SCOTUS stands with prior rulings against California dredge miner who polluted Idaho river

Dredge mining operation
Posted at 11:49 AM, Jul 02, 2024

IDAHO — The Supreme Court has denied a petition to review prior federal court rulings that found gold miner Shannon Poe, of California, violated the Clean Water Act by dumping suction dredge mining waste into Idaho's South Fork of the Clearwater River without a pollution permit.

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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.

In 2021 a district court ruled that Poe violated the Clean Water Act, presenting him with a $150,000 fine. In 2023 Poe's appeal to the Ninth Circuit failed, prompting an appeal to the Supreme Court to hear his case.

“Before today, two federal courts correctly determined that Mr. Poe should be held accountable for disregarding permitting requirements under the Clean Water Act,” said Jonathan Oppenheimer, Government Relations Director with the Idaho Conservation League. “The Supreme Court’s rejection of Poe’s arguments settles this matter once and for all. This is a significant win for Idaho, and for all of America’s rivers and streams and the fish and wildlife those rivers support.”

Suction dredge mining can damage riverbeds and release dangerous metals like mercury into the water, but Pow refused to obtain a permit while his organization, the American Mining Association, encouraged other groups to protest the federal rules on the Clearwater River in Idaho.

“We’re heartened that the Supreme Court saw through Poe’s attempts to degrade and destroy natural treasures such as the South Fork Clearwater without repercussion,” concluded Oppenheimer. “Once again, the message is clear from the highest court in the land: Suction dredge miners must follow the rules designed to protect clean water, or pay the price.”

Dredge miners in Idaho must obtain an Idaho Pollution Discharge Elimination System Permit from the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality to comply with the Clean Water Act, and must obtain other permits to comply with state and federal rules designed to protect stream channels, sensitive species, water quality, and other public resources.