In the course of finding materials to post on this site, I afforded myself the opportunity to course through and read many of the letters posted to the DFG site. Many of them were extremely well written by very passionate suction dredgers. This one letter is THE MOST COMPREHENSIVE I have ever read, written by anyone.
It is apparent that in the course of crafting this 90 page letter, Don literally spent month’s of time researching data. The first thing you will think is “Yeech! 90 pages?” Don’t be turned off. Don’s writing style is very engaging and it is readily apparent that this gentleman “get’s it”. As a matter of fact, I would consider you reading this letter before you craft any response letters to the DFG. I am sure Don may inspire you to write your own “opus”.
Enjoy! And I like some feedback to see if others feel the same way I do about it. You can download it from the link or read it here:
To: Mr Stopher, Ca. DFG
From: Donald E. Eno
Re: Public Comments on Proposed Suction Dredging Regulations / DSEIR
Notice; This is also an official “notice” to DFG concerning Pollution of every sort.
Dear Mr. Stopher,
I attended the Sacramento public meeting on March 29th, 2011. You expressed your desire for thoughtful public input via public comments apparently to aid DFG in making wise decisions concerning these new proposed rules. Operating under the presumption that you genuinely want meaningful input, I have provided exactly what you asked for in these comments. Plainly, many issues I will cover in this DSEIR will not be covered by comments from other suction dredge miners. I understand the comment period was extended and another hearing is scheduled. If I am wrong then I ask you to review them anyway, there is some very important information you will want to be aware of. You’ll see. If my comments are rejected for whatever reason, consider this a notice and a report concerning pollution of every sort for your immediate attention. You will want to review this information to ensure our water and fish are protected.
After reviewing the SDEIR and the proposed rules, it is apparent that DFG and Horizon staff have no first hand experience with the real world of suction dredge mining. I have been a gold prospector, miner, and dredger since 1992. I have dredged in Cambodia, Viet Nam, Oregon, and California. I have been qualified in prior mining claim litigation as an “expert witness” in the field of suction dredging. Importantly I spent $185,000.00 defending one River placer mining claim (also a suction dredge site) spanning 11 years of litigation. Therefore, you may well imagine your proposed regulations are not amusing to me. In turn, your office and staff are not going to be amused either as all this unfolds. It’s long, I have no staff and little time, but content overall is alarming. These comments reflect the attitudes and understanding shared by most of the dredgers I know.
SDEIR avoids analyzing background pollution present today.
It is my intention with these comments to inform and educate DFG as to the realities of suction dredging that only an experienced suction dredger can possibly know. These comments offer perspective and comparative perspective through use of examples that I believe is seriously lacking throughout your SDEIR and as reflected throughout your proposed regulations. After reviewing the references in the SDEIR it looks like you utilized every “environmental scientist” in the State, and the fact that your scientists had the benefit of sections 4.2 water quality and 4.4 hazards and hazardous materials in chapter 8 indicates that DFG has willfully and intentionally avoided any and all analysis related to the vast amount of trash and heavy metals in our streams. As I will show throughout my comments, this oversight appears to be intentional, malicious and blatant.
Question; Can you explain how DFG could employ so many environmental scientists with so many references to hazardous materials and water quality you have not acknowledged, studied, or publicly addressed the gross pollution, Super-sized garbage, Foreign materials; RR bed base, Hwy road base, and hazardous materials, heavy metals, asphalt, concrete, steel, and lead present in mass quantities in all of our streams and rivers?
SDEIR on Dams
After reviewing the SDEIR, it is appears that DFG and Horizon have carefully cherry picked the alleged science. The DSEIR is completely silent as to the known heavy metal toxins in our dams, and our rivers and streams. And the DSEIR is silent regarding removal and disposal of super-sized garbage, heavy metals, and all other pollutants that suction dredge miners find and remove on a daily basis in the normal course of suction dredge mining.
Science is weak
In general, these proposed suction dredging regulations (SDR) defy logic, reason and common sense, as I will demonstrate repeatedly throughout these comments. These proposed SDR’s appear to be politically motivated because even your biased science and 40 years of suction dredging history have proven little if any discernable harm to fish.
I note that most of the alleged science is so precarious, such a stretch, that the purported harm(s) to species and habitat are frequently qualified by the incessant use of the words; might, may, possibly, possible potentially, could conceivably, uncertain, should, possibly, “has not been studied,” and “has not been evaluated” are peppered throughout your science. These qualifiers indicate merely possible circumstances. If DFG were certain, the qualifying words would be will and must. The thesaurus has very limited options for these particular words.
Benefits of suction dredging largely ignored
Another thing, DFG has not adequately addressed all the environmental benefits that have accrued as a result of suction dredge miners’ hard work spanning the past 40 years.
Flood events introduce foreign materials and pollution
The DEIS is completely absent analysis related to major flood events (spanning the past 160 years) as relates to the how all these floods have introduced massive quantities of toxic garbage into our rivers. The floodwaters have pushed massive quantities of the toxic materials into our rivers including but not limited to following; homes, entire estates, motor vehicles, garden equipment and tools, highway beds, RR beds, asphalt, concrete, culverts, guardrails, miscellaneous other garbage too numerous to list, and of course all the other naturally eroded foreign earthen materials scoured from the river beds and riverbanks. These issues will be described more thoroughly at length in my comments below.
This permit process is a plan of operations – not a permit
The proposed regulations appear to micro-manage small scale placer mining even though DFG has no actual field experience and no concept of the realities suction dredge miners face in the river environment. Frankly, the proposed regulations and permit process would more accurately be described as a submission for plan of operations that requires more permitting, site inspections, equipment inspections, various approvals, and dredgers must now make special requests to use a 6” or 8” dredge and to use a power winch, either of which may be denied.
Coincidence that DFG proposed regulations satisfy exactly what litigants were seeking?
And for your scientists to provide such remarkably biased science and analysis that conveniently satisfies the desires of the Karuk tribe and the prior Siskiyu case concerning the USFS LRMP riparian zone management versus the USFS (Notice of intent/Plan of operations) regulations. It is fascinating that the net result of your targeted science just magically fills in the regulatory hole that these groups wanted to fill, regardless of the fact they all lost their cases. The win for the Karuk Tribe was fresh analysis only, and the Court did not order DFG to change the suction dredge mining regulations. It is amazing how easy it is/was for swarms of officers to tailor “science” to achieve precisely what these snivelers attempted to achieve in court.
Proposed regulations / SDEIR intends to compel $200,000.00 validity exams
The proposed regulations – if adopted – will have a devastating impact upon holders of otherwise valid mining claims because under these regulations the USFS or BLM will now be able to challenge the validity of a mining claim on the basis that most mining claims cannot be economically viable under these unnecessarily restrictive and prohibitive “recreational” dredging regulations, or the argument would be that such mining claims cannot be mined at all thus the claimant could not meet the “prudent man” test.
If DFG were proposing these regulations for purely recreational dredging activities on lands not subject to the US Mining Laws, then there would be no issue for me.
Unreasonable regulation – Safety issues – materially interferes with mining
However, here your unreasonable proposed regulations purposely attempt to make suction dredge mining on a bona-fide placer mining claim impossible to work at all, and/or impossible to work at a profit. If these unreasonable regulations are not defeated here at this stage or later in the courts, the USFS and BLM will use these regulations to invalidate just about every single placer mining claim located within a river or stream. This is because DFG proposed regulations intentionally make suction dredge mining far more labor intensive, less efficient, more dangerous, more expensive, more cumbersome and therefore, in the final analysis, suction dredgers will ultimately lose their mining claims based upon the economics of mining. Suction dredge miners are simply regulated out of existence by these unreasonable proposed regulations. And all the green benefits of suction dredge mining by the removal of heavy metal toxins from our rivers will be slowed or stopped.
These proposed regulations defy 130 years mining law
Having of necessity studied mining law and case law for many years, I could not be more baffled by Ca. DFG’s position on suction dredge mining, these proposed regulations appear to violate every principle of Mining Law I have ever studied in the past. I am simply at a loss as to what possible lawful authority DFG thinks it possesses that would allow DFG to circumvent all known mining case law to date. I would be re-miss in my responsibilities if I failed to at least offer DFG credible reasoning under established law for DFG to abandon their quest to prohibit suction dredge mining with these asinine regulations.
Basically, DFG is attempting to overturn 160 years of case precedent concerning the US Mining Laws. It blows my mind that DFG pencil pushers think this is even possible. However, if your swarms of officers review the references immediately below, it will become readily apparent that you would have to go back through the SDEIR and dramatically change the entire analysis.
For example, 4.8-12 lines 39 and 40 are classic stupidity. Understanding mining law and case precedent, I must say the author who wrote this is not too bright. Read the Shoemaker IBLA case cited below. This case refers to the 1955 Legislative history which plainly quoted the provisos for amending the mining law which in part states that the miner is entitled to use so much of the surface that he needs for mineral development and mining, he must share the surface with Management and the public. It also states that the Dominant and Primary use is in the miner, and the State and Federal agencies may manage the surface resources and wildlife provided such management does not endanger or materially interfere with mining operations. And when State wildlife management endangers or materially interferes with mining, the State’s project or use must yield to the dominant and primary use.
This case clearly establishes that DFG plays second fiddle to the miner’s dominant and primary use. And, while you have authority to reasonably regulate mining activities, the word reasonable is key. Plainly, if you make suction dredge mining unprofitable entirely, and endanger our lives with regulations that cry out safety violations that MSHA would find intolerable, then you have gone too far and your regulations must yield to the dominant and primary use, that of the miner.
Throughout your SDEIR I find statements everywhere that indicate you have not considered 130 years of legislation and case precedent. None of us have time to pick out all references to the erroneous interpretations, however, a good mining attorney could only shake his head and laugh because of the obvious, glaring erroneous legal conclusions your team of environmentalists and their friends came up with throughout your regulations. It truly would be laughable if you weren’t serious and devastating suction dredge mining for political favor and agenda.
Question; And how is it possible to perform the SDEIR and attempt to propose a regulatory framework without full knowledge of the mining rights sanctioned by case law, up to the US Supreme Courts, and yet you created proposed regulations that plainly violate multiple aspects of the mining laws and our collective mining rights?
Absent this legal analysis to providing a legal framework, DFG simply is operating on false premise(s) and therefore all decisions made on erroneous presumptions adversely affect the analysis and conclusions derived at in this SDEIR. That means much of your analysis is adversely affected and dead wrong, that is, every thing based upon a variety of false premises is wrong. It is not only wrong but dead wrong and abusive to a minority group outnumbered tens of thousands to one.
