Permanent ban on suction dredging passes Oregon
Herald and News June 2, 2017
SALEM (AP) — Suction dredge mining could be permanently banned
from Western Oregon’s wild salmon habitat under a bill that has
passed the Oregon House.
The bill creating stream protection passed Wednesday and is
awaiting Gov. Kate Brown’s pledged signature, The Mail Tribune
Suction dredging uses floating vacuums to suck gravel from a
stream bottoms. Material vacuumed by the dredges then go through
sluices so miners can strain out gold and other heavy metals.
Sand, silt and other fine material are discharged into the
Wild-salmon advocates say the process damages spawning grounds
and rearing habitat. Miners have argued current laws already
protect salmon habitat and that no peer-reviewed study on
suction dredging proves it ruins salmon habitats exists.
The bill would make permanent 2016’s temporary ban on suction
dredging within creeks and rivers deemed “essential salmon
habitat.” The bill also bans dredging in habitat of Pacific
lamprey, which are also present in the Rogue Basin.
In 2013, the Legislature passed a bill detailing new dredging
restrictions, capping the number of dredging permits offered
annually in Oregon and limiting some of the times, locations and
manner for how dredgers operate. It was designed to expire at
the end of 2015 to give the Legislature time to grapple with
permanent rules, which are now on the horizon.
Salmon and stream advocates see the measure as a good way of
protecting wild salmon while still allowing dredging in places
such as eastern Oregon.
“We think it really is a compromise that protects rivers but not
at the total expense of suction-dredge mining, which can still
occur in rivers in the rest of the state,” said Stacey Detwiler,
conservation director for the Ashland-based Rogue Riverkeeper.
Rick Barclay, of the Galice Mining District and a dredging
supporter, could not be reached for comment.
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