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Gold Miners Getting More Restrictions and Laws
By Aaron Nilsson/KTVL.comSOUTHERN OREGON -- In the last few years, gold mining in southern Oregon seems to have hit another boom, but now recreational miners may soon have to pay an extra fee to look for gold.

Gold miners said they are discouraged by new laws and restrictions coming down from state officials.

Environmentalists said one of the best possible ways to help with the current debate is to have an open discussion between both sides of the issue and help preserve the local environment.

“The environmental impacts of however many people swimming out in the lakes and rivers with sunscreen compared to 850 guys we're gonna have. We have a minimum footprint,” Eathan Mertz, owner of Black Cat Mining in Medford, said.

He believes miners aren't the only ones to blame for impacting the environment and said gold miners do what they can to preserve the areas around them as they work.

Mertz said the dredging season is scheduled to actually avoid spawning runs of fish.

“That's why we have a season, to protect the fish. We're out there at a time when the fish are not, they're not spawning and we're not causing damage,” Mertz said.

Dredging is usually done in ten feet of water or less.

A suction dredge is an underwater-type of vacuum cleaner and picks up streambed material including rock, sand, silt and gold.

The materials pass through a suction hose, running them through a system floating on the surface of the water.

Gold is separated from the other materials and those are washed back into the water, filling in the holes created by the dredge machine along the waterway.

Forrest English with Rogue Riverkeepers said these current mining practices, however, are still impacting the habitats.

“Whether or not there's actually fish eggs in that gravel, the degradation of the stream bottom and changing the types of gravel composition, that's something that will affect their ability to spawn and produce in the future,” English said.

English said miners and non-miners have to figure out how they're going to share the streams and rivers.
“This is something where landowners on the rivers on the Rogue and Umpqua have had issues with it. Fishermen and rafting guides have had issues. It’s not about one side getting everything it wants” English said.

Department of Environmental Quality Compliance Director, Jim Billings, said miners need to follow guidelines and restore any mining area back to pre-mining condition.

He also said there are water quality standards to be met and miners should move to a different area or change mining methods if those standards aren't being met.

Billings said the biggest complaint the D.E.Q. hears about is the noise from miners using suction dredgers.

“I have received a lot of complaints from people along the Rogue River between Grants Pass and Gold Hill that may have several dredges off their back lawn and complaining about the noise...it's normally up to local ordinances, city or county ordinance to deal with noise,” Billings said.

Billings said the D.E.Q. has three permits for the public: two general permits and one costing $11,000 for small-mining operations.

Billings said the D.E.Q. doesn't receive many of those applications.

Most of the permits he sees are purely recreational for people who go out on weekends with family or friends.

Newly introduced by Oregon Senator Alan Bates, Senate Bill 838 puts some restrictions on miners using motorized equipment and reduced the number of permits allowed to 850.

The bill also requires the D.E.Q. to include a 150 dollar fee on top of the 25 dollar application fee for general or recreational mining.

Billings said that money will go into its own account for the D.E.Q. to be used for studying suction dredging now and into the future.

Billings said anyone wanting to avoid the new 150 dollar fee and still mine for gold can stick to panning or using a sluice box.

“That's an alternative for someone, if someone is discouraged of the surcharge, I mention that's an option,” Billings said.

Billings advises anyone interested in any suction dredging to wait for general authorization from the Department of State Lands, because the 150 dollars is non-refundable.

English said he has seen the number of permits double in the last couple years with some people hoping to strike it rich.

“Whether folks are actually doing that it's a little like gambling. Are you going to beat the odds and make it? Who knows? I would say people are picking over the scraps left over from the 1800s,” English said.

English wants to work with miners and said as a society, we are all responsible for our impacts to public resources like water and fish.

Ashland tap pipeline approved
By Ashley Carrasco / KTVL.COM ASHLAND, Ore - The city of Ashland will move forward with a pipeline that will bring water into Rogue Valley this summer.It will cost more than $4 million so council members have approved a request by "Public Works" to use money originally designated for park and rec funding. Director. Mike Faught says the low snowpack has hurt water supply this year and the pipeline is drastically needed. The city will pick the best of 5 bidders to complete the project by august. 

Man missing in Josephine County
WOLF CREEK, Ore. -- Timothy Dale Fenimore, 44, was last seen April 18 when he reportedly left on foot and did not return, according to Oregon State Police. 

The 44-year-old man reportedly left a residence in the Wolf Creek area and is now missing, under what police call, suspicious circumstances. 

Fenimore is described as a white male, 6'2", 230 pounds, with red hair and blue eyes. He has numerous tattoos on both arms and shoulders, and right calf. When last seen, he was wearing a Boston Red Sox cap, black Under Armour hoodie sweatshirt, jeans, and bright colored tennis shoes. 

