Sponsor of Suction Mining Bill 'Can't Believe' Its Idaho House Committee Passage

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Clearwater River
  • Clearwater River
A bill that would allow dredge miners to make an end run around federal regulators is advancing at the Idaho Legislature.

In June 2013, a federal judge ordered suction dredge miners along the North Fork of the Clearwater River to stop their operations saying that public recreation and the river's archeological history were more important than the would-be gold miners' dreams.

But a measure sponsored by Riggins Republican Rep. Paul Shepherd would exempt suction dredge activities from provisions of the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act and the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. The Lewiston Tribune reports that the bill was prompted by ongoing disputes between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency which denied discharge permits in 2013 because the dredge mining had caused stream pollution.

The House Resources and Conservation Committee advanced the bill to the full House for consideration by voice vote, but even the Tribune's William Spence reports that even Shepherd was surprised by its success. 

"I can't believe it," said Shpehred after seeing his bill sent to the House amending order for some changes and full consideration.