Opinions on Suction Dredge Mining

Discussion in 'Fly Fishing Forum' started by Rory McMahon, Jan 6, 2014.

  1. Pat Lat

    Pat Lat Mad Flyentist

    dredge mining, what can I say its fantastic, best thing since sliced bread. Go buy all the equipment and dredge the shit out of every river you can. Then tell everyone how much money you are making on gold that's just there for the taking so they can share the wealth, no wait don't tell them, then you'll have it all to yourself.
    Luckily no one will want to fish anywhere near your operation, so you can set up shop, then have the entire section to yourself to cast your flies. Let us know how many fish you catch.
    All you gotta do is pump the streambed up and run it through this here contraption. Boomshakalaka instant riches. Those fish didn't need that gold anyways, and you gave them back all the rocks and mud, that shit is worthless.
    Bottom line, I don't care who you are ITS NOT YOUR RIVER TO PROFIT FROM. Get a job.
  2. Chris Bellows

    Chris Bellows The Thought Train

    if you want a hobby that let's you spend the summer by the water and break even why not go kill pikeminnows on the columbia.

    suction dredging as a "hobby".... what a joke.

    suction dredging should be banned... period!
  3. Patrick Allen

    Patrick Allen Active Member

    I would say that it would equate to me coming over to your house, smoking three packs of Pal Mal unfiltered cigarettes and then taking a shit on your floor. As much as I might enjoy that it probably wouldn't be real healthy for you. Just leave the rivers alone man!
  4. nomlasder

    nomlasder Active Member

    I would like to retell a story of the Inmachuck River in NW Alaska. Historically, the river was so full of silt there was no population of any salmon species. This was confirmed by the fact there was no Inupiat name for salmon in that river. After the dredge miners of the 20's and 30's cleaned out all the silt by years of dredging (I have no doubt the river was a muddy mess) the river bed had been flushed of all the silt and good clean gravel was then exposed for spawning activities. The salmon returned in record numbers, along with Char- really big Char.

    There is a recent article about the Toutle River after the eruption of Mt St Helens. Even with all the mud and debris, steelhead in record numbers returned to the river in within 5 years. ( Since the introduction of hatchery fish, the population has declined)

    How many hundreds of thousands of cubic yards of silt were flushed down the Elwha River, only to see a return of salmon and steel head within one year.

    I feel dredging has a bad rap, because it looks nasty and some very irresponsible people abuse the use. If done properly, responsibly and most importantly at the right time in run-off, the actual damage is small and is far less than natural occurring events. Think of what your favorite river looks like in the first few major rain events in the fall, just after the salmon have spawned. Turbidity is off the scale. How many tons of silt and debris are being flushed in those events.

    I'll get lambasted for my view, OK I have big shoulders. Most of the previous comments are all based on perception and not much fact.
  5. golfman44

    golfman44 Coho Queen

    And I thought asking for death star reel advice was the best way for someone to troll this forum....
  6. Vladimir Steblina

    Vladimir Steblina Retired Forester...now fishing instead of working

    When I working they tried to get "recreational" suction dredging defined as a recreational activity and therefore in my area. My response was suction dredging just like driving cars over cliffs and dumping of garbage, meth labs, etc. etc. was NOT a recreational activity.

    Just because people do it....does not mean its recreation.

    Most guys that use suction dredges are nice guys. Being nice does not give you a right to trash public resources.
  7. David Dalan

    David Dalan 69°19'15.35" N 18°44'22.74" E

    Fact is all mining ajacent or in streams should be illegal. Just because someone can make money doing something, does not mean it is wise to allow them to do it. I'll venture a guess that enforcement is as infrequent/effective as with other natural resources. Funding just never seems to be available.
  8. Alex MacDonald

    Alex MacDonald Dr. of Doomology

    Small-scale operations? As Ross says, it depends on how/when you do it. Personally, I'd like to see it banned. Disturbing a spawning stream is disturbing the stream, no matter how little it's disturbed. Very small-scale operations, run with a full employment of mitigation for environmental factors, probably won't do much harm. Notice i said "much" harm. They're NOT benign however.

    Then there's the issue of protecting one's claim. This got out of hand in several areas on the Yuba in California, and I've encountered more than one "miner"-and i use that term as a pejorative-who felt I might drop my fly rod and pull out my suction dredge and jump his shitty little claim. I don't know what it's like now, but there used to be plenty of "no trespassing" signs on and in the river, and more than one of these shitheads would defend their piss-ant little "claim" with the point of a firearm. If you want a hobby, get a pan. If you want to get rich, take up gambling, or working ponzi schemes.
  9. wadin' boot

    wadin' boot Donny, you're out of your element...