Anyone with information to help find Fenimore is asked to call OSP Southern Command Center dispatch at (541) 474-3174. OSP Criminal Investigations Division is assisted by Josephine County Sheriff's Office in this investigation. OSP Detective Deanna Harris is the lead investigator. 

MEDFORD, Ore. -- Police have arrested one person, so far, in connection with the assault of a 39-year-old man last night. 

Officers say they spotted 18-year-old Lucas Carstens in the area just before 1 a.m. and arrested him. 

The stabbing happened in the 200 block of Elm Street at about 10 p.m. last night. 

The victim has multiple stab wounds to his head and upper body, but he is now in stable condition. 

The suspects are believed to be friends with the victim's neighbor. 

KLAMATH FALLS, Ore. -- A stabbing and high speed chase ended with three arrests in Klamath Falls last night. 

Police say the stabbing happened in the 300 block of North 5th Street last night. Police chased Seth Hernandez, Keith Jackson and Joshua Morris from Malin to Bonanza then to the Stewart Lennox area, according to the press release.

The suspects reached speeds up to 100 miles per hour, according to police. Spike strips at first did not work, so officers had to use helicopters to follow the suspects in the camero. 

The suspects are now behind bars, facing attempted aggravated murder charges and assault charges. 

MEDFORD, Ore. -- The community is coming up with ways to prevent the further spread of gangs in Jackson County. 

For two years, a gang task force gathered information on gangs. Students, business leaders and even some active gang members contributed to 4,500 surveys in Jackson County. 

The results presented last night show, among other ideas, mentoring is one of the top suggestions for stopping gang influences.

Another presentation of the Gang Assessment Study will be held at 5:30 p.m. at White City Elementary School on Thursday. 

SALEM -- In court today, arguments for dropping Oregon's same-sex marriage ban were presented. A federal judge will hear arguments over the ban. 

Last night, people gathered for a gay rights vigil at the Jackson County Courthouse, joining other vigils across the state. 

Oregon's attorney general declined to defend the constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.

Groups for same-sex marriage, like SO-Pride and Basic Rights Oregon, say they anticipate the measure coming to ballots in November.


GRANTS PASS, Ore. -- The primary election is just one month away. 
A forum for those running for Josephine County sheriff will be tonight at 6 p.m. at the Anne Basker Auditorium. 

Questions will be presented to the sheriff candidates. The public is welcome. 

MEDFORD, Ore. -- The Medford School District says it saved $725,000 when teachers went on strike earlier this year. 

Back in February, the teachers union went on strike for 11 days. 

The district's financial officer says it paid more than $2 million to keep schools open during the strike, but still managed to save. 

The savings will be used for student-related purchases and maintenance projects. That includes $40,000 for new ovens for South Medford High School's culinary classroom, 500 Chromebooks for students and more than $380,000 will go to update curriculum software. 

MEDFORD, Ore. -- A sign posted on the front door of Marigolds and J-Dubs says the restaurant is going out-of-business. 

The sign says due to several factors they must close their doors for good. The restaurant opened in January. 

Several businesses have come and gone at the same location in the last year. 

MEDFORD, Ore. -- Ever since Oz Fitness announced it would be closing its doors for good at the Medford Center, neighboring businesses and shoppers worry there will not be a buyer for the empty space. 

Much of the Medford Center is already vacant. Most business owners say larger companies, like Sears and Tinseltown USA, bring in most of the foot traffic. 

While they are not being greatly affected by the closure of Oz, other neighboring businesses say they are wondering if they should clear out, too. 


GRANTS PASS, Ore. -- Grants Pass police are offering the public a way to safely get rid of unused prescription pills. 

This Saturday it is holding a prescription drug take back at the Justice Building from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Police say extra medications can end up in the wrong hands, lead to poisonings and even pollute our water when flushed down the toilet.

Pet medications will also be accepted, as well as old vitamins or supplements. 

ASHLAND, Ore. -- The City of Ashland will move forward with a pipeline that will bring water into the Rogue Valley this summer.

It will cost more than $4 million, so council members have approved a request by "public works" to use money originally designated for parks and recreation funding. 

Director Mike Faught says the low snowpack has hurt the water supply this year and the pipeline is drastically needed.

ROSEBURG, Ore. -- Two Roseburg parents are behind bars after doctors say they found traces of methamphetamine in their 2-year-old daughter's blood stream. 

The parents took their daughter to the emergency after she was not acting normal, the press release said. 

Michelle Burke and James Pohl were later arrested after investigators found meth residue in their home. Two other girls also live at the home. 

The parents are now facing charges of child neglect and possession of meth. 

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