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.

It's ranked No. 7 on the list, put out by American Rivers, a 37-year-old organization that advocates for river health nationwide.

The listing is in response to plans by David Rutan of La Center, Wash., to use a suction dredge to excavate about a dump truck load of river gravel per day on a 20-mile stretch of the Chetco.

Rutan, who also lives part-time in the Grants Pass area, has submitted the plan of operation to the Gold Beach Ranger District of the U.S. Forest Service.

Two years ago Rutan began flying guests by helicopter into the remote Emily Cabin site in the Kalmiopsis, which he purchased from Carl Alleman of Selma a few years ago, for recreational mining.
The patented mining claims are now private property, and deep inside the 180,000-acre wilderness. Rutan hauled in cabins and equipment by helicopter for the Oregon Gold Trips experience.

The commercial mining plans are downstream.

Barbara Ullian of Grants Pass believes the mining goes against the idea of wilderness and will harm the exceptional water clarity and world-class salmon and steelhead of the Chetco, which reaches the Pacific at Brookings. Ullian has championed the protection of the area for years.

"The Forest Service is fond of saying there's no definitive studies showing impacts to salmon from instream mining," Ullian said. "This is the wrong approach. There were no definitive studies saying deep ocean oil drilling would have a certain effect and look what happened.

"The Chetco is a National Wild and Scenic River and a world class salmon and steelhead stream with exceptional water clarity. Congress mandated these values be 'protected and enhanced.'

"Mining almost half the river with dredges weighing up to a ton, with up to 3,200 cubic yards of disturbance annually, within the stream itself, is not 'protecting and enhancing.'"

Oregon's congressional delegation has requested the Obama Administration to not allow mining along the Chetco.

Alan Vandiver, district ranger in Gold Beach, is still evaluating Rutan's plans.
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Reach reporter Jeff Duewel at 541-474-3720 or jduewel@thedailycourier.com