Gold mining claims sought on NF Clearwater and Kelly Creek

Discussion in 'Fly Fishing Forum' started by Kent Lufkin, Aug 17, 2012.

  1. Patrick Gould

    Patrick Gould Active Member

    The gold will run out but the money to be made and the jobs created through recreation will not. In my recent trip to Idaho I got a chance to see a little creek that was pretty much reduced to a channelized ditch with a mile long pile of tailings next to it. Someone told me that they now stock the little stream so the village kids have some fish to catch. This is a stream that was historically probably teaming with wild cutthroat.
    Kent Lufkin likes this.
  2. Jason Rolfe

    Jason Rolfe Wanderer

    I'm not sure if it has ever been discusses, but it seems like it could be cool to have a sticky somewhere where folks could post ideas for action like this.

    I would suggest that it not be a "forum," just somewhere where we can post about an issue, and who to contact to voice our concerns. It would have to be strictly fishing related.
  3. Ed Call

    Ed Call Mumbling Moderator Staff Member

    Kent, Kim is a dude, and a cool one.

    Hasn't Kelly proven to be a success with the three decades of catch and release? Nearly fished out back then, it is a great place and testament to the recovery process. Let's hope the federal regulators do t screw up by letting man screw this area up again.
  4. Alex MacDonald

    Alex MacDonald Dr. of Doomology

    Looks like I'll be packing my Sig .40 this trip again. After all, it IS bear country:eek:
    Steve Call likes this.
  5. orangeradish

    orangeradish Bobo approved

    I had the chance to meet a NFS river steward from southern Oregon this weekend. California ended mining so a bunch of the new 49ers are moving in to Oregon. They are trying to mine in a smaller river that has a depressed Chinook run. Specifically the pools where a large portion of the run spends the summer waiting for the water to come up. We were shocked when he described the process. Literally defiling a river. I don't want to quote the details because I had a looooooong weekend, but I can get some info from him for you guys if you'd like. He is on the frontline of the issue, and in one hell of a fight. I know he'd appreciate the exposure.
  6. Kim McDonald

    Kim McDonald member

    The moratorium in California (which it is, not a ban, but a moratorium) was essentially put in place because the Yuroks along the Klamath were furious at all the suction dredging and the fragility of the steelhead runs in that river. There is enormous pressure on Cali Fish & Wildlife to come up with regulations that will open the rivers back up (the moratorium directed Cal Fish to come up with regulations) but in the meantime the suction dredgers have migrated up to the Rogue, which is leading to Oregon looking into a similar moratorium. Here in Washington we have regulations but as Kent suggested, if you have a pulse, you can get a permit. Suction dredging isn't allowed until July 16th, which if you think about it, makes no sense for fish much less low water levels. And regardless of how much you "make" it has become a big hobby here in NC Washington. All the tribs of the Wenatchee are impacted, much less the Wenatchee.

    Miners place notifications of claims along the stretch of rivers/streams they are claiming. They have a certain amount of time (I want to say 90 days) to "perfect" the claim, which means they have to "work it." All along Blewett Pass you see these signs. I've never encountered any threats, no "private property" signs, since it's almost all USFS land. That said, I have encountered some pretty defensive guys who get quite angry when I tell them I am on the creek to fish. "There are no fish in these streams." I guess they mean no really big fish....and I don't want to get into the story of the one miner who had to remind this "girl" that the "turf" was his....

    It's a complicated issue, wrapped in a law that was written in 1876, with guys who have created these suction dredgers that are essentially gasoline powered shop vacs. The Mining Act is very liberal to mining interests (as we all see with the Pebble Mine issue) and many large mining interests are motivated to help these suction dredgers because of the larger issues of not having the fairly loose regulations ever change.

  7. orangeradish

    orangeradish Bobo approved

    Doesn't the mining act supersede the CWA and the ESA? Scary stuff...
  8. Kim McDonald

    Kim McDonald member

  9. Kim McDonald

    Kim McDonald member

    I am on a funky WiFi connection up a canyon near I can't upload the picture, but I stopped to look at the Yakima and get the dogs out on the way over at the WDFW Yakima access site south of Cle Elum. And there was a suction dredger and his equipment. He'd been dredging the channel, even though it's pretty high! I saw several more on Blewett as I drove through and it turns out there is a "miner rally" in Liberty this weekend, the old gold mining town just off of Blewett.

