GRANTS PASS — A bill to put a five-year moratorium on using suction dredges to mine for gold in key salmon streams is moving through the Oregon Legislature.
By a 3-2 vote Wednesday night, the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee referred the bill, SB 838, to the Joint Ways and Means Committee for further consideration.
Co-sponsor Sen. Alan Bates, a Medford Democrat, says new federal permit requirements in Idaho and a state moratorium in California are pushing thousands of small-scale gold miners to Oregon, primarily the southwestern corner of the state that was home to the 1850s Gold Rush.
He says the moratorium will give time to study how the motorized dredges affect water quality and salmon.
“I still think there is a middle ground, that will allow a place for miners to go if they are careful, and follow the right regulations,” Bates said. “Neither side is willing to come together and talk to each other. People sitting before the committee were raising their voices. The miners feel strongly. I understand that.”
Bates said he was not sure the bill had the votes to clear the Senate, but he was particularly moved by a report from scientists with the Oregon Chapter of the American Fisheries Society who pointed out threats to salmon from the dredges, which suck gravel from river bottoms through a hose, and sift the sand and rocks for flecks of gold left behind by miners going back more than a century. They advised that existing regulations can only be effective by strict monitoring and enforcement.
In written testimony submitted to the committee, miners said fish and water quality were already protected by existing regulations, a moratorium would kill an industry worth millions of dollars and put a financial hardship on miners who depend on gold to feed and clothe their families. They said the state had no authority to restrict work on mining claims on federal land.
Jan Alexander, a retired U.S. Forest Service mining administrator from Unity, wrote that the Forest Service closely regulates gold mining to protect fish, wildlife and water quality, and after discovering gold, miners typically move out of the river into side channels.
Josh Laughlin of the conservation group Cascadia Wildlands, praised the bills, saying he found it incredible that the state and federal governments spent millions of dollars a year on restoring salmon, only to let miners suck gravel off stream bottoms.
Get daily headlines to your inbox
Start your day with our top stories delivered to your inbox every morning.
The holiest plant of the Christmas season may be a raggedy shrub with peeling bark that seems to grow best in a dusty backyard in Tempe, Ariz. This is Boswellia sacra, better known as the frankincense tree. The shrub’s gum resin is one of the three biblical gifts that the wise men bestowed on the infant Jesus. Until recently, Americans who wished to cultivate their…
The reality: That is not true, said Dr. Richard Koller, a Bend neurologist. A sneeze does increase the pressure inside the skull a little bit, he said. People have worried that sneezes may kill brain cells because other things that increase pressure on the brain, such as some types of stroke, can lead to brain cell death or even the death of the person. However,…
Eighteen-year-old Jenny Lanter died this spring after sustaining injuries in a car accident. But Lanter’s parents and friends hope that her sweet spirit will continue to live on through a special dance scholarship created in her memory. Mom Renee Lanter, of Bend, believes her daughter would be very honored to know this scholarship existed, and she sees it as a positive development for the family…
SALEM — For years, Bend resident Cylvia Hayes’ good relations with state officials have been a boon, helping her win contracts as a green energy consultant. Now she’s finding that her relationship with one official in particular — Gov. John Kitzhaber, her longtime companion — can be a hindrance as well. Hayes refers to herself alternately as the “first lady” and “first partner” and says…
A barred owl that drew crowds of onlookers while swooping around at Farewell Bend Park earlier this year may well be dead. The owl was seen from mid-January into last month, regularly hunting for mice and voles along the Deschutes River just upstream of the Old Mill District. It then disappeared about a month ago. Two photographers found a dead owl March 3 about 10…