given the threat posed by suction-dredge mining.

Protected by a ludicrously outdated and environmentally indifferent 1872 federal mining law, miners have descended on some of Oregon’s wildest rivers with motorized suction dredges to search for gold and other minerals. The dredges suck up rocks and gravel from stream bottoms and dump them in a floating sluice. The gold sinks and is trapped, while the remainder is returned to the river or its banks.

Suction-dredge miners insist they’re merely rearranging the river bottom and are improving fish habitat. The opposite is true. Dredging fills spaces that oxygenate the water and provide habitat for insects that fish eat. Mining clouds normally clear rivers with fine sediment and unearths mercury deposits buried on the river bottom.

Several years ago the California Legislature wisely imposed a moratorium on suction dredging to give state fish and wildlife officials time to study the effects of mining on fish habitat and to devise new regulations.

Oregon lawmakers should have done the same to protect the state’s rivers and fish stocks. They failed to do so despite the urging of lawmakers such as then-state Sen. Jason Atkinson, a Central Point Republican and avid outdoorsman who minced no words in describing the damage caused by suction dredge prospectors: “They ruin — destroy — spawning habitat,” he said.

With California’s rivers off-limits to suction dredging until 2016, miners have turned to the rivers of Southwest Oregon, which feature some of the finest runs of salmon and steelhead in the lower 48 states. Miners have staked out claims along the Chetco, South Kalmiopsis, Illinois and Rogue rivers. A few have ventured as far north as the Metolius and John Day, as well as Quartz Creek, a tributary of the McKenzie River.

Bates’ bill would protect the Chetco, Rogue, Illinois and other Southern Oregon rivers that have been at the center of the dredge mining debate. It would also protect other waterways, including the Metolius, John Day, Grand Ronde, Sandy, Middle Fork Willamette and Yachats rivers, as well a portion of the upper McKenzie that is not already listed as an Oregon Scenic Waterway.

If these and other rivers proposed by Bates are added to the scenic waterways system, protection would extend to land a quarter mile on each side. Mining, logging, road building, construction of new buildings and other activities in those corridors would be subject to review by the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (existing development would not be affected and property owners would retain the right to use land outside the corridor).

Suction dredge mining has no place in Oregon waterways, and Bates’ bill is on target. The Legislature should give it careful consideration, reviewing the rivers proposed for protection and considering additions, and then take the necessary action to protect the state’s rivers.



Scenic rivers run through it


Oregon, that is — and Bates' bill would protect some of them from being dredged
February 22, 2013
Medford Mail Tribune
State Sen. Alan Bates, D-Medford, has introduced a bill that would restrict suction dredge gold mining on some parts of some creeks and rivers in the state. The measure is not the all-out attack on dredging that some miners will make it out to be, nor is it a threat to streamside property owners. It is a reasonable response to a surge in suction dredging and it deserves support.
Suction dredging uses gasoline-powered motors to vacuum up gravel and silt from the beds of creeks and rivers. Gold fragments are separated from the gravel, which is then returned to the stream.
State agency officials and environmental groups say dredging harms sensitive streambeds and threatens salmon and other fish that lay eggs in the gravel. Gravel and silt increase the turbidity of the water when returned to rivers and streams, which also threatens fish.
The state of California issued a moratorium on all suction dredge mining in 2009 over just those concerns. Some miners who had been dredging in California streams moved their operations into Oregon. At the same time, the rapidly rising price of gold drew more people to try dredging.
The number of permits issued by the Department of Environmental Quality rose from 934 in 2009 to nearly 2,000 in 2012.
A permit allows suction dredging in any waterway where it is not specifically restricted. State law already prohibits suction dredging in portions of 19 rivers designated as Oregon State Scenic Waterways. Bates' bill, Senate Bill 401, would add more sections of rivers and streams to the Scenic Waterways list.
Southern Oregon is a popular place for suction dredging. DEQ figures indicate portions of the Rogue, South Umpqua, Applegate, Little Applegate and Illinois account for more than half of the primary locations in Western Oregon.
Oregon voters created the State Scenic Waterways system 1970. Today, portions of 19 rivers and Waldo Lake are on the list, representing about one-third of 1 percent of all Oregon waterways. SB 401 would add one-quarter of 1 percent. In this area, the bill would add portions of the Rogue,
Some riverside landowners have expressed concern that portions of the Scenic Waterways law might affect their rights to use their property. In fact, property owners along Scenic Waterways are allowed to make any legal change to their property. The law requires only that they do so in consultation with the state Parks and Recreation Department.
The state law is not the same as the federal Wild & Scenic Rivers designation.
SB 401 would add segments of the Rogue, South Umpqua and Illinois rivers to the Scenic Waterways list. That is a modest step to protect Oregon's most precious and vulnerable waterways, leaving plenty of places where suction dredging can still occur. SB 401 deserves support.
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