Despite your admonition that you don’t want to hear anything related to “mining rights” conferred by Congress, “takings,” and “prohibition of mining,” it is essential to establish as a matter of record that miner’s rights under the US Mining Laws will be directly adversely affected by this set of proposed regulations. These proposed regulations are “unreasonable” regulations that “impermissibly restrict placer mining” in the rivers and streams of California. In many cases these proposed regulations would completely prohibit placer mining because the only lawful means of mining gold from active streams is suction dredge mining. These proposed regulations absolutely fail to recognize the Miner’s “Dominant and Primary use” of his/her mining claim. The DFG apparently fails to acknowledge that DFG management cannot lawfully “endanger or materially interfere with mining operations and uses reasonably incident thereto.”
I am absolutely baffled that DFG has blatantly disregarded 130 years of case precedent with respect to the rights of miners under the US Mining Laws. Having studied the mining laws and 130 years of case precedent over the course of the last 16 years. I believe the DFG has broadly overstepped its authority in its gambit to micro manage and ultimately destroy placer mining on the streams and rivers of California. It is not my intention to provide a legal brief or exhaustive legal analysis. However I do offer the following references to very important cases, legislation, and other documents to ensure that DFG is advised in advance of these genuine legal concerns prior to formally adopting these proposed rules.
An excellent “on point” court decision that demonstrates that the State management of fish and wildlife must yield to the dominant and primary use (mining) is Robert E. Shoemaker IBLA 87-340 Decided July 13th 1989.
Other important guidance with respect to the authority to manage wildlife tempered by strict limitations of management by managing agencies can be found below. I cite these following somewhat obscure references for your consideration because it is highly unlikely that other miners will. I am certain other miners will be providing vast amounts of mainstream case law and legislation for your consideration. I can send you copies of these documents if you cannot readily obtain any of them on your own. With unlimited resources at your disposal, I think you can locate this stuff on you own.
DFG should have carefully investigated and examined the following published documentation before they began performing the EIS and prior to drafting these new proposed suction dredge mining regulations. DFG must take a requisite “Hard Look” at the statutory framework that protects the Miners essential bundle of rights conferred by Congress, primarily the US Mining Law of 1872 as amended by the Multiple Use Act circa 1955, as well as all relevant case law, the Mineral Policy Act of 1970, the Mineral and Materials Policy Act of 1980, President Ronald Reagan’s Executive Order 12630, March 15th 1988 “Governmental Actions and Interference with Constitutionally Protected Property Rights,” and the Legislative Histories; of the 1872 Mining Laws, the Mineral Policy Acts (1970 and 1980), and the Multiple Use Act 1955.
Further, DFG should have extensively reviewed the Hearings before the Subcommittee on Public Lands of the Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs, House Of Representatives, Ninety-Third Congress, second session, Serial No. 93-44, Hearings Held in Washington, D.C. March 7 and 8, 1974. (PROPOSED FOREST SERVICE MINING REGULATIONS.)
DFG should also have reviewed the USDA FS Environmental Statement for the Proposed Mining Regulations, Transmitted to Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) July 12th 1974. DFG should have reviewed all relevant and available information related to the FS proposed regulations (1974 era) because that review would shed considerable light upon the essential bundle of rights miners hold with a valid Mining Claim. It also illustrates that Congress has made great efforts since 1872 to protect the miner’s bundle of rights when passing virtually all public land laws that might adversely affect mining rights. These aforementioned documents are abounding with credible information related to the severe and consistent limitations Congress has consistently placed upon the Managing Agencies with respect to management of surface and sub-surface resources on mining claims.
Suction Dredge Mining Is GREEN; DFG should Praise Suction Dredgers
DFG should Foster, Encourage and Promote Suction Dredge Mining
Dredgers have been removing vast quantities of heavy metals, garbage, and toxins from our river systems for four decades at no charge to the California DFG or the US Government. In fact, often for the mere “hope or chance” called prospecting we might find some gold, or that we will recover our private property (gold) in economic quantities, and we search for and suction dredge pay streaks comprised of heavy metal garbage in the rivers.
It is amazing to think that the 1994 set of dredging regulations arrogantly required suction dredge miners to remove the garbage we routinely encounter and capture in our sluices and/or recovery devices. Most dredgers would remove such garbage anyway regardless of the regulation, but the fact DFG has required us to remove garbage by regulation and contract, leads reasonable thinking people to conclude that this is an admission that garbage and heavy metals will be encountered when we dredge and that DFG does not want us to throw the garbage back into the river.
The crucial issue before us today is that DFG has never analyzed or acknowledged the shear quantities of garbage in our rivers, and DFG has not evaluated how vast the spread of garbage is and how each flood event spreads these toxic substances downstream in deeper and deeper streambeds that eventually will not ever be cleaned up because DFG has and is forbidding the use of the proper sized suction dredge equipment needed to economically extract the garbage along with the gold.
Generally the sooner suction dredge miners can intercept these pollutants nearest to the source point, the easier it is to recover economically. The longer DFG waits to allow heavy metals clean up, the less likely it can ever be cleaned up because recurring floods relentlessly push all these toxins further and further down stream deeper and deeper in overburden.
For clarification, throughout these comments, I use the terms heavy metals, mercury, hazardous materials, trash, garbage, lead, and so-forth. Generally when I use the words; garbage, trash, pollution, pollutants and hazardous materials and contaminates; I am using broad descriptors to refer to all various forms of pollution defined and described in my comments. If I try to define each and every type of trash every time I discuss it, I would end up adding 10 or 20 more pages to these comments.
Example; dumping heavy metals in streams
Theoretically, if DFG field officers witnessed a group of suction dredge miners – or any other person(s) – all dumping several pounds of lead and heavy metals into a river – that they had removed from the river that season – it would be safe to assume DFG or another Government Agency would issue all the dredgers tickets or citations for polluting the river with toxic substances. These men would be prosecuted in Courts at the expense of the Citizens of the United States; I imagine this crime would be viewed in court as a horrific environmental crime, egregious, and truly shameful behavior. And the courts would punish them severely. (Never mind these particular criminals had removed all these toxins from the river in the first place.)
Please note; DFG has devised no plan to dispose of the hazardous materials these particular alleged criminals (and all suction dredgers) were required to remove. And history proves beyond question that DFG does not even want to be informed that such garbage was removed. It is as if DFG is deaf, dumb and blind to the vastness of river pollution problems. And the SDEIR focused so intently on what suction dredgers might release in microscopic quantities, that the underlying problem of “background” gross river pollution where these sediments are ultimately derived was virtually ignored. It is like “you cannot see the forest for the trees.”
Based upon the example above;
Question; Why is it that suction dredge miners in the example above would be cited, prosecuted and harshly punished for throwing the heavy metal garbage in the rivers, but when each and every suction dredge miner is directly responsible for routinely removing pounds of heavy metal garbage from our rivers, he is treated like a criminal, a greedy exploiter or an abuser that must be further restrained with the old – and now new – proposed draconian regulations.
Can you explain why this is?
Question; If illegally dumping heavy metals into a river is a punishable crime, worthy of citation, prosecution, stiff fines and costs for special environmental clean up, and if reclaiming the heavy metals with a reclamation dredge is viewed as an “environmentally sound heavy metals cleanup method” then Can you explain why DFG has not given “cash awards” or “pinned medals” on the chests of every suction dredge miner in the State of California for voluntarily performing reclamation dredging for the past 40 years at their own expense?
Question; Since there is undeniable proof that suction dredge miners have been instrumental in removing vast quantities of heavy metals and river pollution for decades, why is it that DFG has not ever defended suction dredge miners, but also has failed to engage in a campaign to strongly support suction dredge mining by educating the public as to the invaluable services we provide to the water quality, habitats, fish, species, and for the benefit of all US Citizens on a voluntary basis at no cost to tax payers?
Question; assuming that DFG caught miners dumping heavy metals in the river, another issue and question arises. As a result of witnessing toxic heavy metals being dumped into our river, DFG would most likely send out a Haz-Mat team with heavy metals suction dredge equipment to dredge up the contamination. No doubt the offenders who dumped the heavy metals would be charged the actual costs of the clean up. Boy that’s going to cost a pretty penny to be sure. The reclamation team/Haz-Mat team would be viewed as heroes, the good reclamation dredgers.
Question; So, why is it that suction dredge miners don’t get the same respect from DFG for our strictly voluntary efforts cleaning up Haz-Mat materials?
Biased Science designed for predetermined outcome
By the way, reading the SDEIR, at every opportunity the SDEIR paints suction dredge miners like pond scum, even your intentional selection of photos (SDEIR Aesthetics) and much of your analysis plainly illustrates that the purported scientists engaged in this process used their creative writing skills at every opportunity to maliciously paint suction dredge miners in a bad light. Casting aspersions and citing public complaints that mere sentences later illustrate it is not a serious problem, yet it provided opportunity for your purported scientists to paint us in a bad light over and over. A little complaint here and there everywhere documented and word-smith’ed to make suction dredge miners look as evil as possible and without evidence or plain understanding of the laws that allow us to mine and use our private property. As such, you will find my comments on these other user groups somewhat harsh but realistic. At least DFG can rely on me to tell the truth.
DFG may be offended from time to time, but truth knows no offense, it is what it is, and I don’t have a staff or unlimited funds to word smith and sanitize my comments like DFG and other Agencies do, so it is what it is.
Question; If the Haz-Mat team that was assigned to clean up the heavy metals is seen as heroes for cleaning up the contamination, then why are suction mining dredgers who clean out our rivers “villains” and treated like “enemies” of the environment?
Question; why are we being treated like a mere nuisance and threat to the environment?
Question; If the Haz-mat team encountered “mercury” while cleaning up the heavy metals with a suction dredge as described in my example above, what would the team do? See below.
A) Question; Will they leave the heavy metals in the river for fear of flouring the mercury?
B) Question; Or will the team clean up the heavy metals with a suction dredge and accept the fact that some small contamination of floured mercury might escape?
Question; Has DFG quantified or qualified the amount of hazardous materials; garbage, trash, pollution, heavy metals, mercury and asphalt that is presently distributed throughout our rivers? ***
Question; What could be more GREEN than Suction Dredge Mining in our rivers?
My answer is that there is no “greener” group(s) of river users than suction dredge miners. I will prove my case throughout these public comments.
Hunting and fishing license
DFG has been issuing 2-3 million fishing and hunting licenses annually for decades. Cumulatively, these groups are directly responsible for putting the vast volume of lead in the environment. And, the practice of using lead weights and split shot for fishing goes on to this day. Using chart at 4.8-8 indicates at minimum the fishermen and hunters average 12 days each so that is about 24 – 36 million days use for their activities combined. That’s a crap-load of sportsmen slinging and blasting lead spanning numerous decades. Lead is that Hazardous Material we have dredged up by the bucket full season after season.
Extending the math, assuming fishing licenses only and estimating the cost of fishing licenses at $43.46 per resident license, times 1,730,000 licenses = $75,185,000.00 for fishing licenses in one year, and the number of licenses x 11 use days = 19,030,000 use days for fishermen per year. (This is just resident license – there are many more licenses available)
And, assuming one decade, arithmetic roughly indicates 190,300,000 days of use in 10 years, And, considering each fisherman only lost one ounce in 11 days of fishing, and dividing by 16 gives us 11,893,000 pounds of lead lost / by 2000 lbs/ton = 5,946.87 tons of lead lost by fishermen over ten years.
