North Fork Clearwater mining redux

Discussion in 'Fly Fishing Forum' started by Richard Olmstead, May 10, 2013.

  1. Richard Olmstead BigDog

    Posts: 2,484
    Seattle, WA
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    The subject of a brewing controversy over suction dredge mining claims being sold on eBay and posted on the North Fork Clearwater has been the subject of a couple of threads here in the past year.

    Here is a good read on the US Forest Service's angle on what they are doing to protect the stream from potential damage from suction dredging in the face of public opposition and evidence that there is little gold to be found to begin with.

    From the current High Country News (y'all should be subscribers, if you want to stay current on environmental issues in the west ...):

    http://www.hcn.org/issues/45.7/the-forest-service-fights-placer-mining-with-an-obscure-law

    Dick
    Kent Lufkin likes this.
  2. Kent Lufkin Remember when you could remember everything?

    Posts: 7,136
    Not sure
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    Thanks for the update Dick. I'm glad to see that Idaho and the USFS have grown a set and decided to challenge the suction dredgers. Wish I could say the same thing about Washington . . .

    Thanks too for the pointer to the HCN. I'm a new subscriber.

    K
  3. Matthew LeBret Active Member

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    clarkston, wa
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    Yes thanks for the Update. That was some sad news when I found out about this but I'm glad to see them challenging the parties involved.
  4. Kim McDonald member

    Posts: 289
    Seattle, WA
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    Actually one mistake in the article is claiming that California banned suction dredging. It isn't banned, just in a moratorium, while Cal F & W develop new regulations. They proposed some about a year ago that a judge rejected, but the 49ers, a pro-suction dredging group, is putting huge pressure on Cal F&W to promulgate the regs so they can start dredging.

    The spill over from the moratorium is on the Rogue, where residents along that river say there are times all you hear are the suction dredge motors. Many of the dredgers are apparently from California.

    Last summer I found a man suction dredging the Yakima at the east Cle Elum put-in site. There are several who do the Wenatchee, and during the season, you can see dozens of them on the Swauk and other streams along Highway 97 through Blewett Pass.

    If you ever get a chance, stop and watch the process. Make sure to observe the plume from the dredging.

    Kim
  5. Richard Olmstead BigDog

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    Seattle, WA
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    Thanks for pointing out that correction.

    As for the plume from the dredging, I'm sure it contains the eggs and early instar larval stages of most of the aquatic insects that trout live on. I can't believe it doesn't severely damage the stream's potential for growing trouts.
    D
  6. GAT Active Member

    Posts: 3,990
    Willamette Valley, OR
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    Are they dredging for gold? Last I checked, the price of gold was dropping. That is a good thing for the environment and the critters.
  7. Richard Olmstead BigDog

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    Seattle, WA
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    Yes, gold. I'm glad to hear the price is dropping, but I suspect it will remain high for some time.

    From what I've gathered, these small claims (split from larger ones) were being bought up by hobbyists and folks who thought it might give them prime real estate in a beautiful remote environment. The first indication that something was going on came when some of the claim holders started posting "keep out" signs along the North Fork on public, Forest Service land at commonly used recreational access sites. The Forest Service personnel removed the signs, but I think it was an indication that at least some of the people with the claims didn't understand what the claims entitled them to, and thought they had private rights to the riverfront property, and not just the streambed mining rights. Hopefully, the USFS and Friends of the Clearwater will prevail and even the streambed mining rights will not be granted.

    D
  8. Kim McDonald member

    Posts: 289
    Seattle, WA
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    An argument the suction dredgers use to say it's "good for fish" is the suction action actually releases pupa. Many suction dredgers claim they see fish congregating near their nozzles, looking for food...

    Seriously.

    Kim
  9. Jim Darden Active Member

    Posts: 890
    Bellingham, Wa.
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    Don't know how I feel on this one...yes, disturbing the sediment can't be good, but is it really impacting the stream flowing into a reservoir? It would have been good to see this level of interest from the folks on the coast when we were trying to oppose damming the entire watershed. I guess I'm still a little bitter about that. I believe the north fork had the largest average size steelhead in the US....but that's gone now.