Feds Accuse Two Idaho Men of Suction-Dredging the Clearwater River 

click to enlarge Idaho's Clearwater River - IDAHO DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE / PUBLIC DOMAIN

Two Idaho men have run afoul of the U.S government and face the possibility of hefty fines after allegedly performing suction-dredge mining on the South Fork of the Clearwater River in the summer of 2015.

The Lewiston Tribune reported today Dave Erlanson of Swan Valley and Robert Rice of Idaho Falls could each be fined $16,000 for "using equipment in an area closed to suction-dredge mining."

In 2013, the EPA eased the process for Idaho miners to secure dredge permitting, but the agency made it clear no suction-dredging could occur near critical habitat for threatened or endangered fish without special approval. The restriction includes the Clearwater River and Salmon River basins.

"Despite notices of violation and sending warning letters out since the permit was issued, we continue to have annual dredge-in events where there has been mining in closed areas as well as a lot of individual violations," EPA Region 10 Office of Compliance and Enforcement Director Edward Kowalski told the Tribune.

Meanwhile, some Idaho environmentalists say the actions against the two miners are mere drops in a bucket of illegal activity.

"We have been disappointed there hasn't been enforcement action taken in the past and certainly are encouraged now to see EPA hold outlaw dredge miners accountable," Idaho Conservation League senior associate Jonathan Oppenheimer told the Tribune.
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