These are very low estimates and plainly extending more accurate calculations year by year since 1996 will be much higher. Regardless, continuing rough calculations; assuming fishermen lost 5 ounces in an 11 day span = 29,732 tons of lead lost by fishermen in ten years. Or multiply by 2000lbs/ton = 59,465,000 pounds of lead lost in the environment over 10 years. That’s a lot of lead. When all data is analyzed and calculated, it is obvious that these numbers will actually be much higher. I Think DFG’s lead releases have surpassed the old timers mercury releases pound for pound. We are only looking at a low-ball figure for ten years of sanctioned lead distribution into our rivers, lakes, and reservoirs. Do actual calculations spanning 40, or 50 years and that’s a lot of lead slinging.
It appears that DFG makes a boatload of money selling fishing licenses. I am not bothering with analysis of the hunting license revenue at this juncture. Nevertheless, it appears profitable and lucrative to sell “take permits” to these two user groups who obviously are on a mission to collectively kill a massive amount of fish and other species for the fun of it. And at the same time your officers authorized each and every piece of lead these groups scatter(ed) throughout our shared river environment. The very lead we routinely fish out of our rivers with suction dredges.
Another thing, if you extrapolate from history, and make reasonable estimates related the numbers of fishermen and hunters who have graced these waters spanning 160 years, and from that data estimate the volumes of lead that have been used by both hunters and fishermen over this vast span of time, then it will be no surprise when you figure out that this long history has placed hundreds if not thousands of tons of lead into all of our rivers.
This is a very crucial point.
We continuously clean up tons of lead after the very fishermen and hunters who “cry the blues” and “whine and snivel” to the agencies that the suction dredge miners are; making noise, we are an eye – sore, we are using their camping spot, we disturb their peace, and/or we don’t belong here, and we are screwing up the rivers. We have heard it all. You should tell them we are the clean up crew cleaning up the cumulative impacts of their lead re-distribution efforts, which they fired or slung into our rivers for shear fun and games.
Why the need to crack down on miners?
Suction dredging reduced 300% and Fishermen reduced by about 1/3 and hunters reduced 45 %. One would think that since hunting has declined 45%, and fishing appears to have dropped by 1 million users between 1996 and 2006, (SDEIR 4.8-8) then that would take enormous strain off the fish and wildlife. And suction dredge mining permits have also been reduced from 12000 miners to less than 4000 miners between 1994 and 2008. These facts indicate that enormous strain on habitats has been reduced dramatically since 1994. So you claim to be concerned about fish and their very survival, but the fish have bigger problems you have thus far refused to address. But since the rivers are properly described as a garbage dump and DFG insists upon pretending pollution does not exist and insists upon protecting the garbage from ever being disturbed or removed, it is no wonder fish and wildlife are or may be in decline. With this much reduction in activity, it defies logic that DFG is exercising a strangle hold on suction dredge mining, unless there is an agenda.
Finally, looking at the shear number if fishermen and hunters user days spanning 10 years, at 240-360 million use days, it appears obvious that the fishermen have intentionally gone out of their way, and killed impressive quantities of fish, harmed far more fish, and harmed vastly more aquatic habitat than suction dredge miners ever dreamed of.
Every single day, hither swarms of “DFG licensed” sportsmen with licenses to kill stuff sling hunks of lead into our rivers and other idiots in years past would shoot off guns for the pure hell of it using lead bullets and buckshot that are also scattered throughout the heavy metals we dredge out of the rivers.
Other River users
Suction dredge miners are the only mitigation measure. Suction dredge miners are the only group of river users who vacuum up all the other river users toxic byproducts of their amusement and entertainment. We often pick up their trash.
All other river users are just that: users. These users contribute nothing whatsoever to the quality of the environment. As they say, in life, there are givers and takers. In my opinion, all other river users are users and takers because they give back nothing to the environment.
Question; What can DFG say – that is positive – about the various activities of all the other river user groups that are or may be construed as beneficial to the environment?
According to SDEIR 4.8-8, et seq. we have 37 million people in California, and estimating the other users’ annual day use w/ possible overnight camping, the arithmetic shows 10,233,000 swimmers, almost 6,000,000 viewing and photographing fish, 1,890,000 rafting, and 1,161,000 kayaking. Wow, that’s about 20,000,000 day use visits in one year by swimmers, rafters, Kayakers, and photographers alone. So it looks like suction dredgers are vastly outnumbered, we are a very small minority who are being discriminated against by DFG. I imagine there are far fewer suction dredge miners than Native Americans with the right to net salmon by the bucket load.
Compare numbers of Suction Dredge miners to numbers of fishermen and hunters
190,000,000 fishermen use days + 20,000,000 misc. use days from immediately above, + hunters at 3,372,000 use days = 213,372,000 total use days by hunters, fishermen, and other groups from above.
Assuming 4000 miners averaging 100 days use each per season, this equals 400,000 dredger use days. Comparing other use days 213,372,000/ dredger use days 400,000 we get ratio = 533.43:1. I think we are outnumbered a tad bit.
Basically 213,372,000 users come and go. And,19,030,000 fishermen use days. So basically 19,030,000 fishermen come and go and go at will, they don’t have to notify DFG or USFS, or BLM where they are going to play, and do not need to coordinate their visits months in advance and need no approvals other than DFG licenses to systematically attack and kill the species of their desire; to taunt species, maim species, trudge through and damage critical habitats, sling lead, and crush vegetation at will. They are fleeting users, whatever environmental harms they may cause happen swiftly, and they promptly leave not knowing whether they may have caused any harm to the aquatic habitats or species.
In stark contrast, suction dredge miners are longer duration commercial property owners extracting our property (and river pollution) under Federal Mining Laws and as such, we are routinely blamed for the damages to aquatic species, birds, and so forth very often caused by the other fleeting users such as previously described.
I guess by any definition we are the painfully obvious minority user group that is being unfairly characterized and discriminated against by DFG.
I think it is fair to say suction dredge miners are fair game to abuse and discriminate against, and there is no-one standing up for our statutory rights to mine and our voluntary efforts to reclaim heavy metals from our rivers.
Question; I told you from the start, my comments would point out the perspectives you fail to acknowledge. Being outnumbered at least 533 : 1, can any of your staff imagine, infer, or anticipate that with this glaring disparity ratio, it is no freaking wonder complaints might arise concerning our activities from time to time?
Question; Can you name anything any or all of the other river users do to; benefit the aquatic habitats, clean up garbage and heavy metals, or that has or may have a lasting and positive environmental impact?
Other than suction dredge miners, virtually every river user is just that a user. They are there on our rivers to take something from Nature – sometimes on purpose – if we are talking about hunting and fishing, or they unwittingly take species carelessly, or unintentionally damage habitats because Ca. DFG has not educated or properly regulated their behaviors.
Question; If our river aquatic environments are so unhealthy and precarious that your analysis allegedly indicates that you must “crack down” on suction dredge mining, then why is DFG still profiteering by selling off our various aquatic species with take permits?
From your web site, Fish and Game Code Section 86 defines “Take” as hunt, pursue, catch, capture, or kill, or attempt to hunt, pursue, catch, capture or kill.
Now isn’t this a hoot, truly a charming view of some of these other river users isn’t it?
Question; If suction dredge miners were responsible for discharging literally tons of lead into our rivers and streams annually, do you think DFG would have stopped suction dredging decades ago Legislatively or otherwise?
Question; If DFG is fully aware of the cumulative lead accumulations in our rivers, why does DFG insist upon profiteering by selling such vast numbers of fishing and hunting licenses (take permits) each and every year?
Question; Why is lead still being used so broadly throughout the recreational fishing industry?
Question; Is there a more expensive and more ecologically sensitive metal or metal/composite that can be used instead of lead?
Hint, gold plated copper, silver or gold alloys would work; it will not corrode, tarnish, dissolve, or pollute. Fishermen would be far more careful about losing their weights in the river. And, you would have far fewer fishermen eager to taunt, tease and harass species just for fun if you made such a bold regulatory change. It’s just a thought. And, gold will collect mercury when clean gold and elemental mercury come into contact in the water. All weights the fishermen lose while fishing will be recovered by suction dredge miners in the future. It is a win-win scenario.
Lead Buckshot banned – Waterfowl feeding on lead
Decades ago scientists warned the public about lead buckshot in our aquatic environments, in part because waterfowl would ingest lead when feeding. As a result, lead buckshot was banned. Yet today, the rivers are full of lead buckshot and lead leader, lead split-shot, lead weights, and bullets and waterfowl does indeed feed in these streams and rivers. Also, every time this lead is ground up by the rivers, it is abraded and each piece gets smaller and smaller as it travels. This is a fact, and the explanation is that all particles of the oxides and the pure metal are removed and scattered throughout our riverbeds thus accounting for lead contamination of fish and water. Perhaps your scientists might be motivated to study this!
Question; If your gaggle of environmental scientists are so genuinely concerned about protecting our environment, then why have all these geniuses failed so miserably to acknowledge the lead / waterfowl issues in your SDEIR?
Question; How brilliant can your scientists possibly be if it takes a mere suction dredge miner to bring their attention to blatantly obvious environmental concerns – (lead transport and reduction is only one example of many to follow) – that they failed miserably to analyze or document?
*If I were an ethical scientist working on this SDEIR, I would be embarrassed.
Dredging out the lead including buckshot
The waterfowl are spared to some degree only as a result of the work suction dredge miners have done over several decades, no other group or agency has done more than suction dredge miners to clean out the toxic lead for the benefit of waterfowl. Suction dredge mining is the only possible mitigation for your lead problem. It is your problem because it is the byproduct of your authorization, which authorized and authorizes the collective discharge of vast quantities of the hazardous material lead into our rivers on a continuous and on going basis. In aggregate, DFG is directly responsible for the vast majority of heavy metal contamination in our rivers today.
Legacy mercury vs. DFG and lead
Now, for comparative perspective, the old time miners over a century ago were unaware that mercury had any toxic side effects. They did release a lot of mercury into the rivers. On the other hand, DFG; with vast power, environmental laws galore, huge scientific staff, and vast research available at their fingertips have been responsible for depositing more lead in aggregate into the rivers than the old time miners deposited in mercury.
The key difference is that DFG should have known better and DFG was paid significant sums of money for many, many decades for such authorized lead distribution, but in contrast, the old time gold miners simply didn’t know better.
It is also fascinating and perhaps ironic that Congress and our Legislators created agencies like DFG to protect the environment; the fish, water, and water quality from any and all people(s) who might repeat the purportedly careless release of pollution like the old time miners caused, but much to my chagrin, DFG has done far, far worse on the lead issue alone and refuses to date to recognize or correct these practices! Isn’t capitalism working out great for the California DFG?
