In April 2007, representatives from federal, state and local regulatory and resource agencies and the gravel industry started examining short- and long-term issues related to gravel removal from the Chetco River. The agency and industry representatives agreed to work collaboratively to develop a regional watershed approach to gravel mining in the Chetco River.
Short-term evaluation of the Chetco River focused on determining if mining could occur during the 2007-2008 work season. Analysis of existing information along with field investigations ultimately led to the conclusion that mining could be supported in the upper reaches of the Chetco system, but that mining within the estuary could not be supported without further evaluation.
In August 2007, the Corps issued permits to Freeman Rock, Inc. for gravel removal between river miles 4.5 and 5.5, and to Tidewater Contractors for gravel removal at river mile 10.
The longer-term study is investigating what level of mining can be supported in the Chetco River system without adversely impacting the aquatic environment. Potentially developing a watershed-specific regional general permit to establish parameters for gravel removal is also part of this long-term effort.
In July 2008, the U.S. Geological Survey was funded to conduct a study to evaluate sediment transport and gravel storage in the Chetco River between the mouth and river mile 11. This study is intended to support the RGP effort on the Chetco River and to provide valuable input on the characteristics of the river system. Tasks conducted as part of this effort include:
- Mapping trends in riparian vegetation based on historical photos
- Conducting bathymetric surveys of the lower 3.5 miles of the Chetco
- Mapping bank material to help determine habitat conditions and potential for erosion
- Field measurements of sediment transport and estimates of annual gravel recruitment
- Developing historical channel maps and evaluating bankline changes (erosion and sedimentation) through time
Studies are expected to be completed in January 2009, with final report released to the public in May 2009. Work coming out of the Chetco River evaluation will be used as a template to evaluate other river systems in Oregon.