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The Federal Hegemon

August 5, 2010

By David Bond, Editor

The Federal Hegemon

Wallace, Idaho " (Note: The following was commentary presented by yours truly before an EPA “informational meeting” 4 Aug. More than 200 showed up to protest the agency's latest scheme to occupy the Coeur d'Alene Mining District for the next 100 years.)

I think 26 years of holding the Silver Valley's mining economy and its good name hostage is enough! And you want another hundred years? You're out of your collective mind. I was there at the first “Superfund” meeting as a reporter for the Spokesman-Review, when Ian von Lindern made everyone in the room gasp when he said it might take as much as $75 million to clean up the Bunker Hill site. You've gone through at least 6 times that already and now you want another BILLION?

Ian was right about one thing, though, when he said you could hold everyone from Noah Kellogg's descendents' on down hostage for the cleanup money. While you lazily watched, you allowed the real culprit, Gulf Resources & Chemical Corp., skedaddle out of the country with almost a BILLION in today's dollars scott-free that could have paid for cleanup and pensions. But now you're shaking down mom-and-pop companies that never turned a spade of earth for everything they've got! Shame on you. It was your screw-up, not theirs.

I travel the world, visiting mining districts and speaking at and attending mining conferences. And I don't care if you're in Vancouver or Toronto or Paris or Zurich or Munich or London or Cape Town or  Kalgoorlie, Australia, you'll hear the came comment: “Ah, the Silver Valley. Great district. Fantastic silver potential. We'd love to be exploring up there but we'd be insane to go near there as long as the Superfund people are in charge of it.” So much for your claim on page 101 of your 192-page Cliff's Notes version of this ROD that you “intend” to “allow” “responsible” mining and milling, whatever that means.  The outside world knows your track record here and doesn't believe you; the folks in the mining business already here can't deal with you.

We took our dog on his daily swimming trip up to a hole on Placer Creek above our home Monday. Camped there were two women from Seattle, riding dirt bikes. They were mortified to learn that we and the dog swam there. “Aren't you worried about getting sick? We've read that these creeks are running with lead.” Thank-you, EPA, for the stories you've planted in the Seattle Times, Seattle P-I and Spokesman-Review every time a new ROD comes around. Thanks for throwing our reputation under the bus every time your money runs low.

And maybe you've just tossed this out as a throw-away, but really, a 36-inch diameter collector pipe running half the length of the South Fork to carry water you're going to be sucking out of its tributaries? You're going to drop the water level in the creeks! This is outrageous! What will it do to the fishery? Where are you going to put that great big pipe? Down through our fishing holes? Where is the environmental impact statement? Oh, that's right, you don't have to file one, because you're the almighty EPA. You don't have to play by anyone's rules, not even your own.

I've got an alternative to this  proposal to govern the Silver Valley for 100 years by administrative fiat from Seattle, although I grant you you'll save us the cost of elections for 100 years, because our local elected officials are powerless over your edicts. Let's have a cease-fire, like North and South Korea, for 10 years. Finish up the yard remediations, pointless as they are, to keep the back-hoes and the Bobcats going. Take a bow for cleaning up the smelter with money from Hecla and Sunshine and Asarco. Do actual water quality sampling up and down the river for 10 years and let's see if perhaps nature can't accomplish your goals at far less cost to both the environment and that fragile thing we call democracy. Put that $500 million of Asarco money burning a hole in your pockets in the bank where it can earn interest, or better yet, buy gold and silver bullion, and a few Silver Valley mining shares with it! In 10 years we'll all be better off.