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Idaho lawsuit against suction-dredge miner can proceed

Idaho Conservation League contends that suction dredging harms salmon and other fish. File photo

A U.S. District Court judge in Idaho has rejected a California man’s request to dismiss an environmental group’s lawsuit against him concerning suction dredging for gold in Idaho rivers without required federal permits.

Chief U.S. Magistrate Judge Ronald E. Bush ruled Monday that the Idaho Conservation League has standing to bring the citizen enforcement lawsuit against Shannon Poe of Concord, California.

Bush wrote that Poe in multiple years admitted in online posts to dredging the South Fork of the Clearwater River while recognizing the need to obtain permits and his defiance to do so.

The Idaho Conservation League sued in 2018 contending Poe was violating the federal Clean Water Act by dredging in critical habitat for federally protected steelhead, salmon and bull trout.

Federal and state agencies have repeatedly notified Poe of the violations, but Poe denies he is subject to the Clean Water Act, the lawsuit says. The group also said Poe was encouraging unpermitted mining by other gold seekers in Idaho rivers.

Poe’s attorney, Constance Brooks, didn’t immediately return a call from The Associated Press on Tuesday.

Suction dredge miners use an underwater hose to suck up gravel and sort it for gold in a sluice box mounted on a watercraft. The sediment is discharged downstream.

Critics say the dredging can destroy fish spawning beds and discharged sediment can smother fish eggs.

Bush in his ruling said that the group’s lawsuit meets the standard for sufficient injury and that the allegations sufficiently “trace the injury to Mr. Poe’s challenged conduct.”

Bush writes that the injury can be redressed by preventing Poe from violating the Clean Water Act and imposing civil penalties as a deterrent.

The lawsuit asks Bush to impose civil penalties that can surpass $50,000 a day.

Bush writes that the allegations contained in the lawsuit must first be tested in court before a ruling on the merits of the case can be made.

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