    As soon as I get a good connection I'll upload some pictures...Ironically as I type this, the ad above me is IMS Dredges and Dredgers "Manufacturer of large and small self propelled, portable dredgers."

    I'm also in the process of looking into the Idaho issues and will get back with an update. Kent is right, there is an opportunity for people who care about fish to comment on this...

  10. kjsteelhead

    kjsteelhead Member

    I was at the NFS river steward meeting, too. This is scary stuff. Those guys can take their $5,000 dredges, get a permit for next to nothing, then tear up any piece of river bed they want, even stretches of ESA listed salmon and steelhead spawning grounds. Check out
  11. Kent Lufkin

    Kent Lufkin Remember when you could remember everything?

    Thanks for the link. The quote on the front page "...experts say that only 5% of all gold has been found" seems to pander to the get-rich-quick mentality of folks whose motives have less to do with the environment than with padding their bank account.

    I clicked around a bit before visiting the Legal & Political Affairs page. A quick read of a PDF of the Ninth Circuit’s Clarification of USFS Authority Under the Mining Laws was illuminating in that the head revealed that the counsel for the plaintiff Karuk tribe were also affiliated with the 'Western Mining Action Council' (whoever THEY are). My immediate reaction dovetailed with Kim's point earlier that these small-scale operations are really shills for larger industrial mining entities who are pursuing their interests through a combination of legal and PR initiatives.

    But I could be wrong . . .

  12. wik

    wik Member

  13. Lugan

    Lugan Joe Streamer

    Here's a more direct link to the in-stream mining regulations:

    They are very detailed. But when I read them, I wonder how strictly they are adhered to considering how much interpretation, expertise and point-in-time decision making is required. Plus it's not like these little operations have a lot of WDFW oversight.
  14. Kim McDonald

    Kim McDonald member

    I had a lengthy conversation with the one WDFW "officer" responsible for the whole east side about a year ago. Essentially WDFW relies upon people reporting violators. And the problem with that is virtually no one knows what these folks are doing much less whether the vacuum hose is 4" or 8" etc. The rig I saw on the Yakima yesterday was leaking gasoline and the engine was maybe resting 4' from the water....not good.

  15. Chris Johnson

    Chris Johnson Member: Native Fish Society

    Thanks for the link Lugan, very helpful. If you click on the agencies with an interest in minning there are thirteen agencies to contact. Do it!

    In both the south fork and north fork of the Nooksack it is illegal to operate a motorized boat, and yet they allow you to run a gas powered dredge. It doen't make much sense.
  16. Mark Walker

    Mark Walker Active Member

    Not defending anyone, but seems if you operated a dredge responsiby and don't leak/spill gas/oil, everyting is exhausted into the air (not great either).
    Unless you're running a 4 stroke outboard or Evinrude E-Tec, you're just blowing gas and oil directly into the water.:eek:
  17. Kim McDonald

    Kim McDonald member


    I'm not against anyone working a legitimate mining claim, but with the amount of gold these miners get, using these dredges is like using an elephant gun to kill a squirrel. Plus, the sediment plume and the disturbance to the fish food sources when they essentially vacuum, totally change some of the small streams geomorphology. Last, these suction dredgers are working streams here in Washington that are closed to even catch and release fishing because of ESA issues, meaning, the streams are in a fragile condition to begin with. I just think we can figure out better ways to regulate, that we can also close access to some of the streams under the Clean Water Act to enhance ESA listed fish habitat, and we can figure out how to avoid the inevitable conflicts over access, as what is about to happen if the permits go through on Kelly and the Lochsa.
  18. Van

    Van New Member

    It boggles the mind that in this day and age suction dredging is still allowed in the PacNW. That the old mining law has been allowed to remain untouched for well over 100 years is an indictment of how corrupt our elected officials can be.
  19. Kim McDonald

    Kim McDonald member

    It's not the mining act that is controlling the suction dredgers, but the Clean Water Act. You can file a mining claim until the cows come home, but if it harms endangered species or fouls the water, it won't happen (Pebble Mine permits as Exhibit A). So, in Washington, the Dept. of Ecology allowed WDFW to regulate suction dredging.
  20. Lugan

    Lugan Joe Streamer

    Looking at the big picture, it seems like we need a jobs program for people like this. I mean, you've got to be desperate to think mining gold in a stream is a good way to make a living.