Saturday, August 21, 2010

State Senator wants to ban suction dredges

Suction dredge mining once occurred primarily on remote streams and rivers. Its proliferation on one of the most populous and visible stretches of the Rogue River could lead to the mining method being banned in Oregon.

State Senator Jason Atkinson (R-Central Point) standing on the banks of the Rogue watching about a dozen suction dredge mining operations:
 “I’ve seen what they do to rivers in California and it’s not going to happen in Oregon.”

Friday, August 20, 2010

Kalmiopsis Wilderness Trail Project

Dedicated volunteers with the Siskiyou Mountain Club recently restored about 8 miles of the 21 miles Trans-Kalmiopsis Trail. This is the only route that dives deep into the steep rugged canyons of Chetco River's watershed in the Kalmiopsis Wilderness. Work on the second leg of this project will begin on August 26 and end on September 5 or 6. Volunteers and donation are needed. If you can't commit to the ten days, they can use your help for shorter periods.

Read about the Siskiyou Mountain Club and their work at their blog - - and join the effort. Contact Gabe Howe at 503-545-4911 or e-mail him at

The Kalmiopsis Wilderness trail project, the club's formation and its goals are also described in the Medford Mail Tribune.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Eight plans submitted to mine the Chetco River

On June 2, 2010, Chetco River Mining and Exploration's (CRME) owner called in to KBOO Radio. He said:
"[We] assure Oregonians that after mining this area we intend to follow up with an aggressive thorough clean up of the area and bring this entire 15-20 mile stretch ecosystem back to its original state, after we strip mine it of its gold.” (Emphasis added) KBOO - 6/02/2010.
The blue-green waters of the Chetco River. Photo Barbara Ullian
What CRME means by strip mining the Chetco of its gold is anyone's guess. These are their words not ours. The amount of mining they propose at each of their claims is described in the eight mining plans the company submitted to the Forest Service to mine approximately 20 miles of this Wild and Scenic River.

Brookings - Chetco meeting packed and positive

The room at the Brookings library was packed for Lesley Adam’s (Rogue RiverKeeper) presentation on the Wild and Scenic Chetco River, why it matters and the issues facing it.  About 70 to 80 people were in attendance on August 5th.  The  conversation was lively and enthused, fueled by homemade cookies and coffee brought by volunteers.  The next day, the meeting was reported to be the talk of Brookings, the community at the mouth of the Chetco River on southwest Oregon's spectacular Wild Rivers Coast.  Thanks to everyone who contributed to the great evening.

Chetco River in the news

The Medford Mail Tribune recently editorialized on the need for Congress to reform the 1872 Mining Law and the Associated Press reported on Oregon's new suction dredge mining permit which includes an interesting twist for the Wild and Scenic Chetco and Kalmiopsis Wilderness.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Wilderness Ethic

In our post "More valuable than gold" we provide the link to a post on the Cleanest Line, one of the blogs on Patagonia's website. The post from 2008 is titled: Kalmiopsis - Fly Fisherman Mikey Wier Searches for Steelhead in the Oregon Wilderness

Wier went to catch one of the Chetco's wild steelhead in one of the wildest wildernesses in the West, the Kalmiopsis. On that count he failed. On another he found riches beyond his expectations and beyond what most of us will ever experience. He wrote:
"Then I realized how lucky I was to have had the chance to see those fish in their native habitat doing what they have been doing for thousands of years."

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Oregon issues 1,205 permits to mine its waterways

According to reports, the State of Oregon has issued 1,205 Clean Water Act National Pollutant Discharge Elimination Permits (NPDES) for suction dredge mining. The permits provide authorization to the mine streams and rivers of Oregon. Known as 700 PM, the general permit is issued under the State's authority to implement the Clean Water Act (CWA). It's available on the internet and simply has to be filled out and mailed to Oregon Department of Environmental Quality with a $25.00 check. 700 PM allows the permitees to mine with little or no oversight. Suction dredge mining can begin on the Wild and Scenic Chetco River on July 15th. Note: We incorrectly reported that the state issued 2,000 permits for suction dredge mining.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Chetco River Protection Act Introduced

On Wednesday, June 15th, Representatives DeFazio, Wu and Blumenauer and Senators Wyden and Merkley introduced the Chetco River Protection Act—legislation that will increase protection for the National Wild and Scenic Chetco River that's threatened by proposals to mine almost half its length. See press releases below and how to send a thank you message to the congressional delegation. 

