RIVERS – Washington’s U.S. senators have proposed a bill that would prevent mining on about 340,000 acres of public land in the Methow Valley to protect water quality and salmon habitat.
The legislation introduced Wednesday would withdraw U.S. Forest Service land in northcentral Washington from potential mining leases that could degrade water quality in the Methow River and tributaries.
Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell said in statements that the bill is needed to protect water, salmon and other natural resources in the region.
The Seattle Times says that in 2014 Blue River Resources filed a permit for exploratory drilling on Flagg Mountain to assess copper deposits. The Vancouver, British Columbia-based company wants to use existing roads to access 14 locations to drill test borings to determine the possible value of its copper mining claim.
The proposed legislation is in a race with the company’s desire to drill. Michael Liu, district ranger for the Methow Valley Ranger District of the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, said the company’s proposal could be approved for exploratory drilling as soon as Aug. 1.
“The introduction of the Headwaters’ legislation is a significant step in ensuring that the waters, working landscapes and recreational economy of the Methow Valley continue to provide for and support the local residents, our diverse business community and the rich fish and wildlife populations in this region." said Bill Pope, owner of the Mazama Country Inn and member of the Methow Headwaters Campaign, which was launched earlier this year.
"We deeply appreciate Senator Murray’s leadership in recognizing the significance of these critical lands to the valley and its future.”