EPIC and Center for Biological Diversity v. Daley (Gravel Mining Case)

EPIC and Center for Biological Diversity v. Daley (Gravel Mining Case)


On July 22, 1999 EPIC and the Center for Biological Diversity filed a complaint challenging government approval of in-stream gravel mining operations in Humboldt County that result in destruction of Coho salmon. The suit alleged that National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and William Daley, acting as Secretary of the Department of Commerce, improperly granted gravel-mining corporations permission to kill Coho salmon, a threatened species.

In riverbeds, heavy equipment used to mine gravel can kill salmon directly, disrupt migration patterns, ruin spawning habitat and increase sedimentation. More gravel is extracted from Humboldt County than any other area its size on the Pacific Coast. Extensive mining operations occur in several major river systems critical to the recovery of threatened salmon, including Eel, Van Duzen, Mad and Mattole Rivers. Habitat degradation has been the primary factor leading to the 94 percent reduction in Northern California Coho salmon populations in the past 50 years.

When government permits involve the killing of threatened or endangered species, the Endangered Species Act requires federal agencies to issue a biological opinion that must specify the extent to which such killing is permitted to occur. The biological opinion issued by NMFS in this case failed to disclose the amount or extent of the damage to Coho habitat or the estimated number of Coho that would be harmed by gravel mining. By failing to establish this gauge to measure the damage to Coho populations and habitat, NMFS has neglected to fulfill the provisions of the ESA and have failed to establish a quantitative threshold to prevent rampant degradation of Coho salmon habitat.

As a result of EPIC’s action, NMFS agreed to complete consultations on gravel mining impacts to Coho critical habitat, and issued a new biological opinion that specified the amount of take of Coho salmon.