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Chetco—one of nation's most endangered rivers

June 2, 2010 - American River’s released its America’s Most Endangered Rivers™ report to spotlight the nation’s ten most imperiled rivers. Southwest Oregon’s National Wild and Scenic Chetco River, threatened by proposals to mine almost half it’s length, is the 7th most endangered river in the nation.  Ask the Obama Administration to withdraw the Chetco River from the Mining Law and read recent editorials.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

1872 Mining Law

The 1872 Mining Law governs hardrock mining on publicly owned lands in the United States.  It was signed into law by President Ulysses S. Grant and has remained virtually unchanged for 138 years. The antiquated law and equally archaic government policies result in mining, by default, becoming the highest and best use of public lands, which are open to operation of the Mining Law—even on priceless National Wild and Scenic Rivers, like the Chetco.

Protecting the Chetco

In order to provide the best possible protection for the National Wild and Scenic Chetco River, the Oregon Congressional Delegation recently introduced the Chetco River Protection Act.  It's  based on Forest Service recommendations.  But legislation takes time to pass in a busy Congress.  In the interim the Obama Administration has been asked to withdraw approximately 19 miles of the Wild and Scenic Chetco River (on National Forest land) from operation of the Mining Law in order to give Congress the time it needs to act.

The Science

In a recent article in the Oregonian, the Gold Beach District Ranger is quoted as saying he knows no definitive proof that suction dredge mining harms fish.  However, Forest Service biologists have said this in peer-reviewed literature:
"Given the current level of uncertainty about the effects of dredging, where threatened or endangered aquatic species inhabit dredged areas, fisheries managers would be prudent to suspect that dredging is harmful to aquatic resources."

More valuable than gold

From the Cleanest Line Blog on Patagonia’s website comes a tale about the meaning of Wilderness and plea for rivers like the Chetco and its wild steelhead.

The story begins with fly fisherman Mikey Wier searching for wild steelhead in an Oregon Wilderness and this statement:
“Even if you're not an angler, I highly recommend taking the time to read this story."
It concludes:
“The next morning we packed up camp and started the trudge home. As we hiked back up the hill, again my thoughts turned back to the fish. At first I was upset that I didn’t get to catch one. Then I realized how lucky I was to have had the chance to see those fish in their native habitat doing what they have been doing for thousands of years.
Wilderness is more valuable than any possession I own. I felt so blessed to see them in this environment. Just being there was enough for me. As population grows and climate changes, there is going to be an increasing strain on what remains of the habitat needed for these fish to live and thrive.

As fish populations dwindle, they will become an icon of wilderness. Steelhead will become a symbol of a healthy and functioning aquatic ecosystem. In my opinion, they should be more valuable than gold, platinum or oil. They should be placed in front of mines, roads, timber sales and this year's fiscal earnings.

Water is one of the main elements that form our existence. Most of our body is made of it. If we don’t drink clean water almost everyday, we will die. If we can’t take care of the fresh water river systems that support wild steelhead then we are not working as good stewards of this planet. If we let wild steelhead fade out, we won’t be far behind.”

A Community Treasure

Brookings/Harbor at the mouth of the Chetco on Oregon's Wild Rivers Coast.
Not only is the Chetco River one of America's great outdoor places and a natural treasure, it's a key natural economic asset for Curry County and for the communities of Brookings and Harbor.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Grants Pass Courier

Note - We couldn't link to the Daily Courier site so have posted the full June 4, 2010 article here.
Last Update Friday, June 04, 2010
Chetco River on most endangered list

By Jeff Duewel of the Daily Courier

The Chetco River has landed on the "America's Most Endangered Rivers" list because of a plan to mine for gold in the river.