Question; Why is it that DFG finds it permissible and acceptable to sell fishing and hunting licenses averaging 24 – 36 million days annually of intentionally killing species who each and every one – predictably – will throw fishing lead into our rivers en – mass as long as the lead is attached to fishing line, when by stark contrast, throwing small pieces of lead without fishing line is a punishable environmental crime?
*This amounts to 98,600 visits per day, except I calculate 365 days a year, fishing season is what six months, so double this figure and we get 197,000 fishermen per day. Yep, that is nearly 200,000 fishermen per day visiting our rivers, on a mission to kill, maim, tease, and plunder, slinging the hazardous material lead every day.
Fly Fishermen no prize either
Finally, even the fly fishermen, who are perhaps the snobbiest sportsmen I have ever met, are far from being as environmentally conscience as they proclaim to be. This group of elitist river users drive all over the state fishing where ever the law allows, doing their coveted catch and release. Aren’t they green? I don’t think so, fish die on a daily basis as a direct result of their activities. They crush vegetation, trudge and wade through sensitive aquatic environments and damage fish eggs, frog eggs, and cause a variety of harms to species and species habitats.
They also have a license to kill from the Ca. DFG. They purchased the lawful right to taunt, tease, maim and kill species. DFG eagerly sells these snobs the right to harass species. They are sick, they love catch and release. What is catch and release anyway?
*It is full grown adults who relish tricking species into biting their hooks for the shear joy of fighting fish, hurting them, and causing them stress and watching them leap out of the water in anguish and fear. And when the fly fishermen are done “Playing” with the species they hooked, they ever so carefully and gingerly let them go into the wild, “off you go little fishy,” and they feel so good about themselves! So, let’s get serious here.
Question; What is it that fly fishermen do or have done in the course of fishing or commuting to and from the fishing hole of choice that could possibly be viewed as beneficial to species or aquatic habitats?
Question; Do they have magic tires that do not leave dust on gravel roads?
Question; Do they have magic waders that prevent them from crushing vegetation, fish and frog eggs?
Question; Do they have magic glasses or magic eyes that alert them to sensitive aquatic conditions that no other user, (such as an evil suction dredge miner) could recognize and thereby avoid harming critical habitats?
Question; Do they have magic SUV’s that leave no carbon footprint when they drive throughout the mountain ranges to go slay the fish and contaminate rivers?
Again, fly fishermen, like most other river user groups are takers, users, and the environmental harms to fish and aquatic habitats is undeniable and apparently unavoidable. Worse, they terrorize, taunt, maim and kill species just for fun, and they give nothing back to Mother Nature. Isn’t that truly sad in the scheme of things?
Question; So which river user group or groups are truly exploiting the environment, taking species, and using the rivers for fun while carelessly and ignorantly damaging the aquatic habitats?
Question; And, is it possible that the suction dredge miners who clean the habitat are creating the least amount of habitat liabilities and the most environmental good?
Exploiters? & Defense
I say all evidence available in your SDEIR indicates that it is the cumulative impacts of the activities of all the other river user groups combined that are the true exploiters of Mother Nature. Suction dredge miners appear to be the rare exception to the rule.
As a user group, we use the river but we clean it as we go about our use. The river is cleaner as a result of our activities, I dare say, no other user group can make a remotely similar claim. We give labor, provide specialized equipment, and we bear the brunt of the expenses and even risk our lives in the process. And we can offer DFG no praise for having handicapped our efforts, and endangered and materially interfered with our work at least since 1994.
Suction dredge miners are frequently accused of “greedily exploiting our resources and trashing the environment.” This is not true of course but it is the accepted and promoted narrative. A narrative DFG evidently enjoys exploiting throughout this SDEIR. And as I have and will demonstrate throughout my comments, it appears that the only river user group that has consistently improved our aquatic habitats and water quality are suction dredge miners. We take gold that we are entitled to take by law, and as we take gold, we also take all the heavy metal contamination that the other user groups left behind by the millions of river users sanctioned by DFG and USFS and BLM. We clean up the other users messes or garbage, which is the predictable bi-product of their pure entertainment.
DFG well paid for the right to kill and sling lead
Seems to me that since the fishermen and hunters have paid DFG handsomely, these user groups have purchased the lawful right to go kill stuff and sling lead willy-nilly all over our fragile ecosystems.
It seems only fair for DFG to pay suction dredge miners to clean up the messes DFG is responsible for; not only for allowing this lead to enter our rivers in astronomical proportions, but DFG has been well paid for their permission to contaminate our rivers with lead. These sportsmen are not only licensed to kill specific species at will, kill species that don’t survive after release, kill other species by ignorance or accident, but also lawfully sling vast amounts of lead throughout our watersheds. And DFG has sold all these sportsmen the right to do all of these things with no apparent environmental benefit whatsoever and no plan to reclaim their lead!
Basically, DFG profits by selling licenses to sportsmen of various types to randomly kill stuff; target specific species for death, and sanctions all the fishermen’s lead slinging throughout the watersheds in the State of California.
If DFG did some homework, I bet DFG could find readily available data that would estimate how much fishing lead is and has been manufactured and sold in California for domestic “fishing” use. I’m sure your diligent and apparently industrious environmental scientists could dredge up considerable and credible data spanning 40 years to get an idea of how much lead fishermen purchase, use, and redistribute into our rivers annually. I am also certain the amount of lead sold to and used by fishermen in the State of California will be astronomical.
Look, DFG has opened this can of worms as a direct result of attempting to screw miners, and DFG has no one to blame but yourselves for the pickle you are finding yourselves in.
Equipment; Gold Suction Dredge V. Reclamation Dredge
OK, lets look at a suction dredge designed for gold mining and then compare it to the design required for a reclamation dredge recovery system; designed for the recovery of lead, heavy metals, and mercury. Guess what? There is no difference.
A gold dredge sluice box – with 160 years of design and testing for gold recovery – is absolutely the perfect tool for reclamation dredging, that is, for heavy metal and toxic metals extraction.
It is safe to say that the only difference between suction dredge mining and reclamation dredging is the objective and the intent. The gold dredger is looking for gold and he just happens to dredge up heavy metal garbage because it is generally concentrated in precisely the same locations as the gold. The reclamation dredger is being paid big money usually by Government to go to known contaminated areas in search of garbage and heavy metals, he uses the same dredging equipment, he dredges and recovers heavy metals, and he finds the same quantities of gold in his sluice box quite by accident.
The key difference between the purported good (reclamation) dredger and the evil suction dredge miner appears to be the intent or purpose of the dredging.
In both aforementioned cases the toxic heavy metals were/are removed as a result of suction dredge mining. The difference is that there is an unrealistic and largely ignorant bias against suction dredge mining for gold, but on the other hand, reclamation dredging has been painted with a broad brush as being green and environmentally friendly. Perhaps the green does not stem from environmental work per se, but from the color of the almighty greenbacks he is paid for his purported good and green deeds.
Question, what is it called when a miner uses a suction dredge to remove gold from a river?
My Answer is Gold Placer Mining, or suction dredge mining.
Question; What is it called when a dredger uses a suction dredge to remove heavy metals from a river?
My Answer is Heavy Metal Placer Mining, or suction dredge heavy metals mining.
Question; What do you think, do you suppose the reclamation dredger will clean out his sluice box and throw the gold back into the river?
Question; If a reclamation dredger (AKA heavy metals miner) dredges gold while dredging heavy metals, isn’t he also a suction dredge miner or a gold dredger?
Question; If a suction dredge miner is searching for gold, follows the heavy metal trash, and dredges heavy metals but ends up dredging far more heavy metals than gold, wouldn’t it be appropriate to say he is a heavy metals miner, suction dredge heavy metals miner or a reclamation dredger?
Question; Isn’t the difference between reclamation dredging (AKA Suction dredge heavy metals mining), and suction dredge gold mining simply a matter of semantics?
Question; And secondly, would you agree that the dredges used in both kinds of operations are identical and that the job done produces precisely the same results?
Important Point; If an operator of a reclamation dredge designed for heavy metal recovery is sent to a specific location to clean heavy metal contamination out of a river section, and he suction dredges the heavy metals, he is by definition a heavy metals miner. Why? The heavy metals are distributed in the lower strata of the gravel just as gold is. If a gold suction dredge operator is a miner, which is mining gold by excavating gravel and vacuuming the river bottom for gold distributed in the gravel, then, the purported reclamation dredge operator is a miner because he is literally and intentionally mining by excavating gravel and vacuuming heavy metals that are also widely distributed in the gravel with the gold.
Heavy metals mining (AKA Reclamation Dredging) is not lucrative on its own, in fact it is uneconomical with out a government subsidy. The exception is when the gold recovery in the heavy metals mining is high, but heavy metals miners are paid for their work regardless of how much gold they recover in the process. They are not required to throw the gold away. This is amazing!
The USFS has defined what mining “operations” are under the 36 CFR 228 mining regulations and the courts have upheld the definition of operations. And by strict definition, suction dredging with a so called reclamation dredge, and sluicing heavy metals, concentrating heavy metals, and panning to extract the heavy metals is by any and every known definition to date mining.
What kind of mining? Well, what are they mining? They are mining heavy metals and mercury from river gravel. So, operators who are operating purported reclamation suction dredges for heavy metals recovery are by irrefutable definition heavy metals miners. The problem is that their purported heavy metals cleanup project, AKA heavy metals mining project, causes precisely the same results, the same sediment release, the same alleged toxic tailings discharge, the same turbidity is anticipated, and the dredge will have the same mercury recovery rate as the suction dredge gold miner.
Again, this is outright bias, discrimination, and “use prejudice.”
Why? Because the alleged purpose of the Legislation was/is intended to target and eliminate suction dredge mining because of all the presupposed and alleged harms we might could possibly maybe cause at some point in the future.
But, If reclamation dredges, and suction dredge heavy metals miners use the same equipment as the suction dredge miners, use the same techniques, and do the same work and achieve the same identical results, in the same in stream settings, then plainly the Legislation is discriminating based upon the intent of the operator.
Yet, the so-called reclamation dredging is not regulated by DFG in the same in stream waterways as suction dredge miners. So SB-670 is prime for litigation as it is discriminating against a specific and targeted minority group of specialized miners, namely suction dredge miners.
SB-670 does prohibit suction dredge mining for gold, – if gold recovery is the intent – and allows other forms of suction dredges and suction dredging to proceed with all other in stream reclamation and reclamation projects as usual.
Dredge permit, Dredge Permit, we don’t need no stinking dredge permit
How about if I skip asking for a suction dredge mining permit entirely, and instead I go out to my claim and dredge heavy metals (reclamation work) on purpose and the gold I happen to find is just an accidental recovery of gold. Then I shouldn’t need to go through all the hassles DFG is proposing in the new suction dredge regulations, I can select the right dredge size for the job, use a double drum power winch without a permit and DFG can send the local news team to my claim so DFG can brag about how heavy metal miners are cleaning up our rivers for free! Better yet, DFG can pay me the going rate for my heavy metals recovery and my invaluable services to nature, the environment, water quality, and aquatic habitats for all the citizens of the United States. Such payment would ensure I keep up the good and necessary work of cleaning heavy metals from our environment.
