Posts Tagged ‘suction dredge mining’


Press Release: WA Fish and Wildlife Commission Orders Rulemaking to Require Permits for Suction Dredge Mining

For immediate release
April 14, 2018
Contact: Gabe Scott, In-House Counsel (907) 491-0856;
Olympia, WA — A milestone for aquatic health was achieved today when the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission unanimously ordered the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to initiate a rulemaking process that would require individual permits for suction dredge mining in the state.
Suction dredge mining has become controversial throughout the West due to its impacts on aquatic ecosystems and salmon health. The practice requires the use of a motorized, floating dredge to vacuum up the streambed as miners look for gold flecks. Science has show that the process destabilizes the streambed environment, releasing plumes of silt and mercury and harming fish.
“Today’s vote is a significant victory for salmon and river health in the Evergreen State,” said Gabriel Scott, In-House Counsel for Cascadia Wildlands, who provided testimony in advance of the Commission’s vote. “The Commission deserves a lot of credit and wisely recognized that Washington can’t afford to keep giving suction dredge miners a free pass as they suck up our rivers in search of gold.”
Due to its impacts on watershed health, suction dredge mining has recently been reformed in neighboring states. California banned the practice in 2009 and earlier this year the US Supreme Court upheld the ban. In the 2017, the Oregon legislature outlawed the practice in key salmon waterways, and Idaho now requires stricter permitting to better protect its rivers.
Prior to today’s vote, Washington allowed suction dredge mining to occur without a permit.  However, the state still allows the practice to occur in designated critical habitat for Endangered Species Act-listed salmon and trout. Rivers important to salmon recovery, like the Nooksack, Peshastin, Methow and Wenatchee, have been hit hard by the practice.
“While today’s vote was a positive step forward, the state must make sure that adequate protections are put into place to ensure salmon and our rivers are protected from the impacts of suction dredge mining,” Scott added.
Cascadia Wildlands’ current lawsuit, Cascadia Wildlands vs. Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, was mentioned often in the Commission’s deliberations today, and the issues addressed by the Commission mirror the claims of the litigation. The lawsuit is currently pending in Washington Superior Court in Thurston County, and it is set for oral hearing in Olympia on July 6.

Press Release: Oregon House of Representatives Passes Suction-Dredge Mining Reform Bill

For immediate release
May 31, 2017
Contact: Nick Cady, Legal Director, Cascadia Wildlands, 314-482-3746
Salem, OR – The Oregon House passed legislation today in a show of bipartisan support to protect sensitive salmon and lamprey habitat from suction dredge mining. The Suction Dredge Reform bill (SB 3-A) takes a measured approach to protecting the most sensitive rivers and streams from the impacts of suction dredge mining, while still allowing suction dredges in areas where they do less harm.
Suction dredge mining is a form of recreational gold mining that uses a motorized, floating dredge to suck up the riverbed. Multiple scientific studies show that suction dredge mining can trap and kill young fish and fish eggs, release fine sediments that smother spawning gravel for salmon, and even stir up legacy mercury from historic mining operations.
The Suction Dredge Reform bill is the result of a long and collaborative process championed by the late Senator Alan Bates from southern Oregon. It represents a compromise, informed by input from anglers, conservation groups, local businesses, the mining industry, and others.
“The passage of Senate Bill 3 represents the triumph of local communities and the success of an incremental collaborative approach begun years ago with the passage of SB 838,” said Nick Cady, legal director of Cascadia Wildlands.  “Its passage proves that if the state takes initiative and leadership on conservation issues, Oregonians will arrive at bipartisan solutions that benefit our local businesses and environment.”
Clean rivers that support healthy fish and vibrant recreation are critical to state and local economies. In 2008, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife found that people spent $2.5 billion on fish and wildlife recreation in the state. The commercial fishing industry also relies on healthy rivers and salmon.
Under the Suction Dredge Reform bill, suction dredge mining is prohibited in spawning and rearing habitat for sensitive, threatened, or endangered salmonids and lamprey, termed “essential salmonid habitat.” Outside of these areas, suction dredge mining would be allowed under a Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) permit that places certain limits on where and how suction dredges can be operated in streams.
This bill establishes a permanent regulatory framework to manage suction dredge mining. In 2013, the Legislature first recognized the need to better protect sensitive species when it passed a bill to study the issue and implement a temporary moratorium in salmon and bull trout habitat.
“Right now, temporary protections for the most sensitive streams end in 2021,” said Stacey Detwiler of Rogue Riverkeeper, “Today’s vote is critical for the health of Oregon’s rivers and the communities that rely upon them.”
Today’s vote is an important step forward, building on bipartisan support demonstrated in the Senate.

