In a political time, it’s once again time to get political.
If you thought that suction dredging mining was banned for good from the East Fork of the San Gabriel River outside Los Angeles, and other once-pristine California waters, think again.
You can read my coverage from 2012. I thought it was a done deal that the California Department of Fish and Wildlife would be allowed to stop illegal activities even on federal lands, even within a national monument. But Pasadena Casting Club Conservation Chair John Tobin recently alerted me that, sadly, it might not be the case in the future.
As Tobin wrote in an email, “California Senate Bill 637, effective January 1, 2016, created a path for the statutory prohibition against suction dredge mining on our California streams to be lifted.”
Currently, there’s a case before the California Supreme Court challenging whether state environmental law that makes a particular mining claim on federal land commercially impractical preempted by the federal mining laws, according to the brief.
In other words, can California through its police power protect the environment, even on federal land?
For anglers, this means a choice between antiquated, destructive machinery disrupting the stream bed and scattering whatever trout may have thrived there for a largely recreational activity. Imagine trying to wet a line next to one of these contraptions. Imagine the downstream effect to the water.
A recent post on this site stirred up the pro-con constituencies about suction dredge mining, with the arguments basically boiling down to habitat vs. access. Although the petition was directed at the California Department of Fish and Game, the U.S. Forest Service has just posted this on its site:
All mining operations (location of mining claims, prospecting, and mining, including panning, sluicing, and dredging) under the 1872 Mining Law are prohibited within withdrawn areas of the Angeles National Forest. Public Law No. 578 (1928 withdrawal) withdrew areas from entry and location under the mining laws. There is no provision in PL 578 which provides for even a limited right to enter the withdrawn lands to prospect. Therefore, National Forest System lands within the East Fork of the San Gabriel River are not open to prospecting or any other mining operations.
When I called for comment, the Arcadia office was closed (at 4:30 p.m., Wednesday), but without further reporting on this topic, looks to be a win for fishing habitat.
Yesterday afternoon I learned that the state Fish and Game Department is considering regulations that would reopen streams to suction dredge mining all across California including on the East Fork of the San Gabriel, pictured below back when it was open previously. The draft regulations are open for public comment until 5 p.m., Monday. I have attached a fact sheet from Steve Evans of Friends of the River on the situation. Please distribute this information and the urgent call to make comments far and wide:
The California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG) recently issued revised suction
dredge mining regulations and is seeking public comment on them by 5 p.m. March
5. Unfortunately, the revised regulations will cause serious water quality
problems and harm fish and wildlife on many of our rivers and streams, including
the East Fork San Gabriel River.
The revised regulations propose to reopen the East Fork below its confluence with
Cattle Canyon to suction dredge mining-induced noise, water pollution, habitat
degradation, and conflicts with other recreational visitors. Please send an email
TODAY to the CDFG urging the agency to withdraw the revised regulations and
to specifically close the East Fork to suction dredge mining. In addition, the CDFG
should start over with new regulations that fully protect water quality, threatened
and endangered species and their habitat, and other recreational activities.
Suction dredging – a mining practice that requires a gasoline-powered motor to run
an underwater vacuum to suck up large amounts of gravel and sediment from the
river bed to collect gold – harms water quality, as well as fish and wildlife and the
habitat these wild creatures depend on.
Unfortunately, revised regulations recently issued by the California Department
of Fish and Game (CDFG) will allow this destructive practice to restart in the East
Fork San Gabriel River and other waterways throughout California that are already
impaired by mercury pollution or sediment, provide sensitive habitat for threatened
and endangered fish and wildlife, and offer important non-motorized outdoor
For years, suction dredge miners were literally allowed to take over the East Fork
downstream of Cattle Canyon for the pursuit of gold. This led to conflicts with other
recreational visitors, disturbed river habitat and water quality, and possibly harmed
the Santa Ana sucker, an endangered native fish found primarily in the San Gabriel
River in the Angeles National Forest. A statewide moratorium on suction dredge
mining was imposed by the California Legislature in 2009. But the new revised
regulations threaten to return motorized suction dredge mining to the East Fork
and other waterways throughout the state.
The newly revised regulations require CDFG to issue mining permits where mining
would otherwise be illegal, including the East Fork. A 1928 federal law withdrew
the public lands along the East Fork from mining to protect its watershed and water
quality. Mining on the East Fork is also inconsistent with Wild & Scenic protection
of the river, proposed to protect its endangered fish habitat, water quality, and
outstanding recreation values.
Less than three weeks ago, CDFG issued new revised regulations for public comment
with a deadline of 5PM, March 5, 2012. In addition to the unusually short comment
period, it will be difficult for the public to comment in any meaningful way on the
revised regulations because the revised EIR that justifies the new regulations will
not be available for public review until after the March 5 deadline.
The revised mining regulations will harm rivers and streams throughout California,
from the Klamath River in the north to the East Fork San Gabriel River in the south.
Please help us convince CDFG that the East Fork San Gabriel River and other
ecologically sensitive and water quality impaired rivers and streams in California
should simply be off-limits to the destructive affects of suction dredge mining. Send
an email TODAY to CDFG urging the agency to prohibit suction dredge mining on
all forks of the San Gabriel River in the Angeles National Forest, and withdraw the
revised regulations and start over with a regulatory program that fully protects
water quality and threatened and endangered species and their river habitat, and
Native American cultural values.
Remember, the deadline for comments on the revised regulations is 5 p.m. on
Monday, March 5.
To view a copy of the revised regulations, visit http://www.dfg.ca.gov/suctiondredge/. For
more information, contact Steve Evans at Friends of the River, phone: (916) 442-
3155 x221, email: email@example.com.
SAMPLE EMAIL OR COMMENT LETTER
Suction Dredge Program
California Department of Fish and Game Northern Region
601 Locust Street
Redding, CA 96001
Re: Suction Dredge Program Revisions to Proposed Amendments
Dear Department of Fish and Game:
I am concerned that the revised regulations allow destructive and harmful suction
dredge mining in the East Fork San Gabriel River. This river supports endangered
native fish and other recreational uses that are often incompatible with suction
dredge mining. It also harms water quality in a river that contributes significantly to
the local water supply. In addition, a 1928 federal prohibits mining on this river to
protect its water quality and watershed values.
Water quality and fish and wildlife in the East Fork and other rivers and streams in
California must be protected from the adverse impacts of suction dredge mining.
The revised regulations simply do not provide sufficient protection for these
sensitive resources. I urge the CDFG to withdraw the revised regulations and
propose new ones that prohibit suction dredge mining on the San Gabriel River in
the Angeles National Forest and that fully mitigate all significant impacts, cover the
state’s costs to administer and enforce the program, and meet all other laws and
Recreational and commercial mining is not a legitimate activity in California if
it is done at the expense of the state’s fish, wildlife, water quality, human health,
and state-protected beneficial uses of the San Gabriel River and other rivers and