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California Dredging Situation as of 5-31-09

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This year has seen a lot of legal and political activity in regard to suction dredges in California. Here is the current situation as I understand it:

1. The California Legislature is moving SB 670 forward. This bill would place a moratorium on the issuance of dredge permits until such time as the Dept. of Fish & Game (F&G) completes an EIR and determines that dredging is not harmful to the environment. This year, unlike prior years, an Indian Tribal Alliance has reportedly backed the bill. The Indian tribes contribute a lot of money to politicians on both sides of the aisle. That, in turn, has brought pressure on California legislators to back the bill (or risk not getting future contributions). In California certain types of bills become effective as urgency legislation prior to January 1st (the normal effective date). Thus, if this bill is enacted it's effective date most likely would fall sometime around mid-September of 2009, but conceivably as early as August.

2. The Karuk Tribe along with several allied groups have filed a new lawsuit. This one seeks a preliminary injunction against F&G to preclude the use of any general fund money in support of suction dredging activities. The New 49ers are not named parties to this lawsuit and possibly the reason for this was to preclude them from filing an opposition. That would just leave the state defendant (F&G) to oppose the injunction. Many people perceive that F&G employees are in cahoots with the Karuks. However, the Director of F&G ealier in the year denied an administrative law request for similar relief by way of emergency rulemaking made by Leaf Hillman, Vice Chair of the Karuk Tribe; California Trout; Friends of North Fork; and The Sierra Fund.

3. The New 49ers have filed an opposition to the above referenced preliminary injunction and the matter is to be argued the morning of June 9th in the Alameda County Superior Court. I have reviewed the opposition and it raises several solid legal reasons not to issue the injunction. In my opinion it has a decent chance at success.

4. NOTE: If the court does grant the injunction on the 9th, then it is conceivable that F&G will cease issuing dredge permits as of that date. Therefore, it may be prudent for those miners who have not yet obtained their 2009 dredge permit to do so prior to June 9th. Having the permit may enable you to enjoy the 2009 dredge season at least until August or September even if the legislature enacts SB 670 and the governor does not veto it.

5. BUT NOTE: It takes a two thirds majority to enact urgency legislation. Two thirds also is the majority needed to override a veto by the governor. Arguably, by framing SB 670 as urgency legislation, Senator Wiggins (author of the bill) foresaw that a veto override might be required.

6. What can I do? Aside from getting your 2009 dredge permit you can contribute some money to the New 49er Legal Fund. You also can contact your state assemblyman or senator to express your feelings about SB 670. Some talking points are:

a. There is no urgency.

b. The courts already are involved and are better suited to evaluate evidence and make findings of fact than the Legislature is (where there are no rules of evidence and hardly any public input).

c. During a time of budget deficit the state is better off getting the money generated by dredge fees than not.

d. The rural areas where dredging occurs are economically depressed and will be even worse off if dredging is curtailed.

e. The curtailment of dredging will actually harm the environment by allowing even more silt to build up and by the loss of thermal refugia created by deep dredge holes during the hot summer months.

f. Federal mining claims are property rights that are entitled to due process protections before being taken away or severely diminished by legislative fiat.

g. If dredging is the cause of lower salmon runs, then how is it that during the unrestricted days of hydraulic mining when entire mountains and forests were wiped out and 20 or 30 FEET of sediment was annually deposited in the rivers, the salmon population thrived nonetheless well into the 20th century?

h. Why do the salmon fight each other for nest building on freshly dredged gravel bars? Can it be that dredging CLEANS and OXYGENATES the gravels and the fish instinctively realize this?

i. Dredgers annually remove toxic metals from the rivers, including elemental mercury. No one else does on the same scale.

j. Why don't people who follow the rules and strongly identify with the work ethic and sense of accomplishment of the prospecting culture get equal treatment in the legislature by having an opportunity to speak out on the subject rather than get railroaded by urgency legislation?

Let's keep this thread going to solicit additional ideas and energy!!

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Eldorado sounds like the man to keep this going. I am told he knows a lot about this?

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Martin thanks for the great info and dates .

It makes it easier for a lot of people to call and state the facts mentioned.We only have a few day,s ,

My main veiw is the fact that all of the old Wing Dam,s. Draglines.Bucket Dredges , Long Toms and Hydrolic mining did not ruin the fish what is the reason for this happening now. I see dam,s Like Iron Gate restricting to much water into the river letting it get to low and hot to habitate life as it used to . Also a public drain on water tables which used to add to the flow.Also clear cutting in areas that increased sunlight into canyons that were once covered in trees. All helping to increasing water temp and flow . Which then allows parisites and toxic algees to thrive where once they could not.

Some of the southern Sierra rivers ran a trickle in Sept and Oct, But the rivers up north always had a abundent and a cool flow of water . It seems simple to see what is going on. It is almost funny seeing there ideas and loose facts they have and are used to push there agenda...Thanks

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The last time the Karuks did this, The House and Assembly passed AB 1032 and the Governor Vetoed it. He flat out stated the current regs and future EIR are enough. I spent countless hours and dollars on the last battle, this time I am not going to help.... the New 49rs caused the problem in the first place... let them fix it.

The Karuks kill more Salmon then any dredging activity and the Karuks are not a recognized tribe with full fishing rights.

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The most draconian part of this as ammended and passed in the Senate is this quote from the Bill.....

“The Legislature finds that suction or vacuum dredge mining results in various adverse environmental impacts to protected fish species, the water quality of this state, and the health of the people of this state, and, in order to protect the environment and the people of California pending the completion of a court-ordered environmental review by the Department of Fish and Game and the operation of new regulations, as necessary, it is necessary that this act take effect immediately”.

How in the world can the Legislature make such a determination without the benefit of a factual, unbiased CEQA review of their own allegations against any type of activity that “they” deem unfit, unhealthy, environmentally destructive etc. in this case suction dredge mining. And on what grounds is this “finding” being made by our California Legislators? Seems like the cart is in front of the horse.

The other thing I find in this new language is, it is very vague and purposely written as such, so as to “bottle-up” the Bill for years in court litigation further delaying and undermining the “due process” originally granted by the court order in the case of Karuk Tribe of California vs. California Department of Fish and Game.

Here's the link to the ammended AB670 as passed in the Senate and now going to / in the Assembly.....



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The thing I don't get is they claim that the main reason for the total ban is because of the salmon, but as we all know there are many areas where dredging occurs that are in-accesible to salmon due to the construction of dams by the government. The best example that I am familiar with is all three forks of the Yuba River. Salmon havent seen the mountains of that river since the 1930's as they are blocked by Englebright dam at the base of the foothills. There's gotta be at least 100 - 200 miles of river between the three forks rendered useless. If the fish is there concern why the total ban?

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Hopefully the Gov. vetoes this Bill if it makes it to his desk. It sure seems like they come after us dredgers every year. I ran into Jerry Hobbs in Downieville and I mentioned your name. He and I discussed the amount of time you spent on fighting AB1032 and what a help you were in knocking it out. Jerry stated how lucky the mining community is to have a guy like you on our side...



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