Protecting the Methow River from mining moves forward

A bill that would protect lands in Okanogan County from mining is moving forward after a markup in today’s Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing.

The Methow Headwater Protections Act of 2017, S. 566, comes on the heels of a 20 year mineral withdrawal, cementing protections for an area known for it’s agriculture and recreational importance in the state of Washington.

More specifically, the bill would provide protections for the Methow River, an important waterway for multiple native fish species including three species listed by the Endangered Species Act; Upper Columbia spring Chinook, Upper Columbia steelhead and bull trout.

“We’ve seen what happens with mining operations placed in the headwaters of rivers,” said Crystal Elliot, project manager for abandoned mine restoration in Washington for Trout Unlimited. “It rarely turns out well. We can’t afford to continue to put our important water resources at risk. Our economies, our livelihoods depend on these rivers. We thank our Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell for standing up for such an important resource in this state.”

Trout Unlimited and its partners have spent millions of dollars in the area, improving habitat for fish and wildlife and helping to upgrade irrigation infrastructure to help farmers and ranchers maintain their operations while keeping water in the river. Additionally, hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars have been spent on the Methow and the Columbia River Basin to repair and restore listed fish species.

“Putting those investments at risk with an industrial-scale mine is not acceptable,” Elliot said.

By Shauna Stephenson.