Researchers predicted benefits from removing the 106-year-old Gold Ray Dam in 2010. Among them were more salmon and steelhead swimming upriver to spawn and more rafters enjoying the scenery along 57 miles of newly opened water. But who anticipated gold fever!
Licensed gold-dredging prospectors rushed in and began sifting through tons of accumulated gravel released by the dam’s removal. State regulations kept dredges from grouping closely together and restricted mining to a short summer period when little or no fish spawning was underway. Environmentalists and others still raised concerns over the new gold rush. In the summer of 2013, a new state law limited permits for suction dredge mining on Oregon salmon-bearing rivers to 850 in 2014, compared with 2,400 the previous year and matching the number allowed in 2009. The law also placed new restrictions on the use of suction dredging. The gold rush isn’t over, but it’s subject to new laws aimed at protecting the river and its fabled spawning coho salmon and steelhead.