Sunday, September 19, 2010

Conflict in the Rogue River Valley over gold prospectors--and this is 2010

Felicity Barringer reported a few weeks ago in the New York Times under the headline, "Where Dams Once Stood, Prospectors Spur Anger." The dateline is Gold Hill, Oregon, population 1073. Here's the lede:
When four dams on the Rogue River here were scheduled for removal, environmentalists predicted many benefits: more salmon and steelhead swimming upriver to spawn; more gravel carried downriver to replenish the riverbed; more rafters bobbing along 57 miles of newly opened water.

What they did not bargain for was the arrival this summer of a clutch of people, eager to sift through the tons of gravel for flakes of gold once hidden behind the dams.

* * *

Resentment now flows as freely as the river. Environmentalists and some riverside homeowners see the gold dredgers as noisy invaders rearranging the riverbed without care for the insects, fish and people who live in and along the Rogue.

The prospectors use loud suction dredges, and the nuisance they create is amplified because they tend to cluster in an area just downstream from where the dams once stood.

While Gold Hill is tiny, it is in metropolitan Jackson County, population 198,881. Jackson County is in Southern Oregon and includes Medford and Ashland, the home of the Shakespeare festival.

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