Reclamation dredgers are subsidized via Taxes
Again, it is baffling that suction dredge gold miners are treated like greedy exploiters of the environment and somehow DFG and the general public has been indoctrinated to believe that heavy metals reclamation dredging, or more appropriately heavy metals miners are painted with a broad brush as providing an invaluable service to the environment and the people.
And because the heavy metals miner’s intent is to find and mine heavy metals and these heavy metals are not generally economically mined, they must be subsidized by the State and/or the Federal Government, meaning the operators must be PAID CASH to dredge heavy metals even though they will dredge the gold with the heavy metals and keep all the gold they dredge up at the same time.
It could reasonably be said that the Agencies like DFG can use reclamation dredging as yet another species of “cash cow.”
Question; Does DFG really and truly believe that the greedy, hungry reclamation dredger’s mining of heavy metals under contract with the DFG – and other alphabet soup agencies – is in any way superior to, better than, or more moral, than those dad gummed suction dredge miners who do identical work without government pay, and for the sole purpose of extracting the gold along with heavy metals which is their private property?
Question; So, which miner is good and which miner is evil?
Seriously. Can you proffer a guess? I would like to know.
Question; Which miner does the reclamation work for free and which miner does reclamation work for dollars? (Tax payers Dollars at that.)
It appears to me that the contracted reclamation dredger is the exploiter of our aquatic habitat because he only does this work for a paycheck. (not many volunteers)
But a suction dredge miner does the exact same reclamation work for free, we merely expect to recover gold, you know that shiny yellow stuff that represents new wealth that finds its way into our economy. This is not recycled wealth where I take a paycheck and give it away for rent, and the landlord pays his taxes and Uncle Same gives it to Joe who purchase drugs and the drug dealer pays his rent to the landlord and so forth. That just recycles the wealth over and over. I am not talking about recycled wealth, but brand new for the first time out of the earths crust wealth.
It is clear once again, that suction dredge miners have all other river users and reclamation dredgers beat hands down when it comes to using our rivers and giving something worthwhile back to mother nature.
So, these purported reclamation dredgers not only do exactly what suction dredge miners do, but they are paid the full cost for the entire operation including labor, by the California tax payers. They will dredge up the gold along with heavy metals and sell the gold as an amazing tax-free bonus! And, they don’t even own a mining claim; don’t pay property taxes on the claim, don’t pay BLM maintenance fees, don’t pay County and BLM filing fees, and as a bonus they don’t get harassed for doing the same job we do!
So apparently reclamation dredging (AKA Heavy Metals Mining or Dredging) is basically suction dredge gold mining where the operator’s alleged intent is the extraction of heavy metals, and because of the alleged noble intent, these heavy metals miners are subsidized and are not bound by DFG suction dredge mining regulations. Can you say Discrimination?
In reality these purported reclamation dredgers are no more than paid suction dredge miners with the apparent right to recover, keep, or sell the gold as a bonus. The US Mining Laws have nothing to do with reclamation dredging strictly speaking, yet, somehow; reclamation dredgers/heavy metals miners/suction dredge heavy metals miners are in fact dredging gold, and keeping gold and therefore gold mining without the Grant and authorization of Congress and without obtaining a suction dredge mining permit from the DFG.
Worse, DFG is sanctioning this entire process while at the same time severely handicapping the evil suction dredge miners with draconian regulations, you know, the miners who have a Grant from Congress; Congressional authorization to mine, a mining claim, The Dominant and Primary Use and are the lawful owner of the gold deposit.
At this point I have conclusively established that there is no difference between in stream suction dredge mining for gold and suction dredge mining for heavy metals. They are IDENTICAL. The only arguable exception is that of intent.
The gold miner looks for gold and gets heavy metals and gold, and the heavy metals miner looks for heavy metals and gets heavy metals and also gets gold. The apparent difference is merely the intent of the miner.
The suction dredge miner intends to search for and dredge gold for profit, but absent State subsidies, he is on his own and he is required to make a profit. He must attempt to economically mine his gold without subsidy, and in fact, he must suction dredge with DFG impeding, prohibiting, stalling, and materially interfering with his activities. The suction dredge miner has the DFG (AKA; 400 pound gorilla) on his back.
In stark contrast, the suction dredge heavy metal miner (reclamation dredger) intends to dredge heavy metals including gold except the taxpayers subsidize him and he is not bound by the regulatory nightmares his only competitor (Suction Dredge Miners) must endure.
Discrimination and use prejudice
This leads me to conclude that DFG’s proposed suction dredging regulations are a clear-cut case of USE PREJUDICE.
In fact these proposed regulations are DISCRIMINATORY. It appears it is only suction dredge miners looking for gold who are intentionally and maliciously regulated out of existence. But purported reclamation dredgers mining heavy metals and gold is free to mine w/out regulations ostensive because of some half-baked, convoluted, and erroneous premise that reclamation dredgers are good and suction dredge mining is evil or bad.
Question; Isn’t it weird that intent of the miner is the key factor motivating the Legislation, political motivation, the cooked science and the proposed regulations?
This is crucial. Because, while the suction dredge gold miner and the suction dredge heavy metals miner intent is to seek different metals, in the final analysis, both miners end up dredging up exactly the same materials when they clean out their sluice boxes.
So regardless of intent of the dredger, the end result is exactly the same. And because the results are identical in every way, the notion DFG and/or the Courts, or the State Legislators have declared a ban on in stream suction dredge mining and have not banned any other form of in stream dredging is prejudice by definition. As I have shown, while both evil dredgers and good dredgers have a different intent, a different goal, and a different stated purpose, it makes no difference in the final analysis because the end result is precisely the same. The end result is a river section cleaned of hazardous materials and toxic waste.
Reclamation equipment we can never ever use – discrimination
The other issue of concern is that there are many forms of dredging beyond heavy metals mining and placer gold mining. There are dredges designed to muck out dry land at waters edge for boat docks, to dredge channels for private boat docks in ritzy housing projects. There are dragline dredges operating sand and gravel plants that by the way almost always process the river gravel for the gold. These are huge dredges on massive barges that send barges full of river gravel and sand on their way to a gravel plant. Some of these dredges cruise lakes with weed cutters and vacuum up all the weeds for disposal. Other dredges are intended to merely pump sludge, sand, sediments, and gravel to another location with no filtration. This is often the type of dredge used to do most maintenance dredging on power projects as stated in SB-670.
The main point is that all other uses for dredges of every kind and every size are exempt from DFG’s proposed regulations for suction dredge mining. And, therefore a mere placer miner is discriminated against because he does not have the same rights or permitting process enjoyed by all other dredge users regardless of the other user’s intent.
And many of these reclamation or maintenance dredges are indeed dredging gold whether that was the intention to recover gold or not. So the plain fact that suction dredge miners searching for gold cannot use proper equipment to economically extract their property (gold), and we are provided no option whatsoever to use the proper dredge size and support equipment, this suggests that DFG proposed regulations and prior suction dredging regulations are deliberately prejudicial to one small minority class of people, namely suction dredge miners.
We should have exactly the same opportunity as the purported reclamation dredgers to use a 16-inch dredge if we need one. If DFG refuses to allow suction dredge miners to request permission to use such oversized equipment but allows all other commercial enterprises who claim they are not intentionally mining gold to apply for permits or licenses to use whatever equipment is best suited for the job, then it is clear that these proposed regulations are deliberately intended to attack one class of people; and one type of extraction, for one type of mineral, namely suction dredge gold miners and suction dredge gold mining. The common denominator is the terms “gold, mining, and intent.”
Disclosure – Complaints
Going back to SB-670 I am curious as to what input DFG has given the California Legislature with respect to suction dredge mining. In America, historically we the people are afforded the right to face our accusers. In light of this tradition, I want to know what dirty deeds DFG has been up to; what testimony and documentation, and letters DFG offered to California Legislators, and I want to know more about the other user groups who are and have been complaining about suction dredge miners as touched upon in the SDEIR.
In the interest of fair play, I request to know what it is these other user groups are complaining about, and we all want an opportunity to “face our accusers,” and/or to know precisely what the specific complaints are so that we might be afforded an opportunity to defend ourselves. This only seems fair to me.
DFG input instrumental in getting Legislative action
Sure, DFG had two court decisions, but the Legislation was a separate and distinct action. Plainly DFG has given input to the California Legislature to literally impose a ban on evil suction dredge miners and specifically excluded all other types of dredging. I would very much like to get a copy of the letters and documentation the DFG sent to the California Legislators and I want to see any testimony DFG offered in support of the suction dredge mining ban. Please send me copies of these aforementioned documents or publish them in the SDEIR. I believe that DFG is largely responsible for providing the bogus information to the California Legislature that led to this discriminatory and arbitrary suction dredge-mining ban.
If DFG fails to offer up such a good faith request, I assure you that we will be dredging up the information through FOIA and / or discovery, or whatever other means until such information sees light of day
Moving on, if DFG contracts a crew of heavy metals miners to suction dredge a river clean of heavy metals, the heavy metals miners do not answer to the same regulations that suction dredge gold miners are saddled with in the new proposed regulations. Therefore, the reclamation dredger, or more appropriately, the heavy metal miner will select the largest dredge possible to complete the task as economically as possible.
They can use power winches, and move logs, stumps, boulders and such at will. Heavy metals miners (reclamation dredgers) have no size limit on the dredge they select.
If the DFG were to require heavy metal miners to use tiny dredges like they are attempting to coerce us into using under these proposed rules, then the operations will become more and more cost prohibitive. Certainly DFG has no obligation or desire whatsoever to compel heavy metals miners to comply with the regulations they have set out for suction dredge mining. As it stands today, there is nothing stopping any agency from sending a heavy metals miner (reclamation Dredger) to any gold bearing river using any size dredge the agency sees fit to dredge up heavy metal contamination.
What is amazing to me is that there have been literally thousands of heavy metals miners actively working at cleaning out our river systems and watersheds for 40 years. (4000 – 1200 suction dredge miners annually to be more accurate.) DFG labeled them as suction dredge miners because they had an intent to find gold, and then, DFG regulated them so heavily that since 1994, the amount of heavy metals removed from our environment was dramatically reduced on an annual basis as a direct result of the last set (1994) of draconian SD regulations. Gold recovery dropped significantly as well for same reason.
Now, DFG proposed regulations, if adopted, will undoubtedly cause another sharp drop in Heavy metals recovery and another sharp drop in gold recovery. In fact heavy metals reclamation is literally being outlawed by DFG in the smaller streams due to the 3 foot stream bank rule.
