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Fish Triumph over Vacuum Cleaners

Thanks to a very effective grass roots effort from a late and influential senator (Sen. Alan Bates), fish advocates and organizations, suction dredge mining will be banned from salmonid-bearing rivers in western Oregon. Last week the Oregon House passed SB-3, Suction Dredge Reform Bill and Governor Brown is expected to sign it. This bill would make the 2016 moratorium on this type of mining permanent in “essential salmon habitat” as well as habitat of the Pacific lamprey.

On their website, Wild Salmon Center explained “The ills of suction dredging are numerous.  Suction dredge mining can trap and kill young fish, smother spawning gravel with fine sediments, and even stir up legacy mercury from historic mining operations. Our Director of Science, Matt Sloat, summed it up this way: “The scientific literature demonstrates a broad array of negative effects of suction dredge gold mining.  It clearly works against efforts to recover salmon runs.”

Rogue Riverkeeper produced a handout a couple of years ago that spells out the ills of suction dredge mining with several photos of its effects. The Cascadia Wildlands website has list of the harms of suction dredge mining that are easy for non-scientific folks to understand.

Iconic rivers like the Chetco, the Rogue, and the Illinois now have protection against this mining technique. Although they face challenges from other human impacts, their gravel nurseries will not be sucked up and spit out any longer.

Lisa Hansen
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