We have included a bill presented by Senator Allen, a far left environmental Senator who is proposing a bill to allow the CA Water Board to require permits for suction dredging. Here is the bill, and below that is our letter to Senator Allen and to every other Senator and House member in the State of CA.
SENATE BILL No. 637
Introduced by Senator Allen
February 27, 2015
An act to add Section 13172.5 to the Water Code, relating to water quality.
legislative counsel’s digest
SB 637, as introduced, Allen. Water quality: suction dredge mining: permits.
Existing law prohibits the use of any vacuum or suction dredge equipment by any person in any river, stream, or lake of this state without a permit issued by the Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Under existing law, the State Water Resources Control Board and the California regional water quality control boards prescribe waste discharge requirements in accordance with the federal Clean Water Act and the Porter-Cologne Water Quality Control Act (state act). The state act, with certain exceptions, requires a waste discharger to file certain information with the appropriate regional board and to pay an annual fee. The state act additionally requires a person, before discharging mining waste, to submit to the regional board a report on the physical and chemical characteristics of the waste that could affect its potential to cause pollution or contamination and a report that evaluates the potential of the mining waste discharge to produce acid mine drainage, the discharge or leaching of heavy metals, or the release of other hazardous substances.
This bill would require, by July 1, 2017, the State Water Resources Control board to establish a permitting process for suction dredge mining and related mining activities in rivers and streams in the state, consistent with requirements of the state act. The bill would require that the regulations, at a minimum, address cumulative and water quality impacts
SB 637 — 2 —
of specified issues. A person who violates these regulations would be liable for an unspecified penalty. The bill would provide that the state board is not prohibited from adopting regulations that would prohibit suction dredge mining, if the state board makes a certain finding relating to water quality objectives, to the extent consistent with federal law. The bill would prohibit these provisions from affecting any other law, including the California Environmental Quality Act and specified provisions relating to streambed alteration requirements.
Vote: majority. Appropriation: no. Fiscal committee: yes. State-mandated local program: no.
The people of the State of California do enact as follows:
line 1 SECTION 1. Section 13172.5 is added to the Water Code, to
line 2 read:
line 3 13172.5. (a) On or before July 1, 2017, the state board shall
line 4 establish by regulation a permitting process for suction dredge
line 5 mining and related mining activities in rivers and streams in the
line 6 state. The regulations shall be consistent with the requirements of
line 7 this division and, at a minimum, address cumulative and water
line 8 quality impacts of each of the following:
line 9 (1) Mercury loading to downstream reaches of rivers and streams
line 10 affected by suction dredge mining.
line 11 (2) Methylmercury formation in water bodies.
line 12 (3) Bioaccumulation of mercury in aquatic organisms.
line 13 (b) A person who violates a regulation adopted pursuant to this
line 14 section shall be liable in the amount of ____ ($____).
line 15 (c) Nothing in subdivision (a) shall prohibit the state board from
line 16 adopting regulations that prohibit suction dredge mining if the
line 17 state board finds that prohibition is necessary to regulate waste
line 18 discharges that violate or impair water quality objectives or other
line 19 criteria under this division, to the extent consistent with federal
line 20 law. In making this determination, the state board may consider,
line 21 but is not limited to, soil types, fueling and re-fueling activities,
line 22 and horsepower limitations.
line 23 (d) This section does not affect any other law, including the
line 24 California Environmental Quality Act (Division 13 (commencing
line 25 with Section 21000) of the Public Resources Code) and the
line 26 Department of Fish and Wildlife’s streambed alteration
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line 1 requirements described in Chapter 6 (commencing with Section line 2 1600) of the Fish and Game Code.
Dear Senator Allen and all California State Senators, March 4, 2015
We are writing this letter to you on behalf of the more than 100,000 California small miners in strong opposition and disapproval of your recently introduced SB637.
Your bill is littered with inaccuracies and discusses issue’s which are simply not true. To state that suction dredging introduces any kind of “waste, contaminates, pollution, leaching discharge of heavy metals or hazardous substances” is far from the truth. Suction dredging has been scrutinized, tested, studied and conclusively proven to not be harmful to fish or fish habitat. Suction dredging does not introduce any pollutants to any waterway in which they operate. These studies have been conducted for over 30 years by accredited fisheries biologists, DFG, EPA biologists, numerous other peer reviewed entities and are completely ignored by your bill. The simple fact that suction dredges remove 98% of the mercury from the waterways and nearly 100% of the lead seems to be irrelevant in your bill.
Suction dredging does not introduce any pollutants to any waters and this is even backed up by the United States Supreme Court in LOS ANGELES COUNTY FLOOD CONTROL DISTRICT v NATURAL RESOURCES DEFENSE COUNCIL, INC. In this case, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg cites her soup pot analogy in which a ladle is dipped into a soup pot, lifted above the pot and poured back in. This accurate analogy is quite descriptive of how a suction dredge works and unquestionably proves that nothing is added during the dredging process.
The simple fact that your bill ignores the science, facts and conclusive evidence in direct opposition to your allegations in this bill is alarming. Millions of tax payer dollars have been spent over the decades on these studies and we ask why you ignore the science and conclusive facts surrounding this issue? Suction dredging is not harmful to fish or fish habitat period. If it is, provide one peer reviewed study which proves that. You cannot sir, otherwise those who have supported you, and are pushing this bill would have already provided these studies. The simple fact that dozens and dozens of scientific studies have been completed over the decades, but more are demanded hoping the result will eventually give them one fish that suction dredging harms just shows that this isn’t about fish. If it was, you would stop this agenda driven bill which obviously has nothing to do with the California fisheries.
Back in the 1990’s, USFS would contact gold clubs throughout the Mother Lode after a large fire and would request their club members come and dredge the rivers and streams to “bring the fish back”. So what has changed sir? There has been an illegal moratorium (as ruled by Judge Gilbert Ochoa) on suction dredging for nearly 6 years now. This has had a significant impact on the economies of the rural communities in California which have relied on the money spent in their communities by suction dredgers. This equates to approximately 64 million dollars per year. Many of these businesses have had to close their doors.
Stop this assault on the rural communities and the small miners of California. It appears as though you do not care about the rural portions of California and do not care that suction dredging actually helps the fish.
President, American Mining Rights Association
PMB #607, 6386 Greeley Hill Road
Coulterville CA 95311