Discussion in 'Fly Fishing Forum' started by Kent Lufkin, Aug 17, 2012.
Why? It's the same mentality that keeps people buying lottery tickets.
Two thoughts -
Not sure of the status of bull trout, but I would think they might be the best way to fight any permits being issued.
Apply for the permits and not mine them.
Fortunately for the fish, but unfortunately for the effort to prevent suction dredging in the North Fork Clearwater, the bull trout population there is healthy.
There's as much romance associated with the gold mining culture in the NW and US as there is with Fly Fishing. A big part of the history of the west is wrapped up with the gold rushes. We read about it in fiction and they teach it to us in school. I think these guys are sitting at their jobs thinking about a big strike the same way I sit around and dream about finding a 18" Cutty lurking in my favorite stream. I've even seen a documentary on hobby/ part time suction dredging where is was portrayed as a fun and noble thing to do.
Does it matter if they are healthy or not? They are there.....maybe that is enough.
Look, if you want to fight this effectively, you need to know the rules. A claimant must file their claim with the County, and then with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. Before beginning activity, they must file either a notice of intent to operate or an operating plan with the federal agency of jurisdiction, that is USFS if on national forest, and also with BLM, and recieve approval of that notice or plan. They must perform their assessment work ($100/claim/year of improvement) and file the appropriate notices by (as I recall) January 1 of the year, with the assessment year ending Sept. 30. Assessment work must be conducted in accordance with the approved operating plan.
Both ID and WA require compliance with the federal Clean Water Act. There's a link from someone above to the Gold and Fish pamphlet, that outlines requirements in Washington. Idaho is different.
Failure to file requisite paperwork or stake claims in accordance with state mineral location rules or county requirements, let alone missing a federal deadline, voids the claim. The claimant is bound to restrict unfettered access to areas under active mining, simply for safety reasons, but is otherwise unable to restrict access to valid claims for non-mineral entry.
At least that was the way it was a few years ago, I assume it's only got more difficult. But the short answer is BLM is the agency of record for mineral entry, plans must be approved by the federal jurisdictional agency, and failure to get it all correct voids the claim. For those of you ready to go to the mat over this, start with BLM.
Here is an article about the suction dredge moratorium in California. It is of particular interest on the Klamath:
And here is information from the BLM office which serves California:
I dredge. I love dredging. In Washington there is a one month period of time that I am able to dredge on gold berring waters (a few exceptions, but generaly the month of August). While I have met a lot of "Bubbas" that think they are going to make it rich, they don't stick with it long. I would encourage any of you to read the rule pamphlets provided by the IDWR and the WDFW. If done at the wrong times of year it can be detrimental to aquatic species. Not all dredgers are incompetent, jobless fucktards. If you see a dredger that is in violation and he is being a dick, report him! To me there is no difference between a guy with his fuel can 4 feet from the bank than there is a guy snagging wild steelhead. There are rules that we adhere to. I have to store my gas can in a container five times it's volume 25 ft. from the stream. A guy dredging in spawning gravels will never find gold. If a guy is creating a plume "a mile long" he is using an oversized dredge, in stagnant water, in a ten foot thick layer of clay... a tailing pile a mile long just means a really ambitious miner. I see both sides of the argument. Fisherman are scared that dredgers are sucking up endangered species, we are scared that an angry mob is going to take away what we enjoy. We aren't just rampantly tearing up the ecosystem and destroying all river life. Have you ever fished a dredge pool? you should do it some time. On the subject of it being profitable, last week I was dredging south of Idaho City and I met a group of three young men that showed me the 3.5 ozt. that they pulled out in a week. I am going to look at a mining claim tomorrow on the North Fork of the Clearwater River. I am not going to post it as private property, or any of that other BS. I will post claim markers to indicate to potential miners that no motorized equipment is allowed without permission. That will be a section of the NF that will be lucky to see a week of work in a year. Please take a look at both sides of the argument, have a full understanding of both views. I know what I have to do to minimze impact, I have done my homework and field work.
the fact that suction dredging is still legal is mind boggling.... I'd rather have a pebble sized project than a million placer mines in trout/salmon streams... Placer mining killed the Sacremento by like 1860, no cyanide leaching required!
What killed the Sacramento was hydraulic mining. But that just shows that you don't know the difference between hydraulic mining, bucket dredging, suction dredging or hard rock mining.
Thanks for the explanation, Sean.
I just returned from a week of fishing the North Fork Clearwater. I spent that week wading on substrate that ranged from softball-size cobbles to SUV-sized boulders and everything in between, but I saw very little that looked like it could be subject to small-scale suction dredging. Can you give us some insight into what sort of substrate is suitable for suction dredging and what a suction dredger might do with substrate that is as coarse as that which constitutes most of the North Fork Clearwater. Does one simply noodle around among the cobbles and boulders, or does one move larger rocks aside to get at the smaller gravels beneath them?
