Land Department recommends board approve dredge mining Salmon River

The Land Board will vote Tuesday on a five-year lease to dredge-mine the Salmon River below Riggins for gold.

The vote comes after the board delayed the vote for a month asking for further review by its staff. The staff came back and not surprisingly recommended the leases for the gold mining again despite concerns raised by river users, concerned citizens and conservationists.

Only one other lease has been issued for a gold mining operation in the bed of a river in Idaho, also in the Salmon River near Slate Creek. The State receives combined annual rental and royalty payments of $420 for that lease.

This lease will bring an annual rental rate of $160 and a prepaid royalty of $1,300.

Suction dredge miners use floating gasoline-powered dredges to suck up tons of sand and gravel from the bed of the river in an effort to extract flakes of gold. The Idaho Department of Water Resources actually regulates the mining while the Land Board only approves the lease. The Idaho Department of Lands staff said in a memo that only “small amounts of gold are generally collected.”

Anglers and others want the state board to weigh this return against the values of salmon and steelhead, including fall chinook that spawn in the area.

“The science is clear —in-stream mining can harm fisheries and aquatic habitat," said Jennifer Pierce, a Boise State University professor of geosciences, who has studied the effects of in-stream mining on rivers. “Suction dredge mining by definition turns the bottom of the stream upside down. Entire sections of stream channel are altered in the process.”

In its memo, Lands staff said the board would meet its legal obligations to balance water quality, wildlife, recreation and other public concerns if it approved the mining. But environmentalists and anglers aren’t convinced.

“The Salmon River is one of Idaho’s true gems,” said Jonathan Oppenheimer, senior conservation associate with the Idaho Conservation League. “There are lots of places to mine in Idaho – but there’s only one Salmon River.”

The Land Board - what a farce.

Another old-boy get together!! They never listen to anything like scientific facts, or any other information that doesn't fall in line with their thinking. Term limits, folks!! Use your VOTE!! That can't be said often enough.

We Need Balance - Environment/Economics

“The science is clear —in-stream mining can harm fisheries and aquatic habitat," said Jennifer Pierce, a Boise State University professor of geosciences, who has studied the effects of in-stream mining on rivers. “Suction dredge mining by definition turns the bottom of the stream upside down. Entire sections of stream channel are altered in the process.”

There are numerous studies from the state of California's Dep't of Fish & Game and others on suction dredging that show minimal negative impact to rivers or just the opposite of what Jennifer Pierce says. These studies demonstrate that the affects of suction dredging are flushed away annually by the river's natural spring runoff or "flushing." Geomorphic recovery will be slower on smaller streams with controlled flows compared to rivers such as the Salmon that experience uncontrolled “flushing” flows. The Salmon River's natural annual flushing will cause any affects from the dredge to disappear the following year and Mother Nature will have her way once again.

Why is it Ok to put heavy equipment such as dozers and track hoes in the Payette and Boise Rivers and dig them up to build whitewater parks, but it's not OK to put people to work on a suction dredge? Where was Jennifer Peirce when they had D-8 caterpillars turning the bottom of the Boise River upside down recently? Projects like the whitewater parks in Boise and Cascade, Idaho and suction dredging on the Salmon River both create jobs and jobs contribute to our wounded local economies. I say that is good and I'm not against either.

Come on folks a river is a constantly changing dynamic place that is constantly meandering, undercutting, eroding, flushing and altering itself through natural functions. These natural annual events can have a much worse affect on the river system than any suction dredge operating in the river. This is how Mother Nature has designed the system. Don't let a bunch of doomsayers who need to protect their own jobs within the environmental community stop good projects. We need to protect our natural resources, but lets not lock them up to any one agenda. I agree with the Idaho Land Board's decision.

one sided

Sounds like a terrible thing- if you only read this blog.

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As is typical with a Barker blog, one needs to go elsewhere to read useful information like this:

"The annual rental for mineral leases is one dollar per acre per year with a minimum of $160."

http://www.idl.idaho.gov/bureau/Minerals/min_leasing/leasing.htm

You could just about pwn the whole thing!

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You fry wants with that?

Gee,

That's so useful Pimp. Now that I know that the suction dredge operation, which is probably less than an acre, will indeed net the minimum annual rental, which was already reported by Rocky, that changes everything.

I'm sure $160 into the state treasury each year will pay for all the environmental cleanup, and replace the fall chinook once they go extinct.

Way to clear things up.

you bet

Glad I could help. :-)

Money Talks

I don't believe I've seen a Land Board decision in favor of wildlife.

Well, Rocky, we're paying a

Well, Rocky, we're paying a $1000 PER SALMON (yes, it's true!) to get those fish back up the Columbia past Riggins, why not just add a couple more bucks for stream restoration?

Actually, though, there's little evidence that suction dredging of the extent discussed in this article does any large or lasting damage to fish or stream bed aquatic life. Every year during the spring flood the whole river bottom is turned upside down, large rocks and boulders and millions of tons of bottom sediment are churned up and sent downstream. The idea, some are trying to present, that streambeds are stable, tranquil and unchanging environments is literally, factually, evidently and environmentally-WRONG!

Gee, ever wonder why the rivers are MUDDY, SANDY and FULL OF DEBRIS every spring! Sheesh! Have people just become completely ignorant as to how EROSION works or what? I have dredged many locations one summer and come back the next summer. One cannot tell in anyway it was previoiusly dredged. The fish are there, the bottom creatures are there and all the sand and mud has filled back in just like it was before. Suction dredging is a NON-ISSUE except to the busybodies who want to control everybody else.

They would until a kayak hit the pump.

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You fry wants with that?