Blog: Summer Interning with Cascadia Wildlands

by Legal Intern Kat Fiedler
This week I am wrapping up my legal internship with Cascadia Wildlands. I have spent my summer conducting legal research and drafting memos and litigation documents across the scope of Cascadia’s work. While much of my time was spent in the legal weeds, the breadth of issues left me with a snapshot of the threats that the wild places and wildlife face throughout Cascadia and a better understanding of the legal tools we have to stop them. My work has included challenging timber sales that threaten wildlife, water quality, and general ecosystem health, strengthening or preserving wildlife protections for both marbled murrelets and wolves, and strategizing over the faulty legal structure governing suction dredge mining in the state of Washington. I was also able to observe many of the administrative procedures that underlie much of the decision making surrounding our wild places.
Elliott-Tim G 61316-6820[11]Exploring these places was, of course, a highlight of the summer. In June, I joined Cascadia Wildlands’ Executive Director Josh Laughlin, Wildlands Campaign Director Robin Meacher, and a number of Cascadia members on a hike into the 30,500-acre proposed Devils Staircase wilderness down to the namesake waterfall in the Oregon Coast Range. The experience was incredible. Having to navigate and bushwhack through such an untouched place provides a much different experience. It’s hard, and it’s worth it. Nothing can be taken for granted. It is impossible to ignore the thickets of underbrush that grab at your ankles, or the call of an owl when you stop to catch your breath, or the sunlight punching through the canopy illuminating a pink rhododendron. We reached the Devils Staircase bruised, sweaty, and happy – ready for the refreshing water. And it was all ours for the afternoon. The forest gifted us salmonberries on the final stretch home.
But even our forests marred by a matrix of ownership and scars of our state’s timber history somehow feel equally alive. That’s the beauty of Oregon, of Cascadia. I explored the Elliott State Forest, located just south of Devil’s Staircase, and learned about its imperfect history, but also the current threat of privatization. This place, too, was rich. In just a few hours, hiking along an elk trail, we spotted a bear, heard the call of owls, stepped over cougar scat, and gazed up into the canopies of legacy Douglas firs. The Elliott is not disposable.
This place is what I call home, and it has been an enormous privilege to work to protect it alongside the amazing folks at Cascadia Wildlands. I will finish up my studies at the Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University and the Yale University School of Forestry and Environmental Studies this next year, and look forward to returning home to start my career continuing this work protecting our wild and public lands.
(Elliott State Forest photo by Tim Giraudier)

Cascadia Wildlands Joins Lawsuit to Protect Wild Salmon and Clean Water from Gold Mining

