[env-trinity] Suction Dredge Ban Signed by Schwarzie

Byron Leydecker bwl3 at comcast.net
Fri Aug 7 12:00:27 PDT 2009


Karuk Tribe . Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations .
Institute for Fisheries Resources . Klamath Riverkeeper . Center For
Biological Diversity . Friends of the River . California Tribal Business
Alliance . The Sierra Fund . California Trout . Environmental Law Foundation
. Environmental Justice Coalition for Water . Friends of the North Fork
American . California Sportfishing Protection Alliance

 

P R E S S  R E L E A S E

 

For Immediate Release: August 6, 2009

 

For more information: 

Craig Tucker, Litigant and Spokesman, Karuk Tribe, cell 916-207-8294

Glen Spain, PCFFA, 541-521-8655 cell

Mike Thornton The Sierra Fund 530-262-7335 cell

 

Governor signs bill banning in stream dredge mining for gold

Ban will remain in place until new dredge mining rules protective of fish
are developed

 

Sacramento, CA - Today Governor Schwarzenegger signed a bill to temporarily
ban the destructive form of recreational gold mining known as suction
dredging. Other forms of mining are not affected. With its signing, the bill
places an immediate moratorium on all suction dredge mining until the
California Department of Fish and Game develops and implements new suction
dredge regulations that are protective of fisheries and water quality.
Introduced by North coast Senator Pat Wiggins (D-Santa Rosa), the bill
attracted broad bi-partisan support and passed both houses of the
legislature with a 2/3 majority.

 

The signing marked a major victory by a diverse coalition of Tribes,
fishermen, and conservation groups from around the state. It comes a week
after an Alameda County Superior Court ordered a moratorium on the issuance
of new dredge permits pending resolution of a complaint charging that tax
payer money is illegally subsidizing issuance of dredging permits by the
California Department of Fish and Games (DFG). 

 

"We've been working to protect our fisheries from destructive mining
practices for 150 years," said Bob Goodwin, Karuk Self Governance
Coordinator. "This law requires the state use the best available science in
determining where and when hobby miners can operate their dredges without
harming our fisheries. Until then, no dredging will be allowed in
California."

 

According to California Trout's Tom Wesloh, ""California's rivers and
streams are suffering from increasing degradation, and the endangered and
threatened fish species face ever more obstacles to survival.  Suction
dredging disturbs spawning beds of trout, steelhead and salmon.  Healthy
spawning beds are essential to the long-term survival of these species."

 

Groups hope that at the end of the rule making process, the size of dredges
will be limited and critical habitats and spawning areas for threatened
species will be off limits while allowing dredgers access to areas less
vital for the survival of at-risk species.

 

This recent struggle over dredge mining started in 1997 when Coho salmon
were added to the state and federal endangered species list. At that point
California Fish and Game Department regulations required that mining rules
be re-examined. They were not. In 2005, the Karuk Tribe sued the Department
which admitted that a rule change was in order.

 

"In 2006 we actually proposed some modest restrictions limited to the
Klamath Basin. The Department agreed, but the New 49ers and other local
mining groups intervened and blocked implementation of the settlement,"
explains Goodwin.

 

The judge did order the Department to go through a public rule making
process consistent with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) by
June 2008. However, the Department failed to comply with the court order.. 

 

"We kept trying to get the money in the Department's budget, but the New
49ers kept lobbying against it. We had little recourse other than
legislating the ban to protect our fishery," concluded Goodwin.

 

Now the moratorium is statewide and protects not just Northern California
Coho, but at-risk species from coastal rivers to high Sierra streams to the
few remaining natural waterways in southern California. "Our native fish,
frogs, and other at-risk species are declining statewide," explains Steve
Evans, Conservation Director of Friends of the River. "Banning dredge mining
is not a silver bullet solution for protecting these species, but it's a
good start."

 

Other groups see dredging as a public health issue because it remobilizes
toxic mercury left behind by 19th century gold miners. According to
Elizabeth (Izzy) Martin, Executive Director of the Sierra Fund, "Dredges
suck up mercury buried in river sediment and remobilizes that mercury in our
river and streams. This creates a significant health threat to subsistence
fishermen, pregnant women and children as well as wildlife."

 

Fishermen have taken on miners to preserve jobs. According to Glen Spain,
Northwest Regional Director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's
Associations, a major trade organization representing commercial fishing
families, "Commercial fishermen are out of work again this year due to the
fishing ban put in place in response to salmon declines from habitat
destruction and flow loss.  Everyone whose activities harm salmon habitat
must share the conservation burden, including the suction dredgers." 

 

All the groups praised Governor Schwarzenegger for signing the bill. "We
call on the Governor to seize every opportunity to protect and rebuild our
great salmon fishery and the economies throughout California these fish have
supported," concluded Spain.

 

Although the moratorium does spare rivers from dredges, other forms of
mining are unaffected and miners will still have access to their claims.
McCracken, President of the New 49ers on his website, "the other types of
prospecting or mining that we do are not being challenged. These include
<http://www.goldgold.com/goldpanning.html> panning,
<http://www.goldgold.com/crevicing.html> sniping & Vack-mining,
<http://www.goldgold.com/sluicing.html> sluicing & high-banking, booming,
<http://www.goldgold.com/electronic.html> electronic prospecting and other
types of  <http://www.goldgold.com/prospecting.html> prospecting that do not
use a suction nozzle within an active stream, river or creek. So SB 670 does
not affect most of the activity which we do, including our
<http://www.goldgold.com/organizedgroup.html> group weekend projects." (
<http://www.goldgold.com/newsletterlatest.htm>
http://www.goldgold.com/newsletterlatest.htm)

 

What is a Dredge?

Suction dredges are powered by gas or diesel engines that are mounted on
floating pontoons in the river. Attached to the engine is a powerful vacuum
hose which the dredger uses to suction up the gravel and sand (sediment)
from the bottom of the river. The material passes through a sluice box where
heavier gold particles can settle into a series of riffles. The rest of the
gravel is simply dumped back into the river. Often this reintroduces mercury
left over from historic mining operations to the water column, threatening
communities downstream and getting into the human food chain. Depending on
size, location and density of these machines they can turn a clear running
mountain stream into a murky watercourse unfit for swimming.  

 

 

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

 <mailto:bleydecker at stanfordalumni.org> bleydecker at stanfordalumni.org
(secondary)

 <http://fotr.org/> http://www.fotr.org 

 

 

 

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