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Eye On Boise

Posts tagged: Salmon River

Rafters on Middle Fork of Salmon River sickened, possibly by norovirus

Here's a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Idaho health officials are trying to determine what is causing the gastrointestinal illness that has affected commercial and private rafters on the Middle Fork of the Salmon River, as well as fire personnel. Mike Taylor, an epidemiologist with the Eastern Idaho Public Health District, tells the Idaho Statesman ( ) that river guides have fallen ill and a Forest Service weed control crew had to be flown out after getting sick. Taylor suspects it may be norovirus, a highly-contagious viral illness that causes nausea, vomiting and diarrhea and lasts for about two days. About 50 people have reported getting ill while rafting or working on the river in the past month. However, three people who were tested came back with three different illnesses — one had norovirus, one had E. coli and one had giardia.

Miner drops controversial plan to use suction dredge in the Salmon River

The hobbist miner from Grangeville whose permit use a suction dredge in search of gold and garnets in the Salmon River prompted a lawsuit against the state now says he'd decided not to dredge there afer all. “I declined to do that mineral lease a few weeks ago … because there is no gold in the river where I was dredging,” Conklin told The Lewiston Tribune in a story published today. 

Jonathan Oppenheimer of the Idaho Conservation League said the ICL's attorneys are reviewing whether to continue pursuing the lawsuit now that Conklin has nixed his mining plans. “We continue to have questions as to whether the Land Board appropriately followed state law,” Oppenheimer said. “On behalf of the anglers, local businesses and scientists who spoke up for the Salmon River, we appreciate that Mr. Conklin has reconsidered his plans.” Click below for a full report from the Associated Press and the Lewiston Tribune.

ICL sues state over Salmon River dredging

Here's a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) ― An environmental group has sued the state after officials including Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter approved a plan to dredge the Salmon River for gold. The Idaho Conservation League on Tuesday announced it had asked a 4th District Court judge to require Idaho to approve a reclamation plan before signing off on any mining projects. In September, Grangeville miner Mike Conklin was awarded a five-year lease by the Idaho Land Board, giving him sole access to a half-mile stretch about 13 miles downstream of Riggins. The Boise-based environmental group contends the board ignored laws meant to protect Idaho's water, arguing that miners who use gasoline-powered suction dredges often leave big holes in the riverbed that damage valuable habitat for salmon and steelhead. Some anglers opposed Conklin's permit, saying it will hurt fishing. Click below for a full report from AP reporter John Miller.

Land Board approves mining lease on Salmon River over protests

Idaho's state Land Board voted unanimously this morning to approve a mineral lease for recreational dredge mining on the Salmon River, over objections from the Idaho Conservation League and longtime anglers on the river, who said suction dredge mining there is damaging the pristine river and leaving dangerous and deep holes. Opponents also raised questions about conflicting state laws regarding reclamation and other issues. Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden asked the board to hold off on the vote last month so he could visit the site and look further into the issue, which he did.

“This river is a unique and important river to the people of this state,” Wasden said. He said those who protested the lease raised “a serious overarching policy question … whether recreational dredge mining or dredge mining at all is appropriate for this stretch of river. But that question was answered already by the state Legislature, by the Department of Water Resources and by the Department of Lands in the adoption of a series of statutes and rules. So that question has been answered under the law, at least for today. This stretch of river is open to recreational dredge mining.” He added, “The broader question is a question for another day and another forum.”

The lease, Wasden said, would actually limit such activity by giving the lessee, Mike Conkin, exclusive rights to minerals on a half-mile stretch of the river. That would limit the number of people dredging there, Wasden said, and he said he thought that was appropriate. “This is a pristine and beautiful river,” he said. The attorney general said the state should look into clarifying the rules and statutes to address concerns brought up by opponents. “It seems to me that that is an appropriate discussion in which we should engage,” Wasden said.

Jonathan Oppenheimer of the ICL said after the vote that he was disappointed that the Land Board didn't move to protect the river; he said the EPA is likely to step in under federal clean water laws, if the state doesn't take action. Reporter Aaron Kunz of EarthFix has a deeper look at the issue here; it's one that divides the community of Riggins, where gold-mining enthusiasts and fishing and floating outfitters have competing interests.

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Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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