For Immediate Release, November 20, 2015
Forrest English, Rogue Riverkeeper, (541) 261-2030
Nick Cady, Cascadia Wildlands, (314) 482-3746
Jonathan Evans, Center for Biological Diversity, (510) 844-7118
Glen Spain, PCFFA, (541) 689-2000
Conservation, Fishing Groups Move to Join Lawsuit to Protect Oregon From Gold Mining Impacts
Groups Defend Restrictions on Mining Practices Harmful to Salmon, Waterways, Wildlife
SpawningMEDFORD, Ore.— To defend an Oregon law designed to protect wildlife from damaging gold mining along waterways, a broad coalition of groups moved to intervene today in a lawsuit by mining interests challenging the restrictions. Passed by the Oregon Legislature in 2013, Senate Bill 838 placed restrictions on gold mining using suction dredges and other motorized equipment along streams to prevent harmful impacts to salmon and develop a permitting process to better protect Oregon’s waterways. Miners are now alleging that the state law conflicts with federal laws passed in the 1800s to encourage westward expansion.
“We are defending the state of Oregon and the choice by its residents to protect iconic waterways and scenic rivers from damaging mining practices,” said Nick Cady, legal director of Cascadia Wildlands. “Asserting there is a ‘right to mine’ granted by an antiquated law from the 1800s is simply ridiculous.”
Suction dredge mining involves the use of a large, gas-powered vacuum to suck up gravel on the bottom of rivers in search of gold flakes. This practice targets gravel beds critical to salmon spawning and reproduction, and damages water quality and river hydrology. Motorized mining along streams clears riparian vegetation important for keeping streams cool for salmon survival, increases erosion, damages streamside wetlands and alters the floodplain.
“Suction dredge mining pollutes our waterways with toxic mercury, clouds streams with sediment, hurts endangered fish and wildlife and destroys cultural resources,” said Jonathan Evans, environmental health legal director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Oregonians have the right to safeguard the health of their families, waterways and wildlife from this damaging, outdated form of mining.”
The bill does not ban the mining practices, but simply puts in place temporary restrictions to protect areas critical to salmon and bull trout reproduction. The restrictions buy the state time to develop a regulatory regime for the relatively new mining practice.
“Motorized mining in and along our sensitive salmon streams is harmful to fish and water quality,” said Forrest English with Rogue Riverkeeper. “It’s high time to put the brakes on these methods of mining until long term solutions are developed that protect clean water and habitat for salmon.”
Concerns over this mining practice were heightened when miners began targeting iconic and high-use Oregon waterways and their tributaries.  
“Several south coast salmon-rich rivers are under threat from heavy suction-dredge mining every summer, especially the world-famous Rogue River, the Chetco River and their tributaries,” said Cameron La Follette with Oregon Coast Alliance. “The salmon economy is critically important to local communities on the south coast such as Brookings and Gold Beach. Oregon must restrict suction dredging to protect salmon habitat, water quality and community livelihood."
There are also concerns by numerous commercial and recreational organizations that suction dredge and other motorized mining practices are disruptive and harmful to fishing, an industry that generates approximately $780 million a year in spending in Oregon.  
“Letting a handful of people suck up whole river bottoms looking for flecks of gold makes no economic sense, since it destroys salmon habitat and just puts more commercial fishing families out of work,” said Glen Spain of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, a major commercial fishing industry association that is also intervening. “Senate Bill 838’s passage by the legislature simply recognized that it is not a good idea for the state of Oregon to continue to use taxpayer money to heavily subsidize the destruction of our rivers.”
The groups are also looking to protect the public’s investment in salmon restoration.  Hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars have been expended to restore streams damaged by past mining and industrial practices. The use of suction dredges and motorized mining equipment has been undoing many of these efforts.
“Allowing gas-powered dredges and heavy equipment to damage our delicate salmon streams directly undermines the $254 million investment Oregonians have made in salmon habitat restoration,” said Mark Sherwood with the Native Fish Society. “Oregonians and wild salmon deserve better.”  
The intervening organizations include Rogue Riverkeeper, Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations and Institute for Fisheries, the Center for Biological Diversity, Oregon Coast Alliance, Native Fish Society and Cascadia Wildlands. They are represented by Pete Frost of the Western Environmental Law Center and Roger Flynn of Western Mining Action Project.



The Suction Dredging War Starts in Washington: Gentlemen Do Not Start Your Engines

