Salmon Protected: Suction Dredge Reform Success

Suction Dredge Reform Success!

On June 14, 2017, Oregon Governor Kate Brown signed a Suction Dredge Reform bill into law, after passing out of the Oregon Legislature with bipartisan support. The new law permanently places rivers and streams that provide habitat for sensitive salmon and lamprey off limits from suction dredge mining. 

Suction dredge mining is a type of recreational gold mining that is particularly concentrated on Oregon's Rogue and Umpqua Rivers. This type of hobby mining traps and kills young fish and eggs, smothers spawning gravel for salmon, and stirs up legacy mercury from historic mining operations.

Bipartisan Support for Suction Dredge Reform

The Oregon Senate passed the Suction Dredge Reform bill (SB 3-A Engrossed) by a bipartisan vote of 21-9 on April 10, 2017. On May 31, 2017 the Oregon House of Representatives passed the bill 38-20, also with bipartisan support.

What will the new suction dredge reform law do?

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 from the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). 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.

Why is long-term suction dredge reform important?

On January 2nd, 2016, a five-year moratorium went into place banning suction dredge mining on salmon bearing rivers and streams in Oregon. This moratorium was part of legislation passed in 2013 thanks to a champion for the Rogue, the late Senator Alan Bates. 

The current moratorium provides temporary protection for wild salmon, clean water, and quiet recreation across the state. But these protections disappear in 2021. 

Rogue Riverkeeper worked with a diverse coalition, from commercial fishing organizations to local community organizations to private property owners, to support permanent reforms to suction dredge mining to protect our clean water resources and sensitive salmon from mining impacts. 

Fact sheet: Download Rogue Riverkeeper's fact sheet on suction dredging, with a quick overview of the issues and impacts, with citations to peer reviewed scientific literature.

Video: Click here to watch a short video made by the Karuk Tribe about suction dredging in California's Salmon River.

Learn more about suction dredge mining and it's impacts.