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Group Lists Oregon's Chetco River Among Most Endangered In U.S.

A national conservation group has named the Chetco river in southwest Oregon one of the country's 10 most endangered rivers this year. Amelia Templeton reports. 

 Chetco River
 Checto River near Boulder Creek

The American Rivers group says that salmon and other wildlife in the Chetco river are under immediate threat due to dredging for gold. That's supposed to start on July 15.

Kavita Hein is with American Rivers.

Kavita Hein: "So we basically want an emergency mining withdrawal for the Chetco river."

The corporation Chetco River Mining and Exploration LLC holds mining claims on about 20 miles of the river, some in a wilderness area. Dave Rutan founded the corporation. 

Dave Rutan: "The amount of gold we're anticipating is confidential."

The corporation plans to use suction dredges to mine for gold. Local environmentalist Barbara Ullian says the river bed is critical habitat for salmon, almost like a womb.

Barbara Ullian: "The females lay their eggs in these gravels and they're fertilized there. They have real specific requirements."

State biologists say disruption in the river has the least impact on fish in thesummer months. That's when Dave Rutan plans to mine for gold. 

Dave Rutan: "A six inch dredge is about eight feet long. And about six feet wide. It's less than the footprint of a car. And its very precise. "

Harvey Young is a fishing guide based in Brookings Oregon. He worries that mining could hurt the local economy. And says the Salmon runs in the Chetco are unique.

Harvey Young: "If you've ever have come to the Chetco and stand on the side like in October and you see 20, 30, 40 pound kings returning to the clear water from the ocean like they did eons ago. It's really an awe inspiring sight." 

Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley and Congressman Peter Defazio are concerned that high prices for gold and a ban on suction mining in California have led to a gold rush in Southern Oregon.

They have already asked the Obama administration for a partial mining withdrawal for the Chetco and two nearby rivers. 


On the web:

America's Most Endangered Rivers 2010
National Wild and Scenic Chetco River

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