By Bob Ferris


The above clip came to mind when I was dealing with a recent posting on a fishing site about suction dredge mining in Washington State.  No one expects the Spanish Inquisition and most are not prepared for the onslaught of vitriol, misinformation, threats and bullying typically unleashed by the suction dredge crowd anytime anyone questions their “rights” to run wild and go motorized in our precious and vulnerable salmon-bearing waterways.  
This rapid fire electronic carpet bombing by internet trolls is part of an escalating pattern that we have seen over the past decade or so as the idea of sucking up gravel and silt from the bottom of rivers and streams using noisy machines has gained public scrutiny and attention.  
Another element of this pattern are states and federal agencies that are wholly unprepared to deal with this issue.  Collectively they have historically worked to enable and simplify permitting without giving any substantive thought to the need for monitoring, enforcement and a consideration of the cumulative and material impacts of this destructive activity—particularly in waterways with struggling salmonids.  The agencies are as unprepared for this assault as we often are.
In Washington State the agencies seem much like Bambi—the fawn portrayed above.  They have written a nice pamphlet and have a rudimentary permitting program. They have even formed some ill-advised partnerships with suction dredge miners to undertake mercury removal in spite of strong and repeated evidence that this is not a good idea. And now the “Godzilla” created by the ban in California and the restrictions in Oregon is striding purposely towards them one giant, reverberating footfall at a time.  Boom.
And who exactly is this horde presently in and now heading north to Washington State?  If you read the comments section of this site and the steelhead site as well as follow what the miners are doing in Southern Oregon, the answer to that is not positive.  In short, they are generally folks with extreme views and behaviors with a high level of resentment to regulation.  And even though they appear largely without advanced education—as evidenced by spelling, grammar and correctness of expression—they appear to lack a corresponding humility because their frequent claims to know more about law than lawyers and more about fish and fisheries impacts than ichthyologists.
Racist Tribe Quote
The suction dredge miners are also monumentally unaware.  Cascadia is a region defined by rivers frequently named for and still held sacred by tribes working hard to cling to their aquatic heritage.  These are important and valued characteristics of the region to many of us who work with tribes to fulfill the dream of recovered salmon runs and fully functioning coastal ecosystems.  This is in sharp contrast to the overtly racist tone we frequently see from suction dredgers in comment sections.  The quote above (click to enlarge) from a poster known as Terry McClure is particularly offensive but it is by no means unique.

In addition, one of the frequent commenters on the Washington dredge piece is a fellow who dredges throughout Cascadia and also sells dredge concentrates on the internet to those who want to pay $50 a pop to pan for gold.  This dredger’s LLC is called Blue Sky Gold Mining which sounds very close to the title of the song by the Australian rock group Midnight Oil—Blue Sky Mining—that became an environmental anthem highlighting the deleterious impacts of mining.  I wonder if he understands the irony in that name?
And I wonder if salmon restoration supporters, the tribes, Washington legislators and the state and federal agencies can come together to deal with the existing issue and the looming increase before our salmon and waterways pay the price of this laissez-faire approach to suction dredgers.  Join Fish not Gold and get active. 

We are Salmon

By Bob FerrisMattCasselman_1598Frasier reds

When reading Tim Egan’s recent op-ed in the New York Times on salmon I was reminded of an “aha” moment I recently experienced at the Tongass talk I gave for the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry Science Pub.  Towards the end of the talk I asked the crowd of 90 or so if anyone had never eaten salmon.  No one raised their hand.  No one.

"…what if I told you that the trees are here, in part, because of the salmon? That the trees that shelter and feed the fish, that help build the fish, are themselves built by the fish?" Carl Safina, essayist for “Salmon in the Trees” by Amy Gulick (2010)

When I say “we are salmon,” it is really quite literal because some part of our chemical makeup comes from salmon.  When we consume salmon we certainly derive energy and enjoy taste but our body also takes part of that salmon and incorporates it physically. As Carl Safina suggests above our forests are built in part from salmon, but so are we and we should remember and honor that happenstance.  

Wyden Rally Poster FINAL 10.1.2013Perhaps this is why it is or should be so important for us to fight for salmon and why it has become so important for this organization to stand up against clearcutting of the Tongass, the Elliott and the O&C lands.  It is also the reason why we have opposed GMO salmon and suction dredging for gold in our rivers.  While it is great that we have taken these public stances, you need to channel your inner fish and do likewise.  The good news is that there are many opportunities for this locally, regionally and nationally.

Feel Your Fins and Let Your Activism Swim:

Comment on the Tongass clearcutting schemes

Attend the October 1st Rally for Forests in Portland and Send Senator Wyden your thoughts on the O&C Lands  



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.”

