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Dredgers might return to the Rogue next year

By Mark Freeman
Mail Tribune

DEQ, EPA negotiating over polluted waters list that would derail Rogue dredgers

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Suction dredgers could be back on the Rogue River next summer if a new list of Oregon's polluted waters that includes the Rogue fails to get federal approval by the start of the next dredging season.

The state Department of Environmental Quality has yet to give the federal government its updated draft list of so-called "water-quality impaired" streams, which for the first time would designate the Rogue as having unhealthy levels of toxic mercury.

The designation stems from the discovery of mercury at more than 10 times federal Clean Water Act standards in the Rogue's resident pikeminnow, which is considered a bellweather species for contamination within the food chain.

Under new state rules set to go into effect next year, streams with levels of toxins that exceed federal standards will not qualify for a general water-quality permit that dredgers need to operate in hundreds of Oregon waterways when the season begins June 15.

But only streams identified as water-quality impaired in the DEQ's current list, which does not include the Rogue, would fall under the dredging ban, DEQ officials say.

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