For Immediate Release
Contact: Chris Wood, Chief Operating Officer (703) 284-9403
Trout Unlimited Supports Sen. Mark Udall’s Good Samaritan Bill
Bill increases the ability for groups to clean up abandoned hard rock mines
ARLINGTON, VA.--Trout Unlimited (TU) commends Colorado Sen. Mark Udall for his bill introduced today, The Good Samaritan Cleanup of Abandoned Hardrock Mines Act of 2009.
If enacted, the legislation would make it easier for groups like TU to clean up abandoned hard rock mines in the western United States.
“Cleaning up abandoned mines is one of the single most important, least addressed environmental challenges in the nation,” said TU’s Chief Operating Officer, Chris Wood. “The geographic scope of the problem is staggering. EPA estimates that abandoned hard rock mines degrade nearly 40 percent of all western headwater streams. Estimates for clean up range from $36-72 billion,” Wood said.
“The enormity and scope of the problem have led to a collective sense of futility that has fostered inactivity in many places,” Wood continued. “Senator Udall's bill would apply common sense to common problems for the common good.”
The bill would provide legal protection for groups who clean up waste from abandoned mines. To date, the permitting process that allows for would-be Good Samaritans to initiate cleanups has been complex and restrictive.
TU has a long history of working to improve water quality and recover fisheries in watersheds degraded by abandoned mines. TU is presently cleaning up fisheries and water quality that has been affected by abandoned mines, including Utah’s American Fork Canyon; Idaho’s upper Boise River; Montana’s Eustache Creek; Colorado’s Snake River and Nevada’s Maggie Creek, among others.
But on many of the sites where TU works to recover fisheries affected by abandoned mines, there is no potentially responsible party, or the area is not high enough of a priority to warrant federal funding or enforcement actions. On these sites, there is often no party available as a target for an enforcement action. In addition, there is no hope for future enforcement action to drive clean-up of the area.
Protection from the Clean Water Act (CWA) does not exist for potential Good Samaritans and has been an impediment for groups to undertake large scale efforts on the ground. Udall’s bill would create a new program under the CWA to help promote the efforts of people who had no involvement or responsibility for abandoned hard rock mines, but who want to make their communities safer by cleaning up those mines.
Trout Unlimited is the nation’s largest coldwater conservation organization, with 140,000 members dedicated to conserving, protecting, and restoring North America’s trout and salmon fisheries and their watersheds. In 2009, TU celebrates its 50th anniversary.