Umpqua Watersheds Blog

Restoration

Spring 2017

Published March 8th, 2017 in Restoration

Stanley Petrowski

SUCTION DREDGE MINING BILL PASSED!

Thank you to everyone who spoke out to stop environmentally damaging suction dredge mining! After receiving bipartisan support, Senate Bill 3A was recently signed by Gov. Brown, providing immediate protection to some of Oregon’s most sensitive waterways.

Suction dredge mining is a form of recreational gold mining that uses a motorized, floating dredge to suck up the riverbed. Multiple scientific studies show that suction dredge mining can trap and kill young fish and fish eggs, release fine sediments that smother spawning gravel for salmon, and even stir up legacy mercury from historic mining operations.

 

The bill establishes a permanent regulatory framework to manage suction dredge mining. Mining is now prohibited in spawning and rearing habitat for sensitive, threatened, or endangered salmonids and lamprey, termed “essential salmonid habitat.” Outside of these areas, suction dredge mining may still be allowed under a Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) permit that places certain limits on where and how suction dredges can be operated in streams.

 

Our UW President, Stan Petrowski, helped to sound the alarm several years ago as miners flocked to SW Oregon after California enacted restrictions, tripling the number of mining permits in Oregon. Virtually every spawning index pool used by the few remaining wild South Umpqua Spring Chinook was claimed by miners, threatening their existence. Stan became a leader of aquatic mining reform, calling for common sense regulations. For his efforts, Stan was recently named RIVER STEWARD OF THE YEAR by the Native Fish Society.