Further, the draconian reduction of nozzle size will absolutely guarantee that streambeds containing over 6 feet of overburden will retain all hazardous materials and super-sized garbage metals forever because they cannot be mined/cleaned safely or efficiently without the volunteer work of suction dredge miners with the regulatory scheme that permits the use of the right tool for the job.
Gold up and DFG down on miners
Interestingly, gold spot price has dramatically increased in recent years, today at $1,500.00 per ounce. I find it odd that just when the price of gold shot up and held, DFG has proposed new regulations that make mining gold far more labor intensive, more difficult, and using such tiny equipment will make a paying mine under the last set of regulations unprofitable with this set of proposed regulations. It will cut production rates in half if not more.
Further, whether your scientists call it a gold dredge or a reclamation dredge; they both have the identical net effect. Both dredges vacuum the river gravel, they both filter the gravel through a heavy metal/gold recovery device, AKA a sluice box, they both loosen compacted river gravel, they both leave piles of fresh river gravel suitable for spawning, and both leave dredge holes that invite fish to lurk about, feeding in the still cool water hole. The piles of cleaned gravel will fan out and spread out with the first high water of winter or snowmelt in the spring.
Pandora’s Box – Background Pollution
DFG in its shameless attempt to screw miners has unwittingly opened Pandora’s box. Your SDEIR is suspiciously lacking any real analysis of, or, information concerning the undeniable presence of massive amounts of Hazardous Materials and toxins in our rivers. I have had to spend days composing my comments, but I will say that taking the time to compose these comments has broadened even my understanding of what DFG is and has been up to, and it ain’t pretty. It does not benefit our environment or aquatic species or water quality any discernable way. In fact, DFG management has already and will without question guarantee that our water quality will continue to degrade, mercury will continue to contaminate water and fish, fishermen will eat more mercury contaminated fish, lead and other heavy metals are assured to deposit in the sediments and lead contamination will increase the level of lead and other toxins in our drinking water.
Therefore since your SDEIR is silent regarding these Hazardous Materials, I presume that if informed, a purported honorable agency like Ca. DFG will be eager to recognize the failure of Horizon and DFG to address such profound environmental issues that have heretofore been purposely excluded. Certainly, it is my hope that after reading these comments, DFG will be eager to immediately go about gathering data, analyzing the effects of various garbage and hazardous materials for urgent and appropriate action.
Certainly the toxic garbage laden rivers throughout California deserve thoughtful analysis, comparison of harms, and a plan to physically clean them up, and mitigate the harms. I hope my efforts will be appreciated and that DFG embraces these concerns.
It is not my intent to make work for the agency, but I want to be certain DFG acknowledges, analyzes, takes responsibility for, and plans for the orderly removal of toxins of all kinds that are currently bound together in our riverbeds.
I’m just trying to be helpful and I want to ensure that our aquatic habitats are properly analyzed, that a reasonable clean up plan is immediately devised, and that ultimately the toxic contamination gets cleaned up.
Question; Can DFG provide studies by DFG or other agencies as to the effects of the Hazardous Material asphalt entering our rivers, the effects of tumbling and grinding on its path down river in major flood events, and the effects of hazardous chemical leaching that surely must occur?
Question? How does or would leaching and grinding vast volumes of asphalt adversely affect water quality, sedimentation in our dams, and aquatic habitats and species?
You know, it seams to most of us that DFG, BLM, USFS, and other agencies have been supposedly studying, analyzing, planning every aspect of the environment for decades. And for the vast amounts of money “we the people” have paid over all these decades, it appears that you folks never roll up your sleeves and get to the physical labor and hard work in the field that must be done for all the purported environmental reasons you “write about” all the time. Talk is cheap. (Actually DFG talk is very expensive, see below)
Question; Analysis paralysis, opinions galore, but where is the action?
Question; All this hazardous waste needs to be physically cleaned up and removed. Where are the boots on the ground?
Question; Will you provide us all, environmentalists included, with a full report of the work your agency has done/is doing to physically locate and clean the heavy metals out of our rivers?
Please also break down the costs to perform the work. And, better yet, provide us with the list of all the environmental analysis that was done for those specific heavy metals cleanup jobs, and then, break down how much the “analysis and paper shuffling” cost the agency per cleanup project.
The point is that the environmental laws passed in the 1960’s and 1970’s have created a breed of overzealous regulators and truly misguided environmental scientists who never seem to get any real genuine physical work done in the field to truly benefit our shared environment. All you guys appear to do is talk about environment, put pen to paper, analyze everything to death and strangle everyone you can with absurd regulations.
And what is truly egregious is that after 40 years of suction dredge mining history, your environmental documentation, (SDEIR) to this very day has failed to Recognize, analyze, mitigate, or plan for cleaning up super-sized garbage, and known hazardous materials; asphalt, concrete, lead, and a host of heavy metals widely distributed through each and every water shed in California.
This does not include the gasoline in machinery and vehicle fuel tanks, oil in engines, toxins like Ni-cad batteries, dry cell batteries, alkaline batteries that have been washed into the river or thrown in and they are all laying on bedrock in the rivers under the gravel.
Correction, you don’t “analyze everything to death” because even a cursory review of the SDEIR reveals that DFG has a premeditated plan to intentionally and maliciously disregard any meaningful analysis of the quantity of; hazardous materials, toxic substances, super-sized garbage, and heavy metals contamination in most if not all of California’s rivers and streams.
Disregard for Background Pollution
It is truly sad, that DFG has such disregard for this significant pollution that could only be described as; gross negligence, willful negligence, and a premeditated plan to eliminate suction dredge gold miners at the expense of the environment. Shame on you all, in fact, such malicious oversight should be viewed as a criminal act and a premeditated conspiracy to harm, hands down, the most beneficial users of our rivers, namely, suction dredge miners. At the same time, you doom our rivers to keep and hold all trash and pollution that has accumulated in the rivers for 160 years.
This seems unbelievable to me, except nothing Government does any more would surprise me. Despite all the input we have given DFG after 40 years, DFG has once again failed to address the hazardous materials and garbage issues. This has to be a calculated and calculated endeavor. If DFG had their way there would be no dredging. If that occurred, much to the joy of DFG – and their dear friends the environmentalists and other abusive river users – next to no reclamation of our rivers will ever occur in California’s rivers ever again, that is unless DFG contracts heavy metals miners to do a project here and there at tax payers expense.
Question; So why is DFG so eager to keep all the toxins in our rivers and streams?
For 40 years DFG has had the benefit of thousands of suction dredge heavy metals miners working several months a year. Thousands of boots on the ground with their sleeves rolled up, and working hard to clean up all the heavy metal they can. Yea, the greedy bastards got some gold with it damn it!
Comparatively speaking, hands down, suction dredge miners have done more environmental good for our river systems; water quality, species, and environment than; any and all other user group(s), environmental group(s), and the DFG combined.
And what have we got for our troubles? Nothing but State and Federal regulatory; abuse, citations, fines, restrictions, harassment, threats, and abuse by ignorant people jealous of our “Right” to mine.
MSHA & Safety Concerns
We honestly risk our lives in extremely hazardous working conditions, especially in deep water and deep overburden. Many suction dredge miners have been killed as a result of unstable boulders suddenly giving way and trapping the miner under the boulder(s) and he drowns. Sometimes, entire masses of rocks and aggregate slip away from the working walls of a dredge hole burying the miner and either injuring him or killing him. Safety First.
Every time we enter the water and begin dredging, we continuously work around and under hazardous materials like boulders and piles of rock and gravel. There is no way in hell DFG can implement regulations requiring a miner to report each and every boulder he needs to move for personal safety. The Idea that DFG can dictate and demand that we get permission for each and every hazard boulder and dictate the manner in which it is to be moved violates Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) rules, regulations, principles and policies. Safety First.
The entire concept of streambed alteration permits for suction dredging active river channels is a fraud. Every 10 years or so the raging torrents of flood waters have their way with the streambeds, completely reconfiguring the stream beds as Mother Nature sees fit. So, DFG in its gambit to screw miners created this 1604 streambed alteration permit to make sure nothing disturbs our river beds, and after all the planning and scheming spanning a decade or more to keep each and every boulder where it is, Mother Nature steps in and she wipes the slate clean, completely alters the streambed without a permit and all the work DFG did and all the hassles trying to preserve every rock and boulder turns out to be all for Nothing. But never fear, DFG will be out counting boulders again very soon and DFG will ensure you don’t move any of them without DFG approvals and permits. Talk about a thankless, endless, do nothing job, and an outrageous waste of time, money and energy. You guys got to be smoking pot!
We work very hard, and the biggest threat to our health and safety is the DFG, USFS, and BLM who create silly and dangerous regulatory schemes that increase the hazards and risks we face every day. And all the while we are the only group capable of cleaning out the heavy metals that all other user groups and construction crews have deposited in the rivers over the past 160 years.
To be honest with you, and not to be intentionally rude, you guys aught to be kissing our butts, getting out of our way, and asking how else you can help us to clean up your rivers. I say your rivers because you certainly act like you own them outright.
Since 1994, DFG suction dredge mining regulations have significantly hindered, impeded, and materially interfered with the voluntary reclamation of our rivers. Those regulations have generally prevented the orderly reclamation of all areas of rivers that have over six+ feet of overburden since 1994. In fact if not but for your 1994 regulations, miners would have made more money and cleaned more rivers, and the citizens of this country would have benefited from new wealth of gold recovery, balanced with cleaner water, healthier riverbeds, and healthier habitats in general. Now, with your new proposed regulations, far less reclamation will be done (than since 1994) at the expense of the environment and species you arrogantly proclaim to be protecting.
Mineral withdrawals and closed rivers protect pollution
By the way, all areas that have been withdrawn from mineral entry including but not limited to the following; recreation areas, wilderness areas, wilderness study areas, active power projects, dam reservoirs, and a number of other land classifications, along with agricultural patents are off limits for suction dredge mining.
This means that vast amounts of heavy metals will remain in place and the suction dredge mining community cannot voluntarily extract any of this pollution. And a certain as the sun rises in the West, this stream pollution will be blown down river again during each and every future flood event. This absolutely assures and guarantees that river pollution will be buried in deeper and deeper gravel, that pollution will spread further and wider, and that DFG has and is making impossible to clean up. The longer DFG waits to clean up our rivers, the deeper this hazardous material will be buried, and the larger and larger dredges will needed to be able to ever clean up this environmental disaster in the making.
The only way for these particular streams and rivers to be cleaned and reclaimed is if the work is contracted by an Agency and the American People pay handsomely for it – that is, if it is ever done. I wouldn’t hold my breath. Nobody at DFG seems to be in a hurry to acknowledge, let alone clean up heavy metals and garbage, especially the very Agencies established to protect our rivers, streams, and water quality.
Question; Has DFG considered and analyzed the contaminated streams and rivers in all these areas that are off limits to suction dredge mining as listed above?
