The Idaho Conservation League asked a state court to review an Idaho Land Board decision approving dredge mining on the Salmon River without a reclamation plan.
The suit comes after the Idaho Land Board approved the lease in September. It seeks to require the State to approve reclamation plans prior to any mining operations on state-owned lands.
“Unfortunately, authorities are ignoring laws that Idahoans put on the books to protect Idaho’s clean water and tax dollars,” said Jonathan Oppenheimer, Senior Conservation Associate with the Idaho Conservation League. “Too often, miners take the gold and leave taxpayers with the bill to clean it up.”
The lease provides Grangeville miner Mike Conklin with exclusive rights for “suction dredge mining” in a half-mile section of the Salmon River, 13 miles downstream of Riggins. The stretch is one of the most popular for recreational whitewater in the state, and also prime habitat for steelhead and salmon.
Suction dredge mining vacuums up tons of gravel and sediment found in the bed of streams and rivers with a floating, gasoline-powered dredge in an effort to extract flakes of gold. The filing in 4th District Court also claims the board did not require Conklin to get a water right or to adhere to other state laws as a requirement of his permit.
Riggins fishing guide and river outfitter Roy Akins said the Salmon River is important both for Idaho’s outdoor way of life and the economy.
“This world-class river deserves better than to be dredged for short-term gain,” Akins said.