    Rory, graduate from the Colorado School of mines engineering program, it is a guaranteed outstanding paycheck for life. Working for a paycheck vs. waiting to win the lottery will pay off vastly better in the short and long runs. There are no doubt ways for a smart guy like you to get involved in advocating for, planning, and conducting responsible and environmentally astute mining. (Maybe there is such a thing as what I just wrote, maybe not...)
  10. Rory McMahon

    Rory McMahon Active Member

    Sorry guys, all I wanted was a discussion. Everyone I have asked about the environmental impact never has any reasoning or evidence to back it up. I was hoping you guys were different.

    Can we get this thread deleted? Its going nowhere.
  11. Flyborg

    Flyborg Active Member

    Mining streams for gold in Washington is a waste of time.
  12. PT

    PT Physhicist

    Didn't figure you'd get the mature, neutral discussion you were hoping for. A thread full of facts and evidence about suction mining from a bunch of flyfishermen?

    I always find it a bit humorous that a person will start a thread and then try to control the direction of said thread. I wish it was that easy. I'd ask about the best times and specific places to fish the BC steelhead waters and get great responses on how, when and where......

    Not trying to be a prick, but you had to have known which direction this thread was going to go. No?
  13. Rory,

    Suction dredging alters both sediment transport rates and the local channel morphology. Neither are good for a stream's benthos. I think you probably know this already. If not, I hope you will consider it in your future decisions.
  14. Rory McMahon

    Rory McMahon Active Member

    I don't think I was wrong in hoping for something constructive. I knew there was a chance it would go like this, but I didn't think It was something that I couldn't even attempt.

    I had no intentions of trolling the board and getting emotional responses, hence the reason I said just close the thread.
  15. Rory McMahon

    Rory McMahon Active Member

    This is what I was hoping for.

    What do you mean by sediment transport rate? As in stirring up too much sediment? Or Dredge holes creating traps and not letting material flush itself out?

    Don't dredge holes create good habitat in the same way habitat improvement log jams do? I know there not identical, but a dredge hole becomes more and more natural the longer it lasts.
  16. David Dalan

    David Dalan 69°19'15.35" N 18°44'22.74" E

    My opinion is based on the fact that the sole motivation for dredging is cash. I reject that as a legitimate element of resource management. Also your story is irrelevant as the condition of the river in question is not equivalent to most streams where dredging is performed. Economic dredging usually occurs high in the watershed where high sediment loading (unless some ass logged all the hills and left no buffer) is not an issue.

    Dredging is not beneficial, and there are always exceptions. The presence of an exception in no way changes thruth of dredgings negative impact.

    Example -- Meth once kept a trucker awake and prevented a car wreck. That does not make meth good.
  17. Yes, and no. The act of mining the area changes the overall bed particle size for the given reach. Remember that when we say "sediment" and "particles" in this context that means silt, sand, gravel, cobbles, and boulders, from small to big. The makeup of these particle sizes influences the channel's stability in that area and the rate at which the bed will deform as a result of hydrologic processes (and also what organisms inhabit the benthos). Also, changing the bedform by say, creating little runs through a riffle crest, or deepening the channel near the edges, or piling the big rocks that can't go through the sluice, all have cascading effects on channel stability and morphology locally and downstream from the alteration. It is surprising how much effect on channel form a small perturbation can have. These things have a natural rate in a given system and monkeying with it affects the organisms that have occupy that system and are "used to" a certain flow regime and bedload mobilization rate.

    This paper has more info and says it better than I have.
  18. Freestone

    Freestone Not to be confused with freestoneangler

    Rory, I can't point to studies as I haven't searched but I can point to a myriad of laws and regulations on the books that our society accepts as necessary to protect our watersheds. For a moment, consider other non-mining activities and contrast how those activities are regulated in order to protect the very same watersheds.

