Oregon's Chetco River faces "immediate threat"; ranked #7 most endangered river in America

Kari Chisholm FacebookTwitterWebsite

Yesterday, Reuters reported on the latest annual report from the advocacy group American Rivers. The report identifies the top 10 most endangered rivers in America.

The #7 most endangered river is the 56-mile Chetco River, right here in Southern Oregon. According to American Rivers, the Chetco faces an immediate threat:

Southern Oregon's Wild and Scenic Chetco River boasts pristine waters and the prized opportunity to fish for large wild salmon and steelhead trout. However, this natural gem is threatened by proposals to mine half its designated length. Oregon’s Senators Wyden and Merkley, Congressman Peter DeFazio, and Governor Kulongoski have asked the U.S Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Interior, the agencies responsible for management of the river and for minerals, to prevent suction dredge mining on the river by administratively withdrawing it from mineral entry under the antiquated Mining Law of 1872. The motorized instream mining on this national treasure can begin as soon as July 15, 2010, so immediate administrative action is needed. This reprieve for the river will allow Congress time to legislate the best possible long-term protection for the Wild and Scenic Chetco River. Congress needs to provide similar protection for other national Wild and Scenic Rivers from the harmful effects of mining.

I know almost nothing about this issue, so - my dear readers - please weigh in here. What's going on in Curry County? How is it possible that we're looking at "suction dredge mining" on a river that's in a designated national wilderness area?

Incidentally, there's an astonishingly well-written and detailed description of the Chetco River over at Wikipedia.

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    Something worth noting while we consider new energy options. Several of America's most endangered rivers have been heavily polluted by natural gas extraction. In upstate NY and many parts of PA (my old stomping grounds) nat gas drilling has and continues to contaminate clean water sources.

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    Since the Clinton administration the Dems have been trying to change our antiquated mining laws which allow any idiot to stake a claim on public lands, pollute streams and leave behind toxic waste with no financial responsibility. The GOP has continually blocked it in the Senate. SW Oregon is rich in minerals so it is filled with yahoos and their home made dredges who destroy streams, and to add insult to injury build houses on public land and claim it for themselves after a period of mining. Anyone want a free summer home, anyone want to trash the wilderness? Just go stake a mining claim along side a river.

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    To all who are interested, the issue was pretty well documented by The Oregonian in March. You can find the article online at:


    Allowing this river to be suction dredged would cause permanent harm to an already fragile ecosystem. If we are serious about preserving our wild fisheries and wilderness, we need to find the willpower to stop this, and similar projects across our State.


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    If anyone is interested in hiking to these areas please contact me, I know the area very well. [email protected]

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    I lived in Brookings for about 6 years, and fell in love with the Chetco. It's hard to find a more pristine river... heck, it's hard to find ANY pristine rivers. It seems inevitable that someday, some jackass will try to exploit it. But until then, take the opportunity to visit. Yeah it's a long drive from the Valley but the SW Oregon Coast is one of the lesser-known treasures of Oregon. I think it's worth the trip, and the effort to save.

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    The Chetco River is one of the poster children for natural treasures in the Siskiyou Wild Rivers that are threatened by mining operations. The 1872 mining law is a wee bit outdated and until it's modernized we'll continue to see our natural treasures destroyed. In the interim we the tax payers get to foot the bill for clean up. Here's more information about mining reform: http://www.oregonwild.org/waters/mining Thanks for calling attention to this issue Kari.

    Erik Fernandez Oregon Wild Erik

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