Idahoans act to protect clean water in Boise River

Conservationists representing downstream water users and adjacent property owners have appealed a Forest Service decision allowing Canadian mining company, Mosquito Consolidated Gold Mines Limited, to construct over 10 miles of roads and drill over 200 test holes in the headwaters of the Boise River near Idaho City. The exploration is a first step toward Mosquito Gold’s CuMo Project, which the company anticipates could be one of the largest open pit mines in the world.

Liz Paul, Boise River Campaign Coordinator for Idaho Rivers United, said, "The healthy, forested headwaters of Grimes Creek are an essential source of the cool, clean water the Treasure Valley depends on for irrigation, power, drinking and recreation. Every acre of disturbance and every mile of new road diminishes the watershed's capacity to provide the water.”

Local nonprofit organizations, Idaho Conservation League, Idaho Rivers United, Idaho Chapter of the Sierra Club, and Golden Eagle Audubon, filed the appeal on behalf of their members, many of whom recreate in the area or use water from the Boise River and some of whom reside or own property in Boise County near the project location. 

John Robison, Public Lands Director of the Idaho Conservation League, said, “Protection of the headwaters of the Boise River is our biggest concern. The Boise River watershed is the source of drinking water for thousands of people. We are sending a clear message that Mosquito Gold won’t find it easy to do anything that might put Idaho’s clean water at risk." 

Mosquito Gold has been working at the CuMo site since 2004 and requested a permit to expand exploration activities. Their website describes the CuMo site as “being one of the largest molybdenum deposits in the world.” The Forest Service approved a five year project that includes 10.2 miles of new roads, 16 stream crossings, 137 drill pads, and 259 drill holes. The site is in the Grimes Creek watershed about 15 miles northeast of Idaho City.

“Idaho has enough mining pollution. We are appealing the project because this exploration will have negative impacts to ground and surface water, birds, wildlife and other resources,” said Pam Conley, President of the Golden Eagle Audubon Society.

Lon Stewart, who has a background as a petroleum and environmental protection engineer, said, “Added dangers to our pristine Boise River water supply include a higher chance of mudslides from road construction across landslide prone areas, increased arsenic discharges from springs, and water pollution from drilling activities.” Mr. Stewart, who is a member of the Idaho Chapter of the Sierra Club, added, “Allowing a foreign company to put these additional risks in the headwaters of our water supply is not acceptable.”

Public meetings held last summer on the draft Environmental Assessment attracted hundreds of people and the Forest Service received over 500 comments on the plan, demonstrating an enormous amount of public interest. The appellants have tracked the project for many years, have toured the site twice and viewed it from the air, and have held five educational programs including a summer lunch program in Centerville, downstream from the drilling site.