    For instance, I can not even legally cut a section out of a tree blocking a river, even for public safety. Yet, if I were mining, I could remove the log and even legally use a winch to pull out a stump or other woody debris embedded in the bottom of the stream. If there is a large boulder blocking where I wanted to launch my raft, I would be in violation of the law to pry it out - unless I were mining. If I took some rocks already in the stream and piled them up to make a little pool for my toddler to play in let alone actually dug it a bit deeper, I could get in trouble - unless I were mining; then I could make deep holes and pile up however many rocks I wanted. If I disturbed the gravel of a stream by driving across or in it, I could be fined yet I can move tons of it if I am mining. Landowners sometimes can't mow too close to the water's edge or remove bushes on their own property let alone dare to clear brush to create a bit of 'beach' for sunbathing - yet they could excavate the whole area if they were mining. The state is bound by law to educate us about redds so we don't walk on them or disturb them, but I could suck them up with a dredge and not even know it since so many additional permits are granted outside of the published mining season. When one reads what is allowed by the Gold and Fish pamphlet, it is shocking to see what miners can do in a stream bed or below the high water line that no other person or group could do, at least without a variety of environmental reviews and permits.

    For instance, this summer I observed the replacement of a county bridge over a small creek on public land. Heaps of permits and environmental assessments had to be obtained to do the work, none of which was actually done in the stream bed. All sorts of containment systems were installed to prevent soil materials from washing into the stream. The contractor and crew appeared to be going to great lengths to avoid disturbing the stream and I give them kudos for that.

    However, it was ironic that this work was being done in the middle of an active mining claim, one that had a big dredge sitting in the river above it all summer, with cables spanning the river to trees on both sides. The creek was sometimes off color, not from the bridge work but from the dredging upstream. There were large dredging holes in this tiny creek, large enough for me to be swallowed up in - the deepest about 6' and many feet long and across. There were rock dams built to create pools yet the contractor used a plank walkway/bridge to not even tread in the stream. The juxtaposition of the careful actions the contractor had to legally take to protect the stream vs the mining activity going on just upstream and throughout this creek would have been laughable were it not so telling as to the power of the mining lobby. I should also note that mining permits had been granted to operate well outside of the normal window based upon the claim that there were no fish and it dried up in the summer, both of which were false. I caught little redband trout in the creek through the entire summer. This river basin has ESA-listed chinook and steelhead so fishing and other non-mining activities are carefully regulated but there are no additional hoops to jump through to suction dredge in the very waters containing ESA-listed fish, at not least not in WA.

    Anyway, rather than only looking for definitive studies, consider that to protect our watersheds and their flora and fauna, we have outlawed or highly regulated the very types of activities and disturbances done by miners, but only when being done by anyone else but miners, including the government itself. How can it be unhealthy for fish and wildlife for all other people in the state to create these kinds of in-stream disturbances, yet ok or even beneficial if it is done in the name of mining?
  19. Vladimir Steblina

    Vladimir Steblina Retired Forester...now fishing instead of working

    This is how I view dredge mining and similar issues.

    Anybody that tells you we totally understand ecosystems is full of it.

    We have totally destroyed and changed the desert and grassland ecosystems of the country. The reason Forest Service lands are full of endangered species is they are the last stronghold of marginally modified ecosystems.

    That said, until we get population growth under control we will continue to destroy and modify wildland ecosystems to meet the needs of the human population.

    So the strategy is where do we focus on saving what we have. Riparian areas make up a VERY small acreage of total wildlands. They are critical to functioning ecosystems and our own well being as humans.

    A timber sale has less impact on riparian habitat than a suction dredge. From a societal point of view....housing from a timber sale versus gold?? from a suction dredge. What are we giving up and what are we getting in return? To me the benefit/cost ratio is clear. For the possible environmental damage it is not worth it.

    I am ok with timber sales, oil drilling, hard rock mining, ski areas, and recreation on public lands. But of all the public resources on public lands it is the streams, rivers, and riparian areas that are most important.

    Ok, every fishery biologist that I have ever worked with in my career is probably saying REALLY?? YOU??


    Nice scientific article. I have been on Butte Creek, South Fork of the Yuba River, and main Salmon in Idaho. Just from a "visual" point of view they are pretty areas. When your vision changes to ecological changes as a result of mining the picture gets ugly.
  20. constructeur

    constructeur Active Member

    From what I've been told, natural events are referred to as 'pulse' events, and are still different that human introduction of excess silt over a period of time (# of miners x hours mined= ?? ), fuel,oil and grease from the pump motor, etc.

    I goggled this term:

    natural pulse silt events vs. suction dredge mining

    and came up with a variety of things to read, both scientific and opinion.

    Suction dredge mining was made illegal in California in 2009 and in Oregon this past August.