Question; Has DFG considered that since no reclamation dredging has been done on many of these sites for decades, that the pollution, mercury, and heavy metals are still breaking down and floods are spreading the toxins far and wide in major flood events?
Question; Wouldn’t it appear wise for DFG to petition the other managing agencies and establish a program that will allow suction dredge miners to enter any and all of these locations to perform reclamation dredging for the purpose of arresting the relentless spread of toxins throughout our rivers?
If it is unlawful to toss heavy metals into a river, and such a crime is subject to prosecution, fines, and charges for reclamation clean up, then it must be important to keep the rivers clean. And if contaminates are known about then I presume it must be cleaned up. But since DFG is hell bent on leaving all the contamination where it lies, I don’t get why you bother prosecuting anyone for dumping heavy metals or automobiles in the stream.
You know in court you will and have justified the need to clean it up, and you know you will and have charged the offender(s) for the clean up costs and the court has and will punish the offender harshly for such environmental crimes.
Question; So if you can justify urgent haz-mat cleanup in court and compel payment for cleanup for an individual toxic mess, how can you ignore the fact that most of our rivers are a disaster with respect to the outrageous amount of heavy metals and other pollution?
Mother Nature needs protection from the bureaucrats at DFG, and Quickly.
After the fact “clean ups”
Let’s look at air quality for a moment. Now, once particulates and contaminates enter the atmosphere, there is no known way for good Samaritans to volunteer their time to clean it up once it is released.
*(Coincidently, these proposed regulations will have significant adverse impact on air quality from exhaust fumes, burning fossil fuels, Co2, dust, and water run off from the roads as a result.) Analysis of this issue is expanded later in these comments.
Next, looking at land masses and all the garbage and human waste that is scattered about the surface of the land, there are some individuals and some organizations, and school children who go out from time to time is certain areas and they pick up and bag all kinds of trash. Now, people who bring media attention to themselves for their good deeds for picking up this trash are naturally viewed as wonderful, earth loving, environmentally conscience people doing a fabulous thing.
Similarly, these same like-minded people will occasionally go to rivers and streams to remove floating garbage, and scrap metal, shopping carts, and tires that simply did not sink into the gravel, sand, or muck.
Interestingly, these people doing these good deeds are touted in the media; in the newspapers, and the evening news as being such good Samaritans, so green and earth friendly. Kind of makes you want to puke. Face it, these people are viewed as heroes, and the media eats it up, yet another “warm and fuzzy” “feel good” piece for the evening news. Suction dredgers in contrast are treated like we are crap and accused of trashing the environment.
Question; Considering the above, why is it that DFG has not specifically announced and promoted the amazing reclamation work we have done and publicly defended suction dredge miners for all these decades?
DFG had choice – Work with or work against dredgers
Question; Why hasn’t DFG worked more closely with the suction dredge community to find a reasonable and voluntary process to document the mass volume of garbage, heavy metals, mercury, and other toxins that dredgers encounter and remove on a daily basis?
Seems to me this would have helped DFG estimate and document the volumes of and types of garbage in our rivers and would have allowed for better analysis and far better planning for future watershed cleanup. And, having a friendly relationship with the miners, and in the genuine spirit of voluntary cooperation, suction dredge miners could have been enormous assistance to DFG for finding, locating, identifying various forms of pollution throughout California. We have averaged what, around 3500 boots on the ground for 16 years, and any information we voluntarily discovered at our own expense of money and labor has boomeranged and DFG is using such information to destroy us. Hey, thanks DFG, way to go.
But it would be asking too much for common sense, rational thinking, and good planning, something DFG appears to be lacking. No, Instead, DFG and USFS in particular have made themselves the primary enemy of miners, mining, and reclamation dredging. You cannot blame miners of any kind for the anger and distrust resulting from your willful violations of our rights, your discretionary dirty deeds and raw abuse.
Question; Why has DFG failed – for decades – to provide a number of convenient ways for suction dredge miners to voluntarily dispose of all their heavy metals and thereby creating a way for DFG to document the amount of heavy metals removed from specific streams?
Question; Why doesn’t DFG offer a reward for removing heavy metals from the river?
It seems to me that DFG’s inexplicable fears and paranoia over floured mercury also indicate DFG supposed concerns for water quality. DFG should be thrilled that elemental mercury can be found in pools, because it means conditions were perfect for deposition and allowed the mercury to accumulate and concentrate in a pool. It means the mercury is near the source. This is the perfect place and time to dredge the mercury nearest its source point.
And by the way, it is stupid to dredge mercury pools that are visible. It is far wiser to go topside, grab a sucker bottle, and go back to the mercury pool and suck the mercury into the bottle. It is self-contained. I know, tough choices, but every single major flood that occurs dislodges many of these mercury pools. A major flood event can easily alter the streambed at such a site and launch the mercury into the raging floodwaters and the mercury will then be spread far and wide, once this happens there is little hope we can economically recover it ever.
Therefore, despite your paranoid fears, if this mercury keeps blasting downriver with the floods in the ultimate meat grinder, there will be a point where the mercury is so widely dispersed that it will be everywhere and next to impossible to ever clean up.
And we can thank DFG for purposely allowing this irreversible environmental catastrophe to happen under DFG mismanagement.
Question; So is this what you want?
Question; Do you want to wait until cleanup is impossible so you can shrug your shoulders and say gosh, we can’t do anything about it now?
A flood is a meat grinder abrades oxidizing and corroding heavy metals
Face it; water quality is also in peril with all the lead and other known toxins that are oxidizing, corroding, leaching and rusting on the river bottom. Applying logic and field experience to our understanding, when these degrading heavy metals are put into suspension during flood events, the grinding effect of boulders and aggregates combined with the downstream movement of the entire streambed load abrades the (oxidized, corroded, rusted, decaying) surfaces of these toxic metals. Then what happens to the oxides and corrosion? I presume it becomes part of the sand, silt, sediments and some of it becomes colloidal within the water – The very things DFG is sniveling about throughout the SDEIR. Experience and viewing crosscut sediment layers proves that these layers fluctuate in waves changing elevation. Sampling Background nearly impossible w/out many, many representative samples.
The DSEIR is silent as to not only the vast garbage existing in the rivers, but also is silent as to the effect a flood might have on water quality as a result of abrading the oxidizing, rusting, leaching and corroding heavy metals in our rivers gravel beds.
Other items like alkaline batteries may remain intact for many years before they begin to break down, but once the angry floodwater’s meat grinder goes to work, these batteries disintegrate and the chemicals leach into the water.
So once again, all this theorizing about suction dredge miners’ releasing floured mercury from its native home – the headwaters of Sierra Nevada’s rivers and streams – is by contrast silly. Just as the spotted owl was used as a seregate species, a ruse devised for the real mission of stopping the logging of old growth forests, it appears that DFG is using the paranoia of floured mercury to evade the DFG responsibility to acknowledge, analyze, and plan for immediate reclamation of most of these rivers and streams in gold bearing rivers.
It seems crystal clear to me that when we get yet another major flood event, the riverbeds will go into suspension and the “meat grinder” will come to life, and ten or twenty feet of overburden will flow downriver in an angry raging torrent. And most of the mercury DFG is so worried about is going to go bye, bye.
The mercury will flouer some more in transport and most likely will end up in one of the dam reservoirs. So, all the scientific study in the world cannot prevent this inevitable outcome because this is the DFG planned management for mercury to date, and therefore all the fuss about suction dredge miners and mercury is as a matter of fact hogwash.
In fact, your proposed regulations do the opposite of what you intended. By adding further heavy-handed restrictions, DFG is guaranteeing the pollution will never be removed. Or at least until DFG contracts reclamation dredge miners to do the work at an enormous cost to the citizens of California. So, I don’t think DFG is seriously interested in cleaning up the rivers, protecting species and water quality as they proclaim to be protecting with these proposed suction dredging rules.
Question; Why doesn’t DFG come up with a modest finders fee or a reward for heavy metals suction dredgers remove? If, for example, DFG offered $10.00 per pound for lead and other common heavy metals, and perhaps $25.00 per ounce for mercury, then I imagine suction dredgers would be more motivated to gather and turn in all their contaminates to DFG.
Certainly, all the pounds of heavy metals will add up to tons, and DFG can send the collected heavy metals in for recycling so that they do not end up in the landfill. Of course, the recycler would pay DFG for those materials, and as these materials are recycled, it would mean less lead minerals like galena will need to be mined and smelted for lead production. Sounds like a good common sense deal for Mother Nature and for people.
I was feeling generous regarding DFG paying dredgers as suggested above. On second thought, I have a better idea that would be more equitable for suction dredge miners.
Compensate Suction Dredge Miners the going rate for Reclamation Dredging
If we examine the amount of money that DFG has typically paid to perform the purported reclamation dredging on any specific project for the purpose of removing heavy metals from a river or stream, and we weigh the mercury and heavy metals DFG was able to recover, we should arrive at a cost per ounce for heavy metals and mercury. We must insure we calculate all the costs such as transport of equipment, placement of equipment, transport of crews, gasoline/diesel, labor, dredge rental or depreciation, maintenance allotments, and so-forth. Then, averaging the costs of each project DFG has requested, demanded, or otherwise contracted, we can determine the fair and reasonable price that should be paid to suction dredge miners – per ounce- for removing heavy metals and mercury from our rivers and streams. I will venture a guess that using this formula will pay suction dredge miners handsomely for their green deeds and make suction dredge mining more profitable and more popular with the general public. After all, it would be difficult for DFG to keep badmouthing suction dredge miners when they are paying us the going rate for reclamation dredging, and/or even admitting we are the most beneficial river user group in California.
The cool part is that DFG can now go about the important task of advising the California Legislature and educating the general public not only what a great job California suction dredge miners have done for the environment over the past 40 years, but you can brag about how DFG has found a new way to encourage these highly trained and experienced suction dredge miners to continue their amazing 40 year track record of heavy metals removal and reclamation of our rivers for the benefit of all aquatic species, water quality, Mother Nature and mankind. It’s a win –win for everyone. The suction dredge miners have been doing all this for free. But I love the idea of getting paid handsomely for heavy metals extraction especially since DFG regulations require we remove garbage.
Question; Has DFG ever really considered that by compelling suction dredge miners to remove heavy metals under the prior regulations without providing them a place to dispose of these heavy metals means that at some point some of these materials will end up in a land fill?
Suction dredge miners found and reported mercury to DFG
Another crucial point is that DFG has no means whatsoever of finding contaminates in the river gravel of the streambeds on their own. Without the knowledge, experience and actual inspections performed by the suction dredge miner, DFG would have no clue whatsoever where to begin looking for such toxic materials. It is the suction dredge miner, who finds the offensive pollution, it is the suction dredge miner who informs, advises, and reports the locations of hazardous materials to DFG and who advises DFG as to the quantity and type of toxins we encounter. Absent the free and voluntary work of suction dredge miners, DFG would not have known where to look or where to dredge for mercury for the very analysis used in the DSEIR that is intended to screw suction dredge miners.
