Letters from the West

Miner applies to state for lease to mine Salmon riverbed

Amidst protests against EPA regulation, Donald Smith of Riggins applied for a five-year commercial riverbed mining lease in the Salmon River.

If Smith were planning to suction dredge mine the stretch of the river below Riggins that is salmon, steelhead, and bull trout habitat, he would have to get a permit from the Environmental Protection Agency. That new requirement is what prompted 60 recreational dredge miners to violate the Clean Water Act and dredge without a permit earlier this month.

However, if Smith is planning to placer mine the river’s dry gravel bars during low water, EPA would not be involved.

In 2012, a similar mineral lease was withdrawn after a lawsuit filed by the Idaho Conservation League. The state has set a public hearing on the lease application for 6 p.m. Sept. 3 at the Idaho Department of Lands office in McCall.