InStream Conservation

Dear River Lovers

Dear River Lovers,

Why is destroying an aquifer that threatened/endangered salmon and steelhead depend on for survival, not a ESA violation and a federal offense?

Floodplain gravel mining is the most insidious threat to the health and well being of rivers in the USA. Floodplains are the most endangered landscapes on earth, owing to dams, diversions, urban encroachment and gravel mining. Gravel operations on the East Fork, Lewis River are exactly the same see on rivers throughout the USA that have extensive deposits of gravel and cobble. These floodplain bed sediments of the river always contain flowing alluvial aquifers fed by the river, at the upstream end of the floodplain. They discharge back to the river on the downstream end, creating a mosaic of ground-surface water interfaces that foster productivity, biodiversity and natural cleansing of river water (filtering effect of the gravel beds). Gravel mining creates holes in the aquifer, providing a pathway for exotic organisms, pathogens, pollutants and substantially alters the natural temperature pattern of the aquifer. When you step on the floodplain of a gravel bed river, you have stepped into the river. Gravel mining would (not) be permitted on floodplains if the public realized these operations are actually in the river. Floodplain gravel mining destroys the river’s ecosystem threatened/endangered salmon and steelhead spawning habitat and clean water. The East Fork has been mined to the extent that river flows between the pond revetments and the floodplain integrity has been totally destroyed. This is a recipe for environmental disaster. The health of our rivers in many ways, reflects the quality of our lives. This mine on the East Fork and others like it, are a direct threat to all you hold dear about your river. They sever arteries, veins and capillaries between the river and the aquifer. You may be able to survive the bleeding, blockage of a heart attack, but quality of life is going to be rough.

Government agencies seem to be helpless in rejecting floodplain mining proposals for reasons that can be attributed to total lack of understanding of fundamental river ecology, greed, corruption or political pressure.

Keep up the good work! The battle for healthy rivers and restoration must go on.

Letter edited from
Jack A. Stanford
Jessie M. Bierman Professor of Ecology and Director
Flathead Lake Biological Station
The University of Montana