MCKENZIE BRIDGE, Oregon (STPNS) -- SALEM: Senate Bill 838, which would limit gold dredging along many Oregon waterways, is headed to Governor Kitzhaber’s desk following approval by both the House and Senate this week.

“Salmon and clean water are some of the defining characteristics for Oregon’s streams and rivers,” said John Ward of Rogue Flyfishers. “This bill is a balanced first step to ensure their protection as most Oregonian’s desire.”

Backers of the bill stressed it was designed to protect fish habitat and would create a statewide moratorium. The final bill is a compromise with three main sections to be implemented over the next 3 years.

Opponents argued the state’s Department of Environmental Quality already has a permit system to regulate recreational and mining claim owners and follow guidelines set by ODFW biologists to establish time periods that avoid vulnerable life stages for migration, spawning and rearing of anadromous and other game fish.

Sponsored by the Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, SB 838 is slated to go into effect in 2014. The measure would allow 850 permits statewide (down from 2,409) – giving preference to long-time Oregon residents and making little change to current dredging regulations. That would be followed by a two-year period of public meetings to develop new regulations. A possible 5-year moratorium on suction dredging could be implemented in 2015 if the legislature fails to adopt the new regulations.

Language in the bill specifies that, if enacted, the moratorium would affect mining that uses any form of motorized equipment to extract gold, silver or any other precious mineral from placer deposits of the beds of the waters of Oregon or that results in the removal or disturbance of streamside vegetation in a manner that may impact water quality.

The moratorium would apply up to the line of ordinary high water, and the adjacent 100 yards of streambank, in the full length of any river and tributary in Oregon that contains essential indigenous anadromous salmonid habitat, or naturally reproducing populations of bull trout.