Dave Mack

We need You to Comment on DFG’s Proposed Dredge Regulations in California!

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The California Department of Fish & Game (DFG) released its long-awaited Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIR) and Proposed new Suction Dredging Regulations just as we were putting out our March newsletter. These, along with other information, can be found at DFG’s web site.

Now it is time for all of us to follow up with written comments. The deadline for public comment has been extended to 10 May 2011. Written comments should be submitted to Mark Stopher, Department of Fish and Game, 601 Locust Street, Redding, CA 96001. Or they can be faxed or emailed: Fax: (530) 225-2391; Email: dfgsuctiondredge@dfg.ca.gov.

Brief Analysis of Subsequent Environmental Impact Report (SEIR): I personally invested a healthy portion of the last month reviewing the massive SEIR and relevant portions of the California Fish & Game Code, the Resources Code and the Government Code. With the collaborative efforts of our staff and numerous responsible members that also have substantial experience in dredging matters, I have authored 38 pages of comments on behalf of The New 49’ers. This very comprehensive response can be found here in a format which allows text to be copied & pasted to help with your own written comments.

The naked truth is that DFG is attempting to impose substantial additional restrictions upon our existing suction dredge regulations (adopted in 1994). They are not doing this by providing any evidence in the SEIR that a single fish has ever been harmed by suction dredgers; but by adopting an entirely new baseline to which the affects of suction dredging are being measured.

During 1994, the impacts of suction dredging were measured against the baseline of ongoing dredging activity dating back to the 1960’s. But this Subsequent EIR is measuring the effects of suction dredging to a new arbitrary baseline of “no dredging activity” in order to make them appear to be substantial. This is because of the existing moratorium on suction dredging, according to the SEIR. But the moratorium was Ordered because DFG made Declarations in recent litigation that they had evidence to show a potential deleterious impact upon fish from ongoing dredging activity under the 1994 regulations. However, DFG’s “evidence of harm” has not materialized in their SEIR. Rather, they have decided to reevaluate all of the previous information (that was addressed in the 1994 EIR) against a “no dredging” baseline.

As if that is not bad enough; DFG has even taken it a step further in this SEIR by evaluating the negative economic and social consequences resulting from drastic reductions in our existing regulations as a “beneficial impact upon mineral development and economics.” The truth is that the burdensome additional restrictions they seek to impose upon us would eliminate dredging (in places where existing regulations allow it) across vast areas of California, and would reduce nozzle sizes along the remaining open areas to the point where it will be difficult to make money with a suction dredge. This will undermine millions of dollars worth of property values and, to a large degree, undermine dredge-mining as a small business activity in California. But rather than acknowledge the real consequences, this SEIR is measuring the economic impacts against an arbitrary “no dredging” baseline and making the case that lifting the moratorium would be a positive gain!

There are numerous mandates from the California legislature which require state agencies to measure real environmental impacts against the cost to Americans of implementing more restrictive regulations, especially upon small business. My own impression is that DFG officials have made a deliberate and underhanded attempt to corrupt this process. If you take the time to read my formal comments, I believe all of you will agree with my assessment.

It is a real awakening to discover that some government agencies are actively working to subvert the legal processes which they are supposed to follow, all in an attempt to eliminate economic opportunity that belongs to the public which they are supposed to serve.

Because DFG has overreached their legal authority with this SEIR, we have an excellent opportunity to push them back where they belong. But we are all going to have to help with this, because California is larger than Oregon and therefore requires a stronger push. It is not enough that we have figured out what is wrong with the SEIR and Proposed Regulations. We also need to generate a very loud cumulative objection! That’s where you guys come in.

Here is a sample letter or email which provides our main talking points. The addresses where the comments should be sent are at the top. It is better if you cut and paste from my sample to create your own comments, because form-comments are not as effective. However, if you are not able to do your own, you should at least add a date and send the form-comments in with your signature and address. This is a lot better than doing nothing at all. It proves that you are concerned!

It looks like we will be dredging again in California at the beginning of the 2012 season. As we will be held to the Final EIR and regulations that come out of the ongoing process, we should all work hard to make it come out as best we can right now!

Our Legal Fund Needs Your Help, Again!

All of this legal and political activity has been placing a substantial strain on our legal resources. So it is a good thing that we were out in front of ourselves pulling a new fund-raiser together.

Our existing drawing will be for three ounces of beautiful Rogue River gold that I personally mined last season. We could really use your help!

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The New 49’ers27 Davis Road, Happy Camp, CA 96039 (530) 493-2012