California suction dredging battle continues
7/10/2012 10:13 AM
The legislature and Governor have enacted SB 1018. A part of this legislation applies to suction dredge mining, and that excerpt is attached. [Excerpt included below]
The law now requires the Department of Fish and Game to report to the legislature on or before April 1, 2013 on suggested legislative changes and a fee structure. The previously established date of June 30, 2016 for the end of the current moratorium on suction dredge mining has been removed.
The Department has not yet determined the exact steps or time-frame for meeting the requirements of this legislation. Further, You may already know there are also several existing lawsuits which are likely to affect the future of suction dredge gold mining. For these reasons, the Department cannot predict when, or if, suction dredge will be lawful in California or when permits may be available to interested miners.
Many miners have inquired about other methods of mining including, though not limited to, highbanking, power sluicing and gravity dredging. We have advised them on a case by case basis of potentially applicable sections of the Fish and Game Code, particularly sections 1602 and 5650. You should also know that these activities may be subject to the authority of the appropriate Regional Water Quality Control Board. Information on this topic is available athttp://www.swrcb.ca.gov/water_issues/programs/cwa401/suction_dredge.shtml
. If you have questions about the authority of the Regional Water Quality Control Board I suggest you contact them directly. You can determine the appropriate office at the following website http://www.waterboards.ca.gov/waterboards_map.shtml
Senior Policy Advisor
California Department of Fish and Game
601 Locust Street
Redding, CA 96001
Section 5653.1 of the Fish and Game Codee is amended to read:
5653.1. (a) The issuance of permits to operate vacuum or suction dredge
equipment is a project pursuant to the California Environmental Quality
Act (Division 13 (commencing with Section 21000) of the Public Resources
Code) and permits may only be issued, and vacuum or suction dredge mining
may only occur as authorized by any existing permit, if the department has
caused to be prepared, and certified the completion of, an environmental
impact report for the project pursuant to the court order and consent judgment
entered in the case of Karuk Tribe of California et al. v. California
Department of Fish and Game et al., Alameda County Superior Court Case
No. RG 05211597.
(b) Notwithstanding Section 5653, the use of any vacuum or suction
dredge equipment in any river, stream, or lake of this state is prohibited
until the director certifies to the Secretary of State that all of the following
(1) The department 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 Court Case No. RG 05211597.
(2) The department has transmitted for filing with the Secretary of State
pursuant to Section 11343 of the Government Code, a certified copy of new
regulations adopted, as necessary, pursuant to Chapter 3.5 (commencing
with Section 11340) of Part 1 of Division 3 of Title 2 of the Government
(3) The new regulations described in paragraph (2) are operative.
(4) The new regulations described in paragraph (2) fully mitigate all
identified significant environmental impacts.
(5) A fee structure is in place that will fully cover all costs to the
department related to the administration of the program.
(c) (1) To facilitate its compliance with subdivision (b), the department
shall consult with other agencies as it determines to be necessary, including,
but not limited to, the State Water Resources Control Board, the State
Department of Public Health, and the Native American Heritage
Commission, and, on or before April 1, 2013, shall prepare and submit to
the Legislature a report with recommendations on statutory changes or
authorizations that, in the determination of the department, are necessary
to develop the suction dredge regulations required by paragraph (2) of
subdivision (b), including, but not limited to, recommendations relating to
the mitigation of all identified significant environmental impacts and a fee
structure that will fully cover all program costs.
(2) The requirement for submitting a report imposed under this
subdivision is inoperative on January 1, 2017, pursuant to Section 10231.5
of the Government Code.
(3) The report submitted to the Legislature pursuant to this subdivision
shall be submitted in accordance with Section 9795 of the Government
(d) The Legislature finds and declares that this section, as added during
the 2009–10 Regular Session, applies solely to vacuum and suction dredging
activities conducted for instream mining purposes. This section does not
expand or provide new authority for the department to close or regulate
suction dredging conducted for regular maintenance of energy or water
supply management infrastructure, flood control, or navigational purposes
governed by other state or federal law.
(e) This section does not prohibit or restrict nonmotorized recreational
mining activities, including panning for gold.