Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Gold Rush Toxic Legacy- Iron Mountain Mine

Iron Mountain Mine- Keswick, Ca
Old wounds are hard to heal, and thus is the case at the Federal Superfund Site 15 miles North West of the city of Redding. Boasting 100,000 residents, it also boasts on of the most un-wanted monikers anywhere in the country. The 3rd most polluted place on the planet. Heavy metals like, zinc, copper, and worse one like sulphuric acid, were all mined at the site in the 19th century. the mine was not closed until 1962. Now constantly emitting toxic a "run-off" of heavy metals into the Sacramento River at Keswick Lake.

Keswick lake/ Dam is a federally operated reservoir below Shasta Dam built to operate for flow regulation control and supplemental hydroelectric power generation. Keswick dam was originally designed for fish passage, and included design for a fish ladder, the area on the east bank in the photo covered by boulders, the fish ladder plan was scrapped and the Dam was completed without it.

The Bureau of Reclamation, the federal branch, that purchased the land and water contracts to build the dams and currently operates them for irrigation and civic water supply. However the Wintu Allotee's holding land beneath the rising waters of lake shasta were never compensated with land or monetarily. Construction nearby fish hatcheries at Battle Creek, a tributary of the Sacramento river 25 miles south. And Coleman Nat'l fish hatchery was built, and the new Livingston Stone hatchery below shasta dam built to mitigate taking away the more that 150 miles of prime Chinook salmon and steel head spawning habitat that was destroyed in the 1940's with the construction of Shasta Dam.

Iron Mountain Mine was established in 1850 by James Salee an early Shasta County prospector, initially a rich placer gold district near the early day Boom Town of Shasta. The gold played out by the end of the 1850's however and it was the later utilization of hard rock mining and mechanized mining techniques that led to larger and deeper shafts and larger volumes of ore removed that earlier miners could not accomplish. Along with these new mines came miners, settlers, land speculators, newly established small mining towns, large mining companies, all displacing the Wintu of the area.

In the 1980's toxic flows from Iron Mountain Mine resulted in massive fish kills in the Sacramento River at Redding, the Chinook in the river at that time were, and still are, listed as a federally endangered species. A federally endangered species that is of cultural and spiritual value to the Wintu People of Shasta County.

Iron Mountain Mine Run-off Results in Sacramento River Fish Kill Below Keswick Dam


Enrollen Wintu Tribal Member said...

The spawning population of chinook salmon in the Sacramento River has declined steadily since the 1950's.

At that time the population is estimated to have been 408,000 fish in 1953, while only 27,000 were estimated to be present in 1983.

Numerous fishkills associated with drainage from Iron Mountain Mine have been documented on the Sacramento River (EPA 1986b). In 1969, the most recent fish kill, an estimated 200,000 adult salmon were killed (CDM 1987).

Under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, the NOAA National Marine Fisheries Serviceis currently reviewing the status of Sacramento River winter-run chinook to determinewhether listing it as a threatened species is warranted (CDM 1987).

Recreational fishery of winter-run chinook salmon in the Sacramento River below the Keswick Dam is closedto protect the species (Helley 1989).Restoration of anadromous fish runs above the Keswick Dam has been considered, but was abandoned due to contamination from the Iron Mountain Mine (Helley 1989).

Superfund Site activities are continuing at the Iron Mountain site. A Record ofDecision for interim Remedial Action was signed October 3, 1986; and a cap at the site is being implemented and creek diversion is currently under design.

1987. Draft Final Report Iron Mountain Mine Endangerment Assessment.December 4, 1987.

Enrollen Wintu Tribal Member said...

Sacramento River Winter-Run Chinook Salmon ESU

This Chinook Salmon ESU was once abundant in California,with spawning populations in the Upper Sacramento River and several of its tributaries. Scientists believe that there may have been up to 200,000 fish in this population alone.

However, Shasta Dam blocked access to all of the ESU's historic spawning habitat. When the dam was completed, it was not expected that this ESU would survive.

Fortunately, cold-water releases from Shasta Dam created suitable spawning conditions for the ESU for roughly 100 km downstream from the dam. The Sacramento River Winter-run Chinook Salmon are now entirely dependent on this artificially created conditions for their survival.

For many years after the dam was constructed, these artificial conditions did not seem sufficient to maintain the ESU. The population declined from 100,000 in the 1960s to perhaps several hundred individuals in the 1990s. In addition, The Sacramento River

Winter-Run Chinook Salmon ESU was protected as threatened in 1990; then protected as endangered in 1994. Its endangered status was reaffirmed in 2005.

There has been some hope for this population in recent years. Since the late 1990s, the population has seen a population increase, and has hovered steadily at just under 10,000 individuals. But if the average rate of growth in the population does not change, some biologists believe that this ESU is certain to become extinct.

Central Valley Spring-Run Chinook Salmon ESU
This ESU of Chinook Salmon once numbered more than 700,000 individuals. But by the late 1980s, the population declined to a handful of runs containing only a few hundred individuals. The remaining runs are only on small tributaries to the Sacramento River.

The Spring-Run Chinook require cool freshwater while they mature over the summer. In the hot Central Valley, summer water temperatures are only suitable above 150-500 m elevations. Unfortunately, most of this habitat is now upstream of impassable dams.

Because of its location in the Central Valley, pesticides are also a major concern for this ESU. Pesticides can affect the entire ecosystem that the salmon need to survive, and even cause male salmon to become feminized, i.e., affect the male salmon's hormonal system in a way that may affect the male's fecundity.

Moreover, biologists are concerned that the Feather River Hatchery has cross-bred different salmon populations, and now these hatchery fish are considered a major threat to the genetic integrity of the Central Valley Spring-Run Chinook Salmon ESU.

In 1999, this ESU was protected as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. This decision was affirmed in 2005.

Conservation Action Item
Chinook Salmon need cool, clean waters to reproduce successfully. Water diversions, dams, and water pollution are all lethal to their continued existence.

There is an action item for each Chinook ESU that uses the GGNRA:

1.Sacramento River Winter Run ESU - Salmon require strong federal protections to survive. The Endangered Species Act is our nation's best safety net for salmon on the brink of extinction. Call your congressional delegation and tell them you support a strong Endangered Species Act so future generations can enjoy Chinook Salmon running in California's rivers and streams.

2. Central Valley Spring-Run ESU - Help reduce the amount of pesticides poured into salmon habitats in the Central Valley. Eat local, organic foods for every meal for one week in 2008.