Gov. Kate Brown today signed a new law making permanent an already temporary ban on suction-dredge mining in Western Oregon's wild salmon habitat, creating permanent stream protections once championed by the late Democratic Sen. Alan Bates.
The bill flew through the Oregon Legislature with bipartisan support and well before the current moratorium on suction-dredge mining in essential salmon habitat was set to expire.
The ban covers the Illinois River, the Rogue River and its tributaries below Lost Creek Lake, and the Applegate River and its tributaries below Applegate Lake.
Suction-dredge mining employs a floating vacuum to suck gravel from a stream bottom. Materials vacuumed by the dredge then go through a sluice to allow miners to strain out gold and other heavy metals, while sand, silt and other fine materials are discharged into the water.
Wild-salmon advocates say the process damages spawning grounds and rearing habitat. Miners have argued that current laws already protect salmon and their habitat, and they have argued that no peer-reviewed study on suction dredging proves it ruins salmon habitat.