Important Note: In 2009, the State of California passed a law which placed a statewide moratorium on suction dredging in California until the Department of Fish & Wildlife (DFW) completed an updated Environmental Impact Report (EIR) along with several other requirements that were not within their jurisdiction. As a result of extensive litigation, we managed to finally get the Moratorium overturned in the Third Appellate Court. The California Supreme Court has since consented to Review the Third Appellate’s unanimous Decision. The case has yet to be decided at that level.
At least six other lawsuits have been filed in California which challenge both the Moratorium and the new suction dredge regulations which DFW ultimately adopted in 2012. The mining community challenged the new regulations as unreasonably restrictive. Anti-mining activists challenged the new regulations as not restrictive enough. All of the cases were eventually consolidated in front of Judge Ochoa in San Bernardino Court. This particular litigation extends all the way back to 2005, and has cost the mining community no less than a million dollars in legal expenses. Several industry Associations have stepped up and contributed to the legal effort. The New 49’er Legal Fund was first in and remains on the front line of the battle after all these years.
The good news is that Judge Ochoa awarded California suction dredgers a huge win on January 12th 2015 by declaring California’s “scheme” of first passing a law that requires suction dredgers to obtain a permit, and then passing another law making permits unavailable, as an unlawful and un-enforceable interference with the intention of congress. In his Decision, Judge Ochoa ruled that both the Moratorium and the 2012 suction dredge regulations are unconstitutional. This is truly a great win for all gold miners!
Since the Court ruled that California’s dredge permitting moratorium is unconstitutional, making it unenforceable as a matter of law, The New 49’ers are not going to prohibit suction dredging on our mining properties. But members who choose to dredge should be aware that they may be hassled by the authorities, and even face the possibility criminal prosecution.
With the Moratorium and 2012 dredge regulations invalidated by the Court, it is difficult to assess which, if any, state regulations remain in effect, though federal rules and regulations do apply.
Unregulated suction dredge activity is unacceptable on New 49’er properties. Therefore we are hereby adopting these Emergency Rules for the duration of this period of uncertainty. Please note that we have carefully crafted these Rules from the DFW suction dredge regulations which applied to our properties during the 2009 season when the illegal moratorium was imposed. We have modified them in consideration of concerns voiced during the San Bernardino proceedings, along with the ongoing drought situation in California.
We encourage you to watch this page concerning suction dredge seasons in the coming weeks as the situation develops.
Meanwhile, just in case you do not know, this new law only stops suction dredging within California’s active waterways. It does not have anything to do with the other types of prospecting or mining that we do in California. Unaffected prospecting activities include panning, sniping & vack-mining, sluicing & high-banking, electronic prospecting and other types of prospecting that do not use a suction nozzle within an active stream, river or creek. It also does not affect our group weekend projects.
To continue prospecting the bottom of active waterways, some members have converted to underwater crevicing, using the hookah and pump from their 5 and 6 HP motors on floating platforms to provide air for breathing and a jet of water to help move material out of the way, thus coining the new method as “underwater blow mining.”
There are no seasons imposed upon the other types of surface mining activity. In other words, you can do them at any time of the year.
In addition we have identified some fantastic suction dredging opportunities for our members in Southern Oregon.