May 31, 2007
Okanogan County, WA - Okanogan Highlands Alliance has filed suit in U.S. District Court in Portland, Ore., challenging the Forest Service record of decision and final environmental impact statement issued Jan. 17 for the Buckhorn access project.
The project has to do with access to the proposed gold mine on Buckhorn Mountain near Chesaw.
The alliance alleges violations of various environmental and public land laws and regulations, according to alliance director David Kliegman.
According to the alliance announcement, the Forest Service decision approved a 24-foot-wide road along Marias Creek to accommodate more than 100 30-ton ore trucks per day and the discharge of water from dewatering Buckhorn Mountain so Kinross Gold can mine in the aquifer.
The agency also approved amendments to the forest plan, which allow an increase in the amount of sediment that may flow into creeks adjacent to the mining road.
According to Kliegman, the lawsuit contends that the Forest Service failed to choose the least damaging alternative, violated the Clean Water Act and the forest plan, and failed to protect federal reserved water rights.
"The Forest Service's decisions are based on the false premise that it must approve any activity on public land requested by the mining company, no matter how destructive," said Roger Flynn, attorney with the Western Mining Action Project.
Flynn's non-profit law firm represents Okanogan Highlands Alliance for the challenge.
He said recent federal court decisions have ruled against the agency's position.
Okanogan Highlands Alliance contends the proposed gold mine would cause a permanent shift in the way water flows off the mountain, adversely affecting senior water rights.
The alliance, a non-profit organization, is dedicated to educating the public about the environmental threats of large-scale mining, according to its announcement.