Article as featured in the April/May 2016 Pick & Shovel Gazette
By SARAH REIJONEN
For the GPAA
In February, U.S. District Court Judge James L. Robart dismissed a case filed by Idaho Rivers United, Friends of the Clearwater, Sierra Club, the Nez Perce Tribe and several other plaintiffs against the Army Corps of Engineers.
The lawsuit, which was filed in 2014, sought to keep the Corps from dredging the Snake River to keep its ports accessible. Despite the suit, the Corps went ahead with its dredging operation to keep the Snake River’s ports accessible and save taxpayers some $2 million, according to a Dec. 2014 article by the Northwest News Network.
Aside from declaring the point moot because the project was already finished —the Corps has only a short window from Dec. 15 to March 1 to dredge between salmon migrations—the judge also declared that the plaintiffs failed to prove that fish sustained any “concrete and particularized” harm from dredging, according to a Feb. 10 Associated Press article.
“This is a huge victory,” Poe said. “It goes along with the truth that there is no addition, no polluting; it’s just a net removal.”
The decision also backs miners, noting the lack of scientific evidence that dredging harms fish, which was the crux of the lawsuit. The plaintiffs cited concerns about the Pacific lamprey, steelhead and Snake River fall Chinook.
“They want to keep up this narrative that suction dredging kills fish, but there isn’t any science to support that,” Poe said.
That’s why Poe and AMRA are putting in public requests for information on the federal agencies’ scientific research—or lack thereof.
Despite success in one federal court, miners continue to face obstacles on the South Fork of Idaho’s Clearwater River, where the Forest Service wants to restrict the number of dredges on the river to 15.
“We’re meeting with our attorney today to stick the poker in their behind,” said Poe, who submitted a request for more information on the Forest Service’s plan. “We want to know where this whole idea came from. They don’t want us to know, but we are going to expose them and go public.”
Finally, Idaho miners and AMRA continue collaboration on a pro-mining bill for the state.
“It’s not to the point where we can talk openly about it, but when the time comes to support the bill, we will post it and rally all the small miners to support it,” Poe said.
Sarah Reijonen is a freelance writer based in California. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org