[env-trinity] Klamath Riverkeeper Press Release

Byron Leydecker bwl3 at comcast.net
Sun Apr 12 12:36:52 PDT 2009



Contact: Scott Harding, Executive Director, Klamath Riverkeeper

(541) 488‐3553, scott at klamathriver.org

Klamath Riverkeeper Joins Suit to Stop Harmful Recreational Gold Mining

Lawsuit targets California Fish and Game for using tax dollars to fund
illegal mining program

Oakland, CA - Klamath Riverkeeper has joined a recent lawsuit against
California Fish and

Game for using taxpayer dollars to fund an illegal recreational gold mining

“California is spending taxpayers’ dollars to issue permits that allow
recreational gold miners

to harm the Klamath’s imperiled fisheries in the name of a few flakes of
gold,” says Scott

Harding, the Executive Director of Klamath Riverkeeper.

Weekend and hobby gold miners once used low‐impact pans, shovels, and picks
to search for

gold but in recent years there has been a proliferation of suction dredges
on the Klamath

River and its tributaries. A suction dredge is a gas or diesel‐powered
vacuum placed on a

floating platform in the river or stream. The miner uses the vacuum to suck
up the river

bottom, sort the gold out in a sluice, and dump the leftover gravel, sand,
and silt back into the


The practice of suction dredging has been shown to disrupt spawning beds,
force fish into

areas of dangerously warm water, muddy river water, alter the course of
stream channels, and

hurt or kill aquatic organisms living in the river bottom. At times, ten or
more suction dredges

can be found in one river mile on the Klamath.

The California Department of Fish and Game has previously admitted in court
that its current

suction dredge mining regulations violate the California Environmental
Quality Act (CEQA)

and Fish and Game Codes §§5653 and 5653.9 (the statues which authorize the
Department to

issue permits for suction dredging under certain, limited conditions)
because the activity

causes deleterious harm to fish - including endangered species, such as the
coho salmon.

California’s taxpayers heavily subsidize the suction dredge mining permit
program. The state

spends $1.25 million more per year on the suction dredge mining permit
program than it

receives in permit fees, amounting to a $400 subsidy for each of the 3,200
miners that obtain


“We find it hard to believe that the State of California is using taxpayer
money to fund a

recreational gold mining program during a severe fiscal crisis and during a
sustained fisheries

emergency. It makes no sense.” says Harding.

The lawsuit seeks to halt suction dredge mining until the Department of Fish
and Game

completes an existing court‐ordered revision of its suction dredge
regulations that brings it

into compliance with CEQA and relevant Fish and Game Code provisions.

Recreational mining businesses, such as the New 49’ers in Happy Camp, CA,
are bringing

hundreds of suction dredgers to the Klamath and its tributaries each year.

regulations of the mining practice are more lax than in other states, making
it a popular

destination for hobby miners.

In addition to the environmental impact of this influx of miners, social
tensions have emerged

as well. In retaliation against the Karuk Tribe for joining this lawsuit,
the New 49’ers recently

petitioned the California Department of Fish and Game to eliminate the
Tribe’s traditional

practice of dip net fishing on the Klamath River. The Karuk have been dip‐
netting salmon for

thousands of years.

The suit was originally filed in Alameda County Superior Court on February
5, 2009 and

amended to on March 20 to add Klamath Riverkeeper as a plaintiff. Other
plaintiffs include the

Karuk Tribe, Center for Biological Diversity, Pacific Coast Federation of

Association, Friends of the River, Institute for Fisheries Resources,
California Sportfishing

Protection Alliance, Craig Tucker, David Bitts, and Leonn Hillman. Arguments
for a

preliminary injunction will be heard this spring.

Klamath Riverkeeper is a 501(c)(3) non‐profit organization dedicated to
restoring the

Klamath River and its tributaries, fisheries, and communities. Klamath
Riverkeeper has

offices in Orleans, California and Ashland, Oregon. For more information
please visit

www.klamathriver.org. For photos of suction dredging on the Klamath, please

scott at klamathriver.org.

Byron Leydecker, JcT

Chair, Friends of Trinity River

PO Box 2327

Mill Valley, CA 94942-2327

415 383 4810 land

415 519 4810 cell

 <mailto:bwl3 at comcast.net> bwl3 at comcast.net

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