Time to tackle the issue of mining the Chetco

June 05, 2010 05:00 am

The simmering controversy over whether commercial and hobby mining should continue on the Chetco River boiled over after an environmental organization listed our hometown river as No. 7 on its top 10 list of America’s most endangered rivers.

The reason? 

Mining, says the nonprofit river advocacy group American Rivers, which annually publishes a list of the 10 most endangered rivers. Its list for 2010 was released earlier this week.

While such designation is cause for alarm for some people – and validates the concerns of local advocates  – we see it as an opportunity to  heighten public awareness and hasten the debate on how to remedy this issue.

Advocates claim that mining, particularly suction dredge mining, can adversly affect water quality and fish species. Such mining will undermine decades of work to recover salmon runs and negatively impact the local economy, they say.

Proponents of mining say they have the same rights to the river as fishermen, kayakers and other outdoor enthusiasts. Besides, they say, mining, when done legally and correctly, does little harm to the envirnoment.

The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle.

In 2009, California banned suction dredging until the state completes an analysis on the process. That sounds like a good idea.

We urge local, state and national agencies to follow California’s lead. We encourage proponents and opponents of mining to participate in the process: write to the appropriate agencies, contact their congressional representatives and attend any public meetings.