Often suction dredge miners will wench out large boulders. In the case of the Klamath and the Rogue there are photos where miners are wenching fairly large boulders and removing down woody debris, in order to get their vacuum hoses and motors in place, much less to dredge what may be under and around the large structure.
Here is a fairly bad pic of what a suction dredge looks like:
I thought "wenching" mostly took place in medieval taverns...
What most people do is just roll the boulder. A few guys will go as far as to move the boulders with hand operated winches. For me, I won't move it I can't do it by hand. According to the WDFW Gold and Fish Pamphlet you may only work in the stream during certain timing restrictions determined to be during times before spawning. My largest dredge (5") which is only allowed on a few water ways will suck up cobbles about 4.5" in diameter allowing me to move about 2 cubic yards if two guys are working in a day. What happens is that we suck up all of these river gravels and the run through the sluice box. The sluice seperates all of the heavy materials from the gravels which consists of gold, lead, steel, mercury, black sands and some gem stones. After a full weekend of dredging I end up with about 2 gallons of concentrates that I have to process to seperate the gold from the other heavies. the material that is discarded is discharge out the end of the sluice. The larger cobbles are on the bottom and the finer pea sized gravels will remain on top of the tailings pile. It takes me approximately one week with my small dredge (2") to make a hole about 5' wide by 5' long by 3' deep. We typically search for areas close to bedrock, areas with large boulders, or areas that have cemented river gravels. Bends and current changes come into play, but that gets tiresome trying to explain how gold moves in the river. Come spring time runoff, everything is washed away and rearranged. If anyone wants to come by and see for themselves, I will be on the Similkameen above Enloe Dam with both of my dredges and you can see the process for yourself and ask questions and get answers. You can also have all of the split shot you want
Here is a quick article on a mining claim just awarded on the Salmon which the miner intends to use suction dredging:
here's a report from the state on a study of metals concentration around dredging operations.
Thanks, Kim. The article also links to another about the moratorium on suction dredging for the entire state of California, while they figure out what to do.
The one difference between here and Idaho, as I said somewhere above, is our Dept. of Ecology enforces the Clean Water Act and defers to WDFW on the mining permits. In Idaho, the state chose not to enforce the federal Clean Water Act, so the EPA does (same think in Alaska) and therefore federal agencies, such as BLM or USFS in consultation with the EPA approve the permits (which is what happened on this Salmon River claim). As someone said, if you have a pulse here in Washington, you can get a suction dredge permit.
Thank you wik for the link to the DOE report. I read it about a year ago. The one caveat that is important from that report is the multiple dredging operations. If you visit the Rogue during high dredging season, the dredgers are lined up and down the river...and it's not just the minerals (zinc, copper) or arsenic that may be a problem, but also the sediment and resettling of structure along the riparian zone. While there is an argument that the dredging may mimic flooding, at least in this state, dredging takes place from mid-July to September 30, which there are not many floods during that time...
Like many "human v. nature" issues, it's complicated and complex. I think I would just like to see, at least in this state, a little more robust monitoring of the dredging and at least a discussion about why dredgers are allowed in river systems that are otherwise closed to fishing because of ESA issues. Seems to me the "take" of an ESA listed species is just as likely with a dredger (whether they actually vacuum a steelhead, salmon, or bull trout or alter the habitat, both which are considered "takes").
This is an interesting point you raise Kim. The reality of conflicting priorities by different state agencies extends a lot further than regulating suction dredging. You remind me of a conflict between WDFW and DNR over whether or not to plant plant a certain trio of high lakes not far from Seattle which no longer enjoy self-sustaining fish populations.
The two agencies have been feuding over the question for the better part of a decade and can barely agree on what year it is. Although both agencies are nominally charged with managing resources (land and fish) for the benefit of the public, it's hard to see how any of us gain from their zero-sum game. The net result is that the three lakes have gone unplanted since 2006 and the few remaining fish from that plant are now approaching the end of their natural lifespan.
I reluctantly have to agree with my politically conservative friends that state government agencies that have grown too large and unmanageable and no longer serve the public interest have lost their rationale to exist in their current form.
On the suction dredge issue, I wonder whether NMPHS/NOAA is even aware that Dept. of Ecology allows and WDFW "regulates" the dredging on rivers and streams that are otherwise closed because of ESA issues. The Wenatchee watershed is a great example, where not only is suction dredging allowed in prime steelhead and Spring run chinook riparian zones, but also on many of the tribs, all of which are closed to fishing (except when WDFW allows the Wenatchee to be open, which has only been recently and for short seasons). I can not drive over Blewett Pass in late July and August without seeing at least 4 or 5 suction dredgers at work along the Tronson and Peshastin creeks, both at fairly low flows during that time of year.
I would agree with you, Kent, that many state and even federal agencies fail or neglect to keep their "eyes on the prize" regarding what their mission is and who are the constituents rather than loud small, special interests.