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.