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MailTribune.com
  • Chetco River listed among threatened

  • Citing one developer's plans to mine nearly half of the Chetco River, the national American Rivers conservation group has placed the Chetco at No. 7 on its 2010 America's Most Endangered Rivers list.
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  • Citing one developer's plans to mine nearly half of the Chetco River, the national American Rivers conservation group has placed the Chetco at No. 7 on its 2010 America's Most Endangered Rivers list.
    The river, which flows west out of the Kalmiopsis Wilderness in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest, is famous in the West for its wild salmon and steelhead fishery. The Chetco is part of the federally protected Wild and Scenic Rivers System. The list was announced today.
    Seattle-area resident David Rutan, 44, a real estate developer, originally formed Chetco River Mining and Explorations in 2007 after buying federal mining claims from a retired Portland resident. He submitted a proposal in 2008 to the U.S. Forest Service to use suction dredges to mine the claims on the Chetco. The claims begin roughly six miles inside the Kalmiopsis Wilderness and run some 24 miles downriver.
    American Rivers and its partners, including the Ashland-based Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center, have asked both the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Interior to withdraw the Chetco from mining under the historic 1872 Mining Law.
    "It's hard to believe a law passed in 1872 can still be used to hold a priceless wild river and its abundant salmon hostage," said Lesley Adams of KS Wild in a prepared statement.
    "We need to use 21st century knowledge to protect our natural resources," she added. "The Chetco River should be protected for its fish, rather than degraded for the short-term profit of a Seattle-based developer."
    "We can't let antiquated mining laws destroy this river that is the drinking water source and economic engine for local communities," added Rebecca Wodder, president of American Rivers.
    "Congress must act to ensure that the Chetco and all of our other Wild and Scenic rivers are forever protected from harmful mining practices."
    Noting the Obama administration launched its America's Great Outdoors Initiative last month to focus on appreciating and protecting the nation's natural resources, Grants Pass area resident Barbara Ullian, a longtime environmental watchdog and coordinator of Friends of the Kalmiopsis, said the first act of the initiative should be to withdraw the mining threat of the Chetco.
    "The Chetco is the epitome of America's great outdoors, and those who love this beautiful wild river ask the administration to help remove the dark cloud looming over it," she said.
    The mouth of the roughly 44-mile-long river is near the city of Brookings, which depends on the river for its drinking water.
    The river also provides an income and recreation for Oregonians along the south coast, said Brookings resident Harvey Young, owner of the Fishawk River Co., which provides guided fishing trips in the region.
    "The Chetco supports a wild salmon and steelhead population that creates a community resource like no other," he said. "It is also a pristine place where people go for summer recreation. It is our drinking water.
    "We don't want to lose what the Chetco gives to so many, to enrich only a few who want to suction dredge for gold on this river," he added.
    In 2008, American Rivers, which asks for nominations for its annual America's Most Endangered Rivers list, placed the lower Rogue River at No. 2 because of proposed logging in the watershed. The area is now part of a proposed wilderness area.
    To see the entire 2010 endangered rivers list, check out www.AmericanRivers.org/EndangeredRivers.
    Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 776-4496 or e-mail him at pfattig@mailtribune.com.
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