County Votes Against Anti-mining Effort

Eugene Weekly by Camilla Mortensen
May 2, 2013
The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife killed sea lion number CO22 (or as activist group Sea Shepherd dubbed him, Brian) April 16, for eating too many salmon, but conservationists say that it’s suction dredge mining, sucking up riverbeds in giant vacuums, that poses a bigger threat to Oregon’s rivers and their fish.

There are currently two bills in the Oregon Legislature that could protect Oregon’s rivers from suction dredging and the Lane County commission’s conservative majority recently voted not to support one of them, Senate Bill 401. The other one, SB 838, did not come up for county vote.

SB 401 started off as a bill to put a Scenic Waterway designation on more of Oregon’s rivers and tributaries. Portions of the McKenzie River are already protected as an Oregon Scenic Waterway, but SB 401 would protect the water of the lower McKenzie and its summer steelhead, endangered spring Chinook salmon, endangered bull trout, rainbow trout and cutthroat trout.

Scenic waterways protection means that the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department must be notified of activities proposed within a quarter mile of the bank, such as cutting trees, mining and constructing roads, railroads, utilities, buildings or other structures. The conservative majority of the County Commission bristled at this during their April 23 meeting. They also appeared to not be up-to-date on the current version of SB 401, which according to Josh Laughlin of Cascadia Wildlands, as it has been amended would only require the state of Oregon to review a list of 30 stretches of waterways named in the bill and make a recommendation in two years whether they should be included as scenic waterways.

Commissioner Jay Bozievich said at the meeting he thought that if the parks department “can’t seem to maintain their current parks,” citing issues with Glass Bar Island, then adding more rivers to the list would be problematic. Farr agreed, but specified he was not opposed to protecting drinking water. Commissioner Faye Stewart said he had been contacted by people up the McKenzie concerned about how the river protection might affect “what they can and cannot do on their property.” Pete Sorenson was the only commissioner to vote that the county should endorse SB 401 and look to protecting the river. “Voting against the bills means they are voting against clean water and wild salmon recovery. That is not a popular position this day and age,” Laughlin says.

Stewart also brought up a moratorium on suction dredge mining, but that moratorium is actually part of SB 838, which the county did not vote on. Laughlin says 838 would put a five-year moratorium on suction dredging in state-designated essential salmon habitat until a modernized suction dredge system was implemented.

Laughlin says not only is suction dredging bad for salmon, it can affect human health when mercury becomes converted into methyl mercury, a form that’s toxic to humans and moves easily through the food chain. He says he finds it “incredible that Oregon takes great efforts to protect and restore salmon, like shutting down the commercial fishery periodically or shooting sea lions at Bonneville Dam, but we allow gas-powered vacuums to suck up river bottoms in critical salmon streams.”


Lawmakers mull gold dredging moratorium


By Jeff Barnard The Associated Press

April 19, 2013
A bill to put a five-year moratorium on using suction dredges to mine for gold in key salmon streams is moving through the Oregon Legislature.
By a 3-2 vote Wednesday night, the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee referred Senate Bill 838 to the Joint Ways and Means Committee for further consideration.
Co-sponsor Sen. Alan Bates, a Medford Democrat, said new federal permit requirements in Idaho and a state moratorium in California are pushing thousands of small-scale gold miners to Oregon, primarily the southwestern corner of the state that was home to the 1850s Gold Rush.
He said the moratorium will give time to study how the motorized dredges affect water quality and salmon.
“I still think there is a middle ground, that will allow a place for miners to go if they are careful, and follow the right regulations,” Bates said. “Neither side is willing to come together and talk to each other. People sitting before the committee were raising their voices. The miners feel strongly. I understand that.”
Bates said he was not sure the bill had the votes to clear the Senate, but he was particularly moved by a report from scientists with the Oregon Chapter of the American Fisheries Society who pointed out threats to salmon from the dredges.
In written testimony submitted to the committee, miners said fish and water quality already are protected by existing regulations, a moratorium would kill an industry worth millions of dollars and put a financial hardship on miners who depend on gold to feed and clothe their families. They said the state had no authority to restrict work on mining claims on federal land.

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.
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