Salmon River dredging issues has clashing perspectives

The Idaho Conservation League won a small victory this month when Grangeville gold miner Mike Conklin decided to withdraw his application to dredge a section the Salmon River 13 miles downstream from Riggins.

The ICL sued prior to Conklin’s decision, which he said he made because the permit had too many restrictions. So he gave up the exclusivity of a permit and can join the hobby dredgers who add to their income by seeking gold in the gravel of the river bottom in that stretch.

The ICL is hoping the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is going to step in and begin regulation of dredge mining in Idaho rivers, which it expects will all but end it in sensitive habitat areas like the Salmon River. It likely has the public on its side because if you simply ask people: “Should dredge mining be allowed on the Salmon River?” you won’t get a lot of people answering yes.

In the middle of the controversy, Linda Dennis of Riggins contacted me to share a letter her son Gary wrote. The former guide and current gold miner was responded to a letter from a critic of the dredge mining but Linda thought it was a point of view that was missing from my blogs on the issue.

“I think it's important to remember that the only section of the Salmon River to be open to recreational dredging is from Long Tom Bar to Hammer Creek… the section that runs through Riggins and follows Highway 95 to the north.” He wrote. “It is a beautiful section of river with great whitewater rafting, fishing, and camping. However, calling it "pristine" is a bit of a stretch. It's not the Middle Fork, Main, or even the Lower Salmon.”

Gary acknowledges he moves rocks and sand as he runs his gasoline powered suction dredge. But “the high-water will be back next year and everything will move around a little more.”

“I have pulled a fair amount of precious metal out of my sluice,” Dennis wrote. “Unfortunately, all of it has been lead from fishermen who have yet to reclaim it.”

Dredgers also remove mercury left in the rivers from old miners along with “tires, wheels, chunks of pipe, gears, fencing, aluminum cans, sunglasses, and hopefully a little gold.”

Dennis remembers that when he was guiding jet boat tours in Hell's Canyon he would sometimes get irritated because he had to stop constantly for rafting groups in rapids. And when he was rafting he was “astounded by the never ending parade of jet boaters,” he said. Then there are the big trips of out-of-towners that crowd the ramps.

“But, hey, it brings money to town and gives work to a bunch of summertime residents, so I live and let live, and accept that we all have a right to enjoy different things,” he said. “I totally agree with the need for regulation on our public lands to preserve what we all love.

“Let's just have a little perspective that is based on fact,” Dennis wrote.

I suspect we will hear many more facts before this controversy is over. Timing of the disturbance is one issue since salmon and steelhead spawn in that section of river.

And Conklin was worried that he was being over-regulated by the state that was facing a lawsuit from environmentalists for not doing enough to protect the Salmon. Those are facts that present a different perspective, which suggests this issue won’t go away.

"I suspect we will hear many

"I suspect we will hear many more facts before this controversy is over. Timing of the disturbance is one issue since salmon and steelhead spawn in that section of river."
You might want to fact check that one, since fish won't spawn in areas where their eggs will be washed away or buried by silt. Thats why they spawn in tributaries or headwaters, not the main river below the major watersheds.

Fall Chinook

for one spawn in that area.

I should clarify that

I should clarify that better, that area is a very, very minor section of spawning ground in the gran scheme of things. The salmon card gets plaid alot, but most of the fish are going to tributaries.

Spring Summer Winter

If you want to prevent mining in favor of Fall Chinook spawning, why are you not also including Spring Chinook? Springers spawn there just as likely as the fall run...

I'll do a study to show steelhead fishermen do more silt chaos with their JET engines, anchors and wading in the river. Did I mention JET engines?

Did ICL really win?
Maybe this is going to go the same direction as the wolf battle.

ICL and the enviros will keep knocking on the little guy about piddly stuff in the name of ESA and the environment and at some point it back-fires. BAM!

I say yes.

Rock, you are asking the wrong question- once again.

For example: If you ask someone "Should any one be allowed to say whatever they want?" you won’t get a lot of people answering 'no'.

And then the next person says "fire" in a theatre. Or, "Yes, I do have a bomb to the TSA in my pants?".
A smart person realizes there are lots of variables in most issues.

"Dredge mining" is different that hobby dredge mining. It is different than suction dredge mining. It is different depending on the time of year and where it is being done.

Not such any easy question.

Interesting that Conklin raises the regulation issue...

... because the Idaho County Free Press, paraphrasing Conklin, said he gave up the claim because there wasn't enough gold there to make it a viable mining operation.


Kind of makes me wonder what the real deal was..... I'd lean toward the 'not enough pay-dirt' explanation, at least in the absence of further clarification.

Pimp2, you're growing old and didn't even correct his Anglish...

HAVE clashing...


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