Discussion in 'Fly Fishing Forum' started by Rory McMahon, Jan 6, 2014.
Mining streams for gold in Washington is a waste of time.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
The US Forest Service went to court to stop suction dredging on the North Fork Clearwater in Idaho last year, specifically because it conflicted with other recreational uses, primarily fishing, in a fashion that was detrimental to the overall recreational value of the river ecosystem.
Rory, I remember the enthusiasm with which you embraced fly fishing just a few years ago, and I suspect you also embraced a catch and release ethic in your fishing. If you are feeling the same enthusiasm for gold mining today, please think about the impact you will have on a resource that you cared so much about not so long ago.
If its legal go for it, I'm sure most of these guys have no problem targeting endanger fish spieces while claiming to to be fishing for a legitimate spieces. Everyone has a right to share in the waters for recreation as long as they follow the laws governing the activeity
Thanks for all the good posts everyone. I'm glad this thread transitioned.
I agree that miners are allowed to do a lot in comparison to other industries, it's one of the reasons I'm so interested in the impacts. That alone isn't a cause to say mining is bad however. I'm still gathering information and appreciate all the points that have been made.
Whats your feeling on high grade alpine deposits? Do you think mining a 2 foot wide creek a mile beneath a saddle has the same effects as mining down stream in a big river?
I've always been a prospecting type of fisherman, bushwhacking to remote ponds and creeks in hopes of something better, and I'd like to do the same with gold. I don't have much interest going to proven grounds and moving masses of material. I'd much rather spend my time prospecting and find something rich near the source lode.
I'd also like to point out that this is indeed a hobby of mine. I have no intent on getting rich, and am not relying on this as a source of income.
If its just a hobby then why dredge, seems like you would gain a lot more satisfaction doing it by hand. That's why many people are drawn to flyfishing. If its just about the experience, not the monetary outcome, then you are risking the health of an ecosystem for a hobby that contributes nothing to the surrounding environment. Sounds pretty selfish and unethical. But hey, if its legal...
If you do decide to rotorooter someone's home stream, make it bennysbudy's