Jul 23 2009 -- Aug 23 2009 Results of Hearing on Gravel Mining on Elk
Typical Lower Elk: broad, clean gravel bars, crystal-clear water shaded by trees. It is perfect salmon habitat. 7/22/09 photo.Curry County Board of Commissioners held a hearing on the 1987 Wagner permit, which allows instream gravel mining on the Elk River. There was a lot of testimony, nearly all opposed to the mining.
The main arguments centered around the undeniable fact that conditions have changed since the original permit was granted in 1987. Conditions have changed a great deal! Curry County should definitely not allow mining under so old a permit, without full review of the situation and an entirely new decision as to whether mining should be allowed at all, and if so, under what conditions. It was pointed out both by Kalmiopsis Audubon Society and Oregon Shores that since 1987, the SONCC (Southern Oregon / Northern California Coast) coho salmon have been listed as "threatened" under the Endangered Species Act. The National Marine Fisheries Service considers the Elk River prime habitat for this threatened run.
If a local government grants a permit for an action that would harm a federally listed species, that government has "taken" the species under the ESA, and is liable for its actions. There are many federal cases holding local governments liable in situations directly comparable to the one Curry County is facing with this permit question.
In addition, since 1987 research has become quite sophisticated about the effects of instream gravel mining on salmonids. Also, Oregon has formed an inter-agency Gravel Team (see sidebar) whose purpose is to locate funding and pursue studies of important gravel-bearing rivers (including the Elk). It is essential to know a river's "gravel budget" — that is, the amount of gravel deposit a river makes annually — in order to determine whether gravel mining is truly renewable in a given location, or is fossil gravel mining.
Inter-agency Gravel Team The Elk has not yet been studied, so there are no scientific baselines at all.
An informal working group of personnel involved in the gravel-permitting process, including staff from the Department of State Lands, Dept. of Land Conservation and Development, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the biological agencies, such as National Marine Fisheries Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Oregon Dept. of Fish and Wildlife; and also including county planning officials and members of the gravel industry.
They are slowly working towards funding and then studying the gravel accumulation on the main gravel-producing rivers with instream gravel mining activities or proposals, mostly on the coast, but also the Willamette Valley. The first and second phases of the "gravel budget" study have nearly been completed for the Chetco, for example. The study was funded by the Corps of Engineers, and the work was done by U.S. Geological Survey staff. The first phase of the Umpqua is complete; the second phase is due in December 2009.
The interagency team is currently looking for funding to study the other rivers on their list, including: the Rogue, Coquille, Willamette/McKenzie, Sixes, and Elk. The purpose of these studies is to determine how much gravel from a given river could be mined, though the studies don't mandate any mining. They are just baseline studies to help inform actual permitting decisions with scientific data.
The Board of Commissioners left the record open in the Elk hearing until August 4, 2009. Anyone may submit further comments in writing until that time. After that, the record will be open only for rebuttal arguments on anything previously submitted, but not new information, until August 11. The applicants will then make their final arguments, and the Board will make a decision at a public meeting on August 25. No new testimony will be heard at that time, but concerned residents are welcome to attend.
For more information:
5/11/2009, Oregon Shores' testimony before Curry Board
2/12/2009, Background on the Wagner/Tidewater sites
Articles on topic 'Curry: Gravel Mining':
Sep 5 2011 Oregon Shores Seeks Again to Protect Rogue from Mining
May 5 2011 Efforts to Block Tidewater’s Gravel Mining Succeed
Feb 10 2011 Curry Planning Commission Turns Down Gravel Mining
Jul 28 2010 Efforts to Protect the Lower Rogue From Gravel Mining Continue
Apr 5 2010 Gravel Mining Continues to Threaten Chetco River, Rogue Estuary
Feb 15 2010 LUBA: Tidewater May Apply for Wedderburn In-stream Mining
Oct 28 2009 South Coast Rivers: Gravel Mining Continues
Jul 23 2009 Results of Hearing on Gravel Mining on Elk
Jul 21 2009 Curry County Hearing July 21 on Gravel Mining in Elk River
Jun 6 2009 Two More Victories on Gravel Mining on the Rogue
May 28 2009 Third Hearing Scheduled on Gravel Mining near Old Mill Site
Apr 23 2009 Tidewater Requests "Interpretation" of Estuary Boundaries
Apr 1 2009 ACOE Solicits Comments on Tidewater Application on Elk River
Sep 24 2008 Two Victories on Gravel Mining on the Rogue
Sep 23 2008 New Guide to Permitting for Instream Gravel Mining
New Guide to Permitting for Instream Gravel Mining
Aug 7 2008 Gravel Mining on the Rogue
Nov 1 2007 Chetco River Gravel Mining
Nov 1 2007 Rogue River Gravel Mining