Editor's Note: A previous version of this story quoted Rep. Gael Tarleton, who said, "Oregon has a moratorium" on suction dredge mining. She also said, "The state of Idaho has banned suction dredging under the Clean Water Act." The state of Oregon does not have a moratorium though it does restrict the practice, and the state of Idaho has banned the practice only in some waters, including all areas designated as critical habitat for endangered salmon.
Washington is the only state left in the Pacific Northwest where people mining for gold and other minerals are allowed unrestricted use of motorized vacuums in riverbeds.
The practice is known as suction dredge mining, and some are concerned it’s harmful to endangered fish. A bill before the legislature would place new restrictions on it while its impacts are studied.