In fact, if not but for the ingenuity of miners spanning 160 years and the efforts of suction dredge designers and manufacturers, inventors, and field testing spanning 40 years, DFG would not even have the crucial tool necessary to perform their “dredge tests” for mercury recovery.
Hell, if it weren’t for the suction dredge mining; community, manufacturers, and equipment developers, DFG would not have any heavy metals reclamation dredges to perform any other environmental or reclamation work. DFG owes the suction dredging mining universe a deep debt of gratitude for developing and testing such important environmental equipment. This equipment has evolved into the most environmentally effective heavy metals extraction device available today. Want to make a bet that DFG and other alphabet soup agencies purchase their reclamation gear from suction dredge mining shops and suction dredge manufactures here in the USA?
Question; As stated earlier, without the suction dredge miners dredging activities and voluntary cooperation with DFG, the agency would not even know about the location of mercury to run their stupid test for the DSEIR. So the question is why is DFG proposing such draconian regulations that will literally slow and in many cases prohibit the removal of heavy metal and toxic substances from our rivers?
Question; Can DFG estimate or calculate how many hundreds of tons of heavy metals have been removed by suction dredge miners and how much of that heavy metal could have been recycled over the past 40 years of dredging? Do you give a rat’s ass?
Question; Now, looking at the pollution, garbage, heavy metals and mercury that is known to be in our rivers in vast quantities, and considering this garbage is out of site and out of mind, can you name any environmental groups, or other groups of volunteers who can remove heavy metal garbage from the rivers without dredging?
Question; Secondly, are there any other environmental groups, interested parties, or volunteers who purchased the proper suction dredging equipment out of their own pockets requesting permission to voluntarily dredge garbage out of our rivers for the DFG for free?
Question; Are there any other user groups who dedicate several months of every year – and often for decades – who are actively removing garbage and heavy metals from our rivers?
The answer is most decidedly no. However, California suction dredgers are the only user group that already has the proper equipment and experience to even get to the river bottom to notice or observe the garbage in the rivers. Suction dredge miners are the only user group to look for these heavy metal garbage pay streaks, and we are the only user group who actively removes these toxins from our rivers and for free. Suction dredge miners – apparently – are the only user group DFG requires by regulation to remove garbage and heavy metals from our rivers.
For example, fishermen with a license to kill fish at will are not required to pick up and remove floating garbage, loose fishing line, scattered fishing lures, empty bait containers etc. in the course of fishing. The same argument can be made for hunters, campers, swimmers and so forth.
Suction Dredge Miners Clean Up After Other User Groups
To expand this idea, miners are required to share the surface resources with all other user groups at all times provided they do not materially interfere with so much of the surface we need for mining and uses reasonably incident thereto. I remind you that we generally have and possess digging tools close at hand so that if we need to defecate, we can dig a hole and do our business, and not at water’s edge.
However, fishermen, hunters, swimmers, tubers, kayakers, birdwatchers, and other groups use our mining claims and the general stream banks and forests for a bathroom, leaving their crap and toilet paper everywhere. Swimmers, rafters and kayakers, among others – as gross as it sounds and is – often defecate directly into the river – while floating next to a raft – for lack of dry toilet paper and poor planning. Many are barefoot and cannot walk into the forest through briars, thus they drop their pants and take their dump in the rivers.
I have witnessed rafters on the American river do this on commercial rafting runs. In fact, on my trip with my wife, others from our raft did bail out of the raft and took their craps and pissed in the river. My wife and I overheard a brief discussion among their friends on the raft that basically indicated that when you gotta go, you gotta go. It appears to be common knowledge that this routinely happens. I was surprised, but those other users don’t seem to be bothered by DFG or Water Quality Control Board. The only way for them to defecate ‘absent dry toilet paper’ and ‘proper shoes’ is in the water. I presume toilet paper is not needed; the river cleans their anuses for them. Data shows lots of rafters.
And then all these hundreds of millions of day users also must urinate everywhere that is convenient; whether in the rivers or on the riverbanks. USFS Best practices require digging and burying excrement, and FS officers must of necessity do precisely the same thing. OK, admittedly USFS and DFG officers and staff, and the countless hundreds of millions of other river users take “magic craps” and possess “magic toilet paper” that have no known adverse environmental impacts, and no offensive odor whatsoever.
Certainly there is nothing to see here folks; just keep moving, nothing to see here!
There wouldn’t be any reason for DFG or USFS or WQCB to consider, analyze, or regulate because these users have few options and couldn’t possibly cause any degradation to water quality and fish.
But those damn miners, they gotta be stopped. So, when I see DFG making a huge deal over a measly 4000 dredgers who might take a crap and bury it under USFS best practices and compare it to the vast millions of idiots without shovels or digging tools or knowledge of Best Practices, I want to reach out and touch someone if you get my drift. Frankly, even bringing up the issue without comparing the pissing and crapping comparisons provided above firmly illustrate and evidence the malicious intent of the so-called scientists evaluating this topic and most topics related to suction dredge miners in the SDEIR.
And, we also have the joy and privilege of cleaning it up when it is on our claims. Why? Because if we don’t and USFS or DFG show up and discover the offensive crap and toilet paper, and we can and are cited into court and we have to prove that we did not leave the crap or the toilet paper and other garbage these other users leave on our mining claims.
Question; Where in the world do you think hundreds of millions of human beings using our rivers and streams might urinate and defecate absent public toilets?
For clarification; (I used the terms crap and dump synonymously with defecate, and the word piss synonymously with urinate.)
Question; Why does DFG ignore all the garbage in the waterways in the DEIS?
When we are dredging, we find cars, culverts, lawnmowers, and every description of trash imaginable. Now, in the past we have been required by regulation to remove the trash we encounter, but what happens when the garbage is too big or too heavy for us to remove? I refer to this huge garbage as super-sized garbage.
The proposed regulations and SDEIR are deafeningly silent as to the potential for running into super-sized garbage. It is odd, the proposed regulations specifically talk about trees, logs, stumps, and boulders that we might encounter and what we must do if we find these things when dredging.
It is bizarre DFG has not addressed how dredgers might be doing a service for DFG, namely unearthing major trash for DFG to come to the site and remove such garbage in an environmentally friendly way.
Now, if you do decide to change your proposed regulations and opt to come to our claims to remove garbage when we notify you of such super sized garbage, may I recommend that DFG use hand winching only wherever possible. Then again, you will likely need a power winch so be sure to get your power winch permit and your equipment and location inspection! Oh crap, I just remembered that DFG would be issuing a permit to itself. Like the fox guarding the chicken coop. And you may also need to get a streambed alteration permit to complete the excavation needed to fully expose the super-sized masses of metal. And be sure to contact the USFS to notify them that you intend to remove super-sized garbage because if you might cause a significant surface disturbance, FS will want a plan of operations for their analysis and approval.
You never know, perhaps the FS will need to perform an environmental analysis to ensure your removal of one hunk of super-sized garbage from the river, and the winching of such masses of super-sized garbage across the riparian zones and up to the highway easements will not likely result in adverse environmental impacts that may also need to be mitigated. This shouldn’t be a real obstacle because bureaucrats give bureaucrats permits with a nod and a wink.
Question; If Suction dredger miners unearth super-sized garbage; will DFG come to the site and drag it out of the water, load it on a truck and haul it off for proper recycling or disposal under appropriate law? And, if not, why not?
Question; Why is it that DFG has not considered what DFG policy should be with respect to removal and disposal of super-sized garbage whenever suction dredge miners find huge masses of steel and crumpled vehicles?
The dredger cannot remove such items and he has no choice but to move on and the trash will simply be re-buried in gravel. Frankly it is not the dredger’s duty or obligation to remove such massive garbage. Even if the dredger wanted to use a power winch to pull the offensive garbage out of the water and place it in the gravel bar, it will simply get washed back into the river during the next flood event. (Unless DFG comes to retrieve, dispose of, or recycle it.)
Oh, and we would have to apply for a special power winching permit to remove such garbage anyway. And, if the suction dredger winched the vehicle onto the river bar, DFG has made no offers to come to such sites to remove the super sized garbage from the watercourse and have such debris sent in for recycling. The proposed regulations are absent in this regard.
Further, it is likely that winching a mass of garbage out of the river and onto dry land would likely result in the USFS citing us for damage to surface resources or some other bogus violation under 36 CFR 261 Prohibitions.
DFG seems so mighty keen on regulating suction dredge mining; protecting fish and aquatic habitats, protecting the water quality of our rivers, yet, DFG apparently has knowingly turned a blind eye to the issue of “what to do” with super-sized garbage in the SDEIR and proposed regulations.
*Perhaps the strategy is that if; DFG does not acknowledge and by extension address super-sized garbage throughout our rivers, then DFG will not have to plan for, remove or dispose of the discovered garbage as it is encountered. It appears that DFG does not want to be put in the position of being compelled to remove and dispose of the super-sized trash, or any other pollution unearthed by suction dredge mining operations.
Under the past regulations and now in the proposed regulations, all super-sized garbage is magically and calculatedly ignored in the SDEIR. In actual practice such super-sized garbage is passed by and ultimately reburied under river gravel. Considering all the years DFG has regulated suction dredge mining, it seems impossible to believe that DFG has never considered how DFG might have an obligation to remove this super-sized garbage and all other hazardous materials. For these reasons, I believe DFG has perpetrated a fraud upon the Citizens of California, the California Legislature, and Mother Nature. More on this later.
And, DFG has remained suspiciously mute on all pollution issues.
When it comes to reclamation dredging, (Heavy Metals Mining) I would imagine that the “project” determines the size of dredge and it is doubtful that DFG established regulations for reclamation dredging that limit suction nozzles to 4” to 6.” And, turbidity and sediments from these reclamation projects utilizing comparatively huge dredges is generally presumed “approved” by various agencies as having little or no adverse environmental impact. Otherwise they would not be in operation anywhere at any time.
Reclamation dredges OK & gold dredge not OK
This brings up the issue of AB 670, which allows reclamation dredging, and all other forms of dredging that does not involve “intent” or the words gold or mining. I also know that when maintenance must be done on the various dam projects along the Feather River, the result of their work literally mucks out some 30 miles of the Feather River and can go on for days in varying quantities. But then there are other power projects that also must maintain equipment, including suction dredging for maintenance purposes and as a direct result the Feather River gets mucked out (Turbid / sediment laden / brown) a couple times a year. (So do many, many other rivers throughout California.)
Furthermore, it is not uncommon for the average citizen to witness PG&E using huge excavators to excavate gravel in the active stream channel to clean out the base of a siphon. This mucks out the river as well. Though a gold miner would never get permission to do the same kind of work for gold recovery in a river.
So all these other projects can get or have approval to do whatever they need to do with a suction dredge of any size and they get to muck out the rivers with government’s blessings.
Question; Why is that?
Question: Why is it almost always