Center for Biological Diversity

Media Advisory, March 12, 2019 

Contact: Sophia Ressler, (206) 399-4004,  

Washington Bill Seeks to Protect Endangered Fish, Rivers From Toxic Suction Dredge Mining

OLYMPIA, Wash.— The Washington House of Representatives will hold a hearing Thursday on a bill to protect fish and rivers from harmful suction dredge mining.

Suction dredge mining, which vacuums up stream bottoms and riverbeds in search of gold, destroys important habitat for endangered fish and increases oxygen-choking sediment and toxic mercury in waterways. The practice is currently not even tracked or monitored in the state.

The bill, S.B. 5322, would help bring Washington into compliance with state and federal laws protecting fish and water quality. It would also create rules limiting the destructive mining practice that are like measures already in place in California, Oregon and Idaho.

“It’s time to end the destructive suction dredge free-for-all in our waterways,” said Sophia Ressler, a staff attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Washington taxpayers have spent millions of dollars to restore salmon habitat, but we still allow a small group of hobby miners to trash critical spawning areas. Creating reasonable measures to regulate this harmful practice is an essential step for protecting our endangered salmon and orca populations.”

What: Hearing on suction dredge mining bill in the Washington House of Representatives  

When: 8 a.m. Thursday

Where: John L. O’Brien Building, Washington State Capitol Campus, Olympia, Wash. House Hearing Room B.

Who: Open to the public. Center staff and other groups supporting the bill will be in attendance and available for interviews.

Suction dredge miners use gas-powered dredges to suck up the bottom of riverbeds and streambeds. This suspends heavy metals and other sediments, putting endangered fish and their habitat in peril. Washington does not currently require water-quality permits or fees for the practice, and there is no monitoring or tracking of suction dredge mining. Idaho, Oregon and California have all enacted programs to ensure compliance with the Clean Water Act and protect species listed under the Endangered Species Act. Washington is the only state with endangered Pacific salmon and whales to allow suction dredge mining without meaningful regulatory oversight. The House bill seeks to protect water quality and wildlife, while continuing to allow recreational mining on other waterways with a permit. 

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.4 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

More press releases