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Protecting our rivers

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Opinion
Tuesday, May 14, 2013

04.24.13 Blog DredgeMining2Editor's note: This column is a response to an April 24th op-ed authored by Sen. Alan Olson (R-Canby).

BY SEN. ALAN BATES | OP-ED CONTRIBUTOR

Oregon has a long history of caring for our rivers. In 1970, Oregon voters approved a citizens’ initiative that created the Oregon State Scenic Waterways program. The program was last updated in 1988, and has since grown to include protections for 19 of Oregon’s rivers. 

Essentially, the Scenic Waterways program allows for the protection of Oregon’s most treasured rivers by preserving water quality at levels necessary for recreation, fish, and wildlife. The program not only preserves our rivers – it also respects private property rights and protects property values.

The practice of suction dredge mining has been limited or stopped in Washington, California, Idaho and all federal lands. Yet, suction dredge mining is one of two placer gold mining activities still commonly found in Oregon, often in our state’s most remote and beautiful rivers, and the same watersheds that have historically supported strong salmon and trout fisheries. The practice includes vacuuming up a river bed in search of gold and other minerals, sucking up rocks and gravel and returning the remaining sediment to the stream bottom.

As you can imagine, this practice has impacts on fish, wildlife, property owners and on our state’s most beautiful rivers. Concerns raised about suction dredge mining in a 2011 California Department of Fish and Game environmental impact report included “significant and unavoidable impacts” on water quality, including mercury and trace discharge from equipment, as well as changes in behavior among small birds during breeding season, noise impacts, and possible demolition or alteration of historical and archaeological resources. 

Oregonians consider our peaceful, pristine rivers a legacy to pass on to the next generation. Vacuuming up a river bed with a loud motorized raft is bad for property owners, bad for recreational river users, and bad for fish and wildlife. It’s just common sense that we would protect our rivers from harm.

Current legislation under consideration in the Oregon Legislature would protect our rivers by studying more miles of river and potentially including them in the State Scenic Waterways Act, limiting suction-dredge mining in Oregon, and revisiting regulations and fees for miners.

Oregon is blessed with a diversity of river systems that contribute greatly to our quality of life. Wise stewardship of our state’s natural resources becomes increasingly important as the population and development grows along our rivers. Oregon should protect the natural resources that promote healthy communities and enrich the lives of Oregonians.

Sen. Alan Bates (D-Medford) is vice-chairman of the Oregon State Senate Committee for Environment and Natural Resources.

Editor's Note:  Oregon Business accepts opinion pieces on topics relevant to the state's business community. See Op-Ed submission guidelines here.

 

Comments   

 
Guest
0 #1 RVRJAMESGuest 2013-05-15 17:47:17
Thank you Senator Bates for your support of Oregon's treasured rivers, fish and recreational economy. We must all act as stewards of our state's wild rivers so that we may enjoy them now and in the future.
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Guest
-3 #2 Eric PetersonGuest 2013-05-15 19:25:18
Well stated, Senator Bates!

I have been guiding rafting-guests down the Rogue River since 1990, and the recent increase in suction dredge mining has negatively impacted the river experience at many levels (e.g., noise pollution, air pollution, navigational safety hazards, trash along the riverbanks, and even human feces left by squatting miners). The vast majority of my guests cannot believe the State of Oregon allows such a destructive practice to continue. I tell them that suction dredge mining is a classic example of how disconnected the 1872 mining law is from our current understandings of ecological systems and water quality in general - laws that are not rooted in the current reality become bad laws and should be changed, just as the majority of our laws and constitution has evolved over time (e.g., the amendments, civil rights, environmental protection, etc.).

In short, suction dredge mining comes from linear thinking, which is not rooted in the circular reality of ecological systems - what we do to water, and all the life that is within it, ultimately comes back to us.

We as a nation are currently in a restoration phase of our river management policies, and a part of this restoration and preservation process should be the complete ban of section dredge mining. It makes no sense at all to spend millions of dollars on restoring rivers (e.g., dam removal), and then simultaneously allow destructive mining practices to continue. Suction dregde mining, on Oregon's rivers, is a classic example of how the extreme perspective of absolute individual liberty spoils "the commons" for the greater good.

The State of Oregon needs to wake up to the true value of restoring and protecting its waterways, and pass these proposed bills on State Scenic Waterways and Suction Dredge Mining. As an Oregonian and a river professional, I strongly support these proposed bills. Thank you, Senator Bates!
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Guest
0 #3 Robert BiggsGuest 2013-09-21 14:24:40
dredging does not kill fish, how often do you change THE WATER IN YOUR PIRANHA TANK ? Not one fish has ever been found that was killed or found that was psychologically effected by dredging...not even a bird... SENATOR BATES HOWEVER IS ATTACKING PEOPLE THEY ARE EFFECTED MANY different way. As bates suggests just the mere presence of man is disturbing to nature. This legislature is Bad legislature, i urge everyone TO VOTE BATES OUT OF OFFICE, HES PHYSIOLOGICAL DAMAGED TO THINK DREDGERS EFFECT LITTLE BIRDS, THE FOREST SERVICE IS DUMPING POISON IN RIVERS KILLING EVERYTHING AND THIS PRACTICE IS EXCEPTABLE WOW YOU SHEEPLES ARE ONE EYED AND i KNOW WHERE YOU KEEP IT.
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