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Central Idaho project to repair gold-dredge damage begins

June 29, 2018

KETCHUM, Idaho (AP) — Crews have begun working on a project that will improve fish habitat in an area polluted by gold dredging on the Yankee Fork tributary of the Salmon River in central Idaho.

A dredging operation along a section of the river between 1940 and 1952 successfully removed gold from the valley floor, but it significantly altered the Yankee Fork, side channels, riparian vegetation and flood plain, the Forest Service said in a statement.

The changes substantially reduced the Yankee Fork’s ability to support fish, and the area has not recovered ever since, the Forest Service stated.

It also left large amounts of tailings piles near the old mining town of Bonanza, east of Stanley, the Idaho Mountain Express reported Friday.

The restoration project is a joint effort between the Salmon-Challis National Forest, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries, Shoshone-Bannock Tribes, Trout Unlimited, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, Bonneville Power Administration, the Idaho Governor’s Office of Species Conservation and J.R. Simplot Co., which owns mining claims on the dredged area.

“This project is the culmination of the efforts of many partners, stakeholders and members of the public and would not be possible without everyone’s hard work and involvement,” said Cassi Wood, project specialist for Trout Unlimited.

The expected three-year project will focus on about 222,640 yards (203,510 meters) of public and national forest land along 1.3 miles (2.1 kilometers) of the river.

This year, crews with the Salmon-Challis National Forest will work on removing tailings from the area.

They will work on rebuilding side channels, riparian and flood plain habitats in 2019 and 2020.

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Information from: Idaho Mountain Express, http://www.mtexpress.com

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