The California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG) recently released its latest version of proposed amendments to regulations for suction dredge mining in the state’s waters. The proposed amendments would close many Siskiyou County streams and stream confluences to suction dredging.
“The proposed regulations are intended to avoid and substantially lessen – to the extent feasible – any significant impacts from suction dredging authorized by CDFG,” the CDFG website stated. “Compared to the regulations provided for public review in February 2011, the revisions provide more efficient permit management, account for further evaluation of species distributions and life histories, and make related adjustments to the proposed regulations to ensure that authorized suction dredging is not deleterious to fish.” The amendments to the existing regulations have been required by a court order issued in a lawsuit brought against CDFG by the Karuk Tribe. The lawsuit focused on the Klamath, Scott and Salmon River watersheds and included allegations of detrimental impacts to various fish species including coho salmon. The lawsuit also contended that DFG’s administration of the suction dredging program violated the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and sections of the Fish and Game Code.
But, Mike Adams – a Lost Dutchman’s Mining Association (LDMA) member and Siskiyou County resident who says he has made most of his living from mining – alleges the new regulations are an unconstitutional take of previously granted rights. He also feels there is no strong evidence that suction dredging is detrimental to fish.
Most notably, the new proposed regulations will cut the nearly 4,000 annual statewide permits issued in the past down to 1,500 permits. In addition, many streams and sections of streams will be completely closed to suction dredging.
“We think this is a big improvement, but the changes don’t go far enough,” said Craig Tucker, coordinator for the Karuk Tribe’s Klamath campaign, “but it’s the best attempt we’ve seen so far. We still haven’t seen the final environmental impact report (EIR), so it’s hard to judge the regulations without seeing the environmental impact.”
Tucker said the final EIR won’t come out until two days after the public comment period closes.
“We’re also concerned that the regulations don’t protect some critical habitat on the Scott and Shasta rivers,” Tucker added.
Adams told the Daily News that he believes the closure of mining on streams with established mining claims is an illegal take of private property rights. He also feels that limiting the number of permits issued to 1,500 is an illegal limitation on industry.
“It’s an abridgement of my constitutional rights,” Adams said. “When did the people give the government the right to determine how many individuals can work in a given industry?”
The public comment period for the new proposed regulations ends at 5 p.m. on Monday, March 5.
Residents can mail or hand-deliver written comments to DFG at: Suction Dredge Program, Revisions to Proposed Amendments, Department of Fish and Game, Northern Region, 601 Locust Street, Redding, CA 96001.
Written comments may also be submitted to CDFG via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org . Include the following in the subject line for all comments submitted via email: “Comments re Revisions to Proposed Amendments.”
For more information about CDFG’s suction dredge program or to view the proposed regulatory changes, visit http://www.dfg.ca.gov/suctiondredge/ .