Governor Brown Signs Suction Dredge Reform Bill to Protect Oregon Rivers

Jun 14, 2017


Stacey Detwiler, Rogue Riverkeeper, 541-488-9831
Jake Crawford, Native Fish Society, (503) 344-4218
Tom Wolf, Oregon Council Trout Unlimited, 503-640-2123
Paige Spence, Oregon League of Conservation Voters, 404-583-8726
Glen Spain, Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations (PCFFA), 541-521-8655
Bob Van Dyk, Wild Salmon Center,  503-504-8471

Salem, OR – Today, Governor Brown signed legislation to protect rivers across the state of Oregon that provide habitat for iconic salmon from suction dredge mining. With bipartisan support in the Oregon Legislature, the Suction Dredge Reform bill places habitat for sensitive salmon and lamprey off limits to suction dredge mining.

“With support from Democrats and Republicans in urban and rural Oregon, the Governor’s support for this legislation represents a critical step forward to protect the health of Oregon’s rivers and the communities that rely upon them,” said Stacey Detwiler of Rogue Riverkeeper.

Suction dredge mining is a type of recreational gold mining that uses a motorized floating dredge to suck up the bottom of rivers. “The scientific literature demonstrates a broad array of negative effects of suction dredge gold mining.  It clearly works against efforts to recover salmon runs,” said Matt Sloat, Director of Science for Wild Salmon Center.

The Suction Dredge Reform bill works to protect clean and healthy rivers that support vibrant recreation and the commercial fishing industry. “Clean water and healthy salmon define our state and the rivers we love,” said Charles Gehr of Fly Water Travel. “The recreation industry is a vibrant and sustainable economic model for Oregon and this bill helps protect the streams that are the most vulnerable to suction dredge mining impacts.”

In 2008, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife found that people spent $2.5 billion on fish and wildlife recreation in the state. As Oregon salmon streams are slowly restored with taxpayer dollars across the state, the Suction Dredge Reform bill will keep suction dredge mining out of sensitive salmon nurseries.

“Suction dredging, in the wrong places, can have devastating impacts on Oregon’s valuable salmon runs and destroy commercial salmon fishing jobs,” said Glen Spain, NW Regional Director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations (PCFFA), representing major fishing industry trade associations. “This bill achieves a better balance, simply by pulling suction dredges out of vulnerable salmon nurseries, and moving them to where they would do far less economic and biological harm.”

The Suction Dredge Reform bill protects Oregon’s rivers and the communities that rely on them by prohibiting suction dredge mining in essential salmonid habitat. Outside of these areas, suction dredge mining can occur under an approved permit. This bill is the result of many years of research and collaboration. Championed by the late Senator Alan Bates from southern Oregon, the bill takes a measured approach to protecting rivers and streams that are the most vulnerable to pollution from this mining practice.

“For the last four years, local communities across Oregon have called for reform on harmful suction dredge mining practices,” said Jake Crawford of the Native Fish Society, “and this legislation represents a workable, long-term solution to protect the state’s sensitive fish populations.”

Across the state, there is broad support from anglers, private property owners, local businesses, conservation organizations, and the commercial fishing representatives to better protect our rivers by reforming suction dredge mining.

“This bill provides a sustainable approach that is grounded in science to limit negative impacts on wild fish populations in Oregon and their habitat,” said Tom Wolf of the Oregon Council of Trout Unlimited.

The Governor’s support for the Suction Dredge Reform bill is an important step in a multi-year effort to bring together diverse perspectives from state agencies, the mining industry, conservation groups, and others. “We commend Governor Brown for supporting this reasonable approach to allowing mining while still protecting our sensitive species,” said Paige Spence of the Oregon League of Conservation Voters. “I think Senator Bates would be pleased.”

Robyn Janssen