Supervisors vote to support dredge mining
By Dale Andreasen,
Daily News, January 26, 2009
Yreka, Calif. - By two unanimous votes, members of the Siskiyou
County Board of Supervisors showed their support for county
suction dredge miners at last Tuesday’s regular board meeting.
Most of these miners search for gold in the Klamath River around
the Happy Camp area. Many are members of the New 49ers
recreational gold mining organization.
In the first action, the board adopted a resolution opposing
emergency rulemaking by the California Department of Fish and Game
to shut down suction dredge mining countywide while it updates its
environmental analyses with a $1.5 million grant to complete a new
Environmental Impact Report.
The new rule, promoted by a petition from fishing interests and
environmental groups including the Karuk Tribe, California Trout,
Friends of the North Fork, Sierra Fund and Pacific Coast
Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, would immediately suspend
or substantially limit suction dredge mining pending completion of
the renewed EIR process.
“This is an issue that we have fought over and over again,”
district 5 Supervisor Marcia Armstrong said at the meeting. She
said that Fish and Game has tried to shut down the miners through
repeated legislative attempts. The courts have ruled that an EIR
should be done.
“Mining does not occur when fish are spawning,” Armstrong
continued. “Some studies even show that suction dredge mining
actually helps create better conditions for salmon.”
There is currently a petition before Fish and Game requesting an
emergency halt to suction dredge mining until the EIR is
completed. Fish and Game is required to make its decision on the
petition by this week.
“The reason we’re being demonized is because we’re the last
bastion of freedom,” said Ken Oliver, who has been mining for 30
years. He called dredge mining a “great economic benefit to the
Michael Higby, a member of the New 49ers who lives in Oregon but
pays taxes in Siskiyou County, said, “I’ve never seen any harm to
even a single fish.”
Board chair Michael Kobseff said that he, too, supports the
suction dredge miners. The resolution that was adopted read in
part, “Therefore, be it resolved that the Siskiyou County Board of
Supervisors believes that careful consideration [and studies] of
the positive and negative impacts asserted to arise from suction
dredge mining …should be completed …prior to any revisions to the
existing suction dredge mining regulations…”
The board then directed natural resources policy specialist Ric
Costales to prepare a letter to the director of the California
Department of Fish and Game (CDF&G) transmitting the resolution
and expressing the board’s opposition to rulemaking prior to the
completion of appropriate CEQA processes.
Costales presented his letter to Donald Koch, director of CDF&G in
Sacramento, asking him to deny the petition based upon the fact
that there is no emergency, that the petition presents no
scientific evidence of harm done to fish by suction dredge mining
and that an emergency rule forcing a halt or severe cutback in
suction dredge mining poses “a severe detrimental impact on both
the county and state economies.”
Costales quoted the conclusion of a 1997 EIR study done by CDF&G:
“The effects of suction dredging would appear to be less than
significant and not deleterious to fish.”
The letter was approved unanimously by the board.