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Action Needed: SB 670, bill to suspend all suction gold dredging in California, passes Assembly committee

June 16, 2009

Update on SB 670,  a bill to suspend all suction gold dredging in California

SB 670 passed the Senate on May 26, 2009. Every Democrat voted in favor of SB 670, and they were joined by Republicans Benoit, Denham, Harmon, Maldonado, Strickland and Walters.

SB 670 has moved to the Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee in the California Assembly, and is scheduled to be reviewed by the committee on June 16, 2009.


The bill has one more committee to pass through before heading to a vote in the Assembly. It is time for all of you to get involved.

What You Can Do to Help
A similar bill, AB 1032, passed the Assembly last year. Many of our readers took the time to send comments to Governor Schwarzenegger. He vetoed that bill.

Please take a moment to register your opinion with Governor Schwarzenegger on SB 670. We have included a copy of our letter to the governor in both Microsoft Word format and Adobe pdf format. Feel free to use any part of our letter when writing comments.

     Contact the Governor by mail:
     Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger
     State Capitol Building
     Sacramento, CA 95814

     By fax:
     (916) 558-3160

     By phone:
     (916) 445-4633

Talking Points
  • Please veto SB 670.
  • Environmentalists continue to claim that suction gold dredging is harming threatened and endangered species, without evidence of a single fish being harmed. Strict timing windows are already in place in California so that suction gold dredging will not interfere with spawning.
  • According to Dennis R. Maria, California Department of Fish and Game senior biologist (retired), “In all my years of experience, I have never seen evidence of a single fish killed by suction dredge mining, even juvenile fish, because the Department has restricted such activity in the only period when such mining is likely to cause actual injury by digging into fish redds or areas where alevins (sac-fry) would be present.”
  • SB 670 will cause irreparable harm to thousands of individuals and hundreds of businesses in California. Negatively impacted businesses include mining publications, mining equipment manufacturers and retailers, assayers, prospecting clubs, resorts, hotels, motels, private campgrounds and many more.
  • The Mining Law of 1872 makes it clear that mining is a right subject to reasonable regulation – not prohibition.
  • Suction dredge mining has been subjected to many studies that indicate this activity not only is de minimis to fish and their habitat under current regulations, but this is the only activity that occurs in our state waters that provides mitigation.1   
  • Suction dredge mining creates dissolved oxygen and breaks up compacted gravels, creating the spawning areas, holes and cooler waters necessary for a healthy fish population. The DFG spends millions of dollars to create this same scenario for spawning fish.2   
  • Suction dredge mining removes harmful lead, mercury and man-made debris from our waters.  Washington has set up a program, in cooperation with suction dredge miners, to collect harmful metals and debris.  Over a 12-month period the Washington Department of Ecology took possession of over 150 lbs. of mercury that had been recovered by suction dredge miners.3
  • If the bill is enacted, we are committed to joining other California businesses and individuals in litigation against the state to correct the situation.
  • Joseph C. Greene, a US EPA research biologist (retired) with 30 years experience, has directly addressed and refuted the claims made by those who state that suction gold dredging is harmful to the environment. In fact, Greene states that the dispute has little to do with possible harm to endangered fish but rather is centered on power and control of California’s waterways.4

1  Effects of Small-Scale Gold Dredging on Arsenic, Copper, Lead, and Zinc Concentrations in the 
         Similkameen River,  Washington State Dept. of Ecology, March 2005, Publication No. 05-03-007.
    Impact of suction dredging on water quality, benthic habitat, and biota in the Fortymile River, Resurrection
         Creek, and Chatanika River, Alaska, US Environmental Protection Agency, June 1999.

2  Evaluating the Success of Spawning Habitat Enhancement on the Merced River, Robinson Reach,
         California Department of Fish and Game, 2002.

3  Miners Clean Washington Rivers and Streams, ICMJ’s Prospecting and Mining Journal, May 2007.
4 Third Declaration of Joseph C. Greene in support of the reply memorandum in opposition to
         proposed stipulated judgment of the New 49’ers and Raymond W. Koons; Karuk Tribe of California
         v. California Department of Fish and Game et al; Case No. RG05 211597; Superior Court of California,
         County of Alameda; January 2006.

Copyright ICMJ & CMJ, Inc. 2009. (You may link to this document by copying the web address above.)

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