Site History: Mining activity began in late 1800s and peaked in late 1940s-1950s.
Location: An inactive mine site in the Panther Creek watershed, a tributary of the Salmon River in east central Idaho.
Case status: Settled September 1995. Currently in Restoration Phase.
Overview: Snake River spring/summer Chinook salmon (listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act) were eliminated from Panther Creek by the early 1960s due to contamination from hazardous substances.
In 1993, NOAA joined the State of Idaho and the USDA Forest Service in a Natural Resource Damage Assessment and conducted extensive studies to determine the scope and scale of injuries caused by the Blackbird Mine. The trustees also developed a cost-effective program to restore injured resources to baseline, and to compensate the public for losses incurred in the period from the initial injury until restoration is completed. Dam construction, as well as other factors not related to the mine, caused a significant decline in the number of fish returning annually to Salmon River Basin streams. The injury assessment, accounting for the depressed status of Chinook salmon resources due to all factors, calculated that 200 adult Chinook salmon were no longer returning annually to Panther Creek due to the release of hazardous substances. In 1993, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed the site to its National Priorities List for further investigation and possible cleanup under Superfund authorities. In 1994, EPA initiated a Remedial Investigation/Feasibility Study for site cleanup. NOAA provided extensive assessment of the water quality and the need for remediation to allow the reintroduction of fish stocks, and recommendations for highest-priority clean activities and techniques.