Legislative and Regulatory Update
May 2013 by Scott Harn• Battle continues in Oregon
As we reported last month (“Legislative Update”), hundreds of small-scale miners in Oregon showed up to protest several bills aimed at restricting mining in the state. Due to the enormous opposition, SB 370 and SB 115 were referred to the Environment and Natural Resources committee, but no further action has been taken to date.
SB 370 would impose a $125 fee for a commercial placer mining permit, and establish a fine of $1,250 and 30 days in jail for operating without a permit.
SB 115 seeks to prohibit placer mining using any form of motorized equipment.
SB 401, which would designate numerous rivers and creeks as scenic waterways, received a public hearing on April 15, though it also faces an uphill battle from private property owners as well as miners.
On April 2, we received word that Senator Jackie Dingfelder (D-Portland) was attempting to sidestep the opposition by introducing a committee bill with essentially the same language as SB 115, and increasing the restrictions by including a five-year moratorium on suction gold dredging.
“This technique is used to create new bill numbers after previous ones have received bad press or negative responses,” said a staff member for Senator Alan Olsen (R-Canby).
The new bill number is SB 838. Just prior to our press deadline, we learned that SB 838 was passed by the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee and has been referred to the Joint Ways and Means Committee for further consideration. Like SB 115, SB 838 seeks to prohibit motorized placer mining and would place a five-year moratorium on suction gold dredging in the state.
SB 401 also cleared the committee. This bill seeks to prohibit suction gold dredging on scenic waterways and would designate an additional 38 rivers and streams as scenic waterways.
It is crucial that our readers take a few minutes to register their opposition with members of the Oregon Senate, even if you are not an Oregon resident. Contact information for all Oregon Senators is listed here.
• Stop annexation in Southern California
The movement to annex the Virginia Dale/Gold Park Mining Districts into Joshua Tree National Park has hit a huge speed bump: public opposition by miners, geo-cachers, off-roaders, shooters, and other outdoor user groups. The area is located in Southern California near Twentynine Palms.
Recently a citizens’ group was formed called Friends of the Dale/ Gold Park Mining Districts, which is dedicated to keeping this 106,000- acre tract of BLM land open to multiple use, especially mining. The area has a rich mining history, and there are currently scores of active mining claims in the area. Friends of Dale/Gold Park Mining Districts recently mailed a letter to every active claim owner in the area describing the situation and what is being planned to save it from being declared off-limits to mining, and asking them to participate in the effort. The response from the mining claim owners has been positive.
Friends of Dale/Gold Park Mining Districts is collaborating with Public Lands for the People and the Western Mining Alliance in this effort to save a historic mining area from being withdrawn from multiple-use. They are asking everyone who has an interest in keeping public lands open to join this group in helping to win this fight, even if you don’t use this area. If Dale/Gold Park closes, your area may be next. It costs nothing to join, and there is strength in numbers. If we each do a little, a lot will be accomplished!
Contact Jim Wharff via email at email@example.com or visit www.goldrushu.com for more information.
• EPA ignores Supreme Court ruling with new Idaho permit
On April 4, the EPA announced that a permit will be required for suction gold dredges with intake nozzles of 5-inches or less in Idaho.
The EPA claims authority to regulate suction dredges under the Clean Water Act, despite a recent US Supreme Court ruling to the contrary.
In Los Angeles County Flood Control District v. Natural Resources Defense Council (No. 11-460; January 8, 2013), the court ruled that even when pumping polluted water from one portion of a waterway to another, there is no addition of any pollutant to navigable waters from any point source.
• Alaska sues Feds to restore access rights
The State of Alaska filed a lawsuit against the Bureau of Land Management on March 20 over restricted access to mining claims.
The federal government made it clear they were not going to ease up on access restrictions unless a court ruled that established rights-of-way should be transferred to the state. The legislature approved $600,000 last year to address access issues, and assistant attorney general Ken Sullivan said the state chose established trails around Chicken as their first test case because historic use of the trails is well documented.
This case involves Revised Statute 2477, also known as RS 2477, which was originally established in 1866.
RS 2477 consists of only one sentence: “The right-of-way for the construction of highways across public lands not otherwise reserved for public purposes is hereby granted.”
RS 2477 was repealed by Congress as part of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act in 1976, subject to “valid existing rights.”
• California dredgers await next big court date
July 24 is the next big court date in Rancho Cucamonga Superior Court to restore suction gold dredging in California. Jerry Hobbs, president of Public Lands for the People, stated the attorneys representing miners will seek a preliminary injunction to allow California dredgers back in the water until the six consolidated court cases are decided.
If the court rules in favor of the miners, it would still likely be 30 days after that date until the court issues a written decision. If successful, suction dredgers could resume mining in August under the old dredging regulations.
We will post the time and location of the court hearing in our June issue and on our website when available.
Those miners present immediately recognized the benefits of becoming members of MMAC and joined up on the spot. I spent some time answering a few questions, and then the miners took over.
We have been playing defense for 100% of the game, and now we are finally playing some offense.
PLF scores another win for property rights
Tomten concedes the scenario of federal environmental agents swooping in on river dredges near historic mining towns like Idaho City, Rocky Bar or Placerville remains unlikely.
...we packed up our two dredges and headed for our claim about an hour away on the South Fork of the Clearwater to dredge openly in opposition to the EPA.
It was a milestone day in the battle to maintain the rights of miners to dredge on federal mining claims in California.
Casperson said he is not worried about businesses subverting the language in the bill because the DEQ would still have the authority to halt the new construction if it is deemed environmentally unsound.
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