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Another bill has been introduced in California to ban suction gold dredging

March 7, 2009

Another bill has been introduced in California to ban suction gold dredging. This latest attack comes courtesy of California State Senator Patricia Wiggins, a Democrat in the Santa Rosa area.

Wiggins introduced SB 670 in the California Senate on February 27, 2009, designating it as an "urgency statute."

The bill calls for the closure of all California streams and rivers to suction gold dredging until the California Department of Fish & Game "has completed the environmental review of its existing suction dredge mining regulations, as ordered by the court in the case of Karuk Tribe of California et al. v. California Department of Fish and Game et al., Alameda County Superior CourtCase No. RG 05211597."

The environmental issues related to suction dredging have been addressed in numerous studies over several decades. Each study has come to the same conclusion—suction gold dredging is a de minimus activity, which means that it has no significant impact on the environment.

The best summary of suction gold dredge studies I have read so far was completed in 2007 by Joseph C. Greene, a research biologist who recently retired from the Environmental Protection Agency.

After reviewing all of the available data, Greene summarized his findings in a report for the California State Water Resources Control Board. Greene determined that suction gold dredging does not negatively impact water quality, fish, turbidity, water temperature, water chemistry, mercury pollution or the environment in general.

Greene concluded, "The issue of localized conflict with suction dredgers and other outdoor recreational activities can be put into a more reasonable perspective using the data provided... The issue against suction dredge operations in the streams of the United States appears to be less an issue of environmental protection and more of an issue of certain organized individuals and groups being unwilling to share the outdoors with others without like interests."

The Next Step
California State Senators and Representatives will be asked to vote on this bill. It is up to us to educate them.

If you live in California, please contact your Senator and Representative. Feel free to use any part of this article to help you state your case, and include a copy of the study conducted by Joseph C. Greene. Explain to them that you would like a response indicating how they will vote for this bill when it comes up for vote. Politely make it clear that you will not vote for them at the next election cycle if they are in favor of the bill. You should also provide them with an estimate of your spending for fuel, food, supplies, lodging, etc., related to your dredging activities to help them understand that this will negatively impact their district.

If you are outside of California but dredge in the state, feel free to contact the Senator or Representative for the district where you dredge and provide them with a summary of your spending as stated above.

Here are some links to assist you:

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