Miners convinced a majority on the House Resources and Conservation Committee to send on a bill that would ended federal Clean Water Act restriction on gold suction dredges and open designated wild and scenic rivers such as the Middle Fork of the Salmon to miners without permits.
For these central Idaho Idaho residents who do a little mining, a little logging, construction, ranch maintenance and guiding hunters the issue is simple. The state, not the federal government has jurisdiction.
For the majority on the committee the states right issue and the miners' argument that what they do is actually good for salmon, steelhead and bull trout took precedence over how it looks. The outfitters and guides and many other businesses that benefit from the nearly 10,0000 people who come from around the world to raft on the Middle Fork might not think the state is making a good case for its argument it can do better than the federal government to protect their interests.
GOP Rep. Paul Shepherd had a similar bill last year and he filled the auditorium with mining supporters last year. But eventually the Legislature listened to the counsel of Attorney General Lawrence Wasden.
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This time Wasden says the bill violates the Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act and Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. He also said the bill overturns state law protecting rivers and streams.
Don Smith, a Riggins timber faller said the law wouldn't be needed if Idaho Gov. Butch Otter stood up to the Environmental Protection Agency.
"I believe the Governor could show the EPA that the rule doesn't work for the people of Idaho or the State of Idaho," Smith said. "We should be asserting our jurisdiction."