SOURCE: Sierra Club

DATE: November 14, 2019

SNIP: There’s no doubt Washingtonians care deeply about protecting salmon. And yet, Washington State still allows a destructive recreational gold mining practice called suction dredge mining to go virtually unregulated.

Suction dredge mining is a form of recreational mining that uses gas-powered dredges to vacuum up rocks, gravel, and sediment from the bottom of creeks and rivers to search for gold. Scientific studies have shown this practice degrades water quality and destroys habitat for salmon and steelhead.

This harmful activity occurs all over Washington State, including areas designed as critical habitat for endangered Chinook salmon, which are the primary food source for our endangered Southern Resident orca. Places like The Yakima Basin, Upper Columbia, Spokane River are all being damaged by suction dredge mining–so too are Puget Sound rivers like the Skykomish, Skagit, and Nooksack. It’s past time to end this destructive practice in critical habitat, we must push to regulate it throughout the state.

Washington is the only western state that still allows suction dredge mining without effective regulatory oversight. Consequently, Washington State has become a target for out-of-state miners, creating much greater pressure on our streams and a dangerous situation for our water quality and native fish. The Department of Fish and Wildlife prohibits fishing in some critical habitat areas (which we support) and then ridiculously allows suction dredge mining to occur in these same waters. It’s clear that we need a comprehensive regulatory plan that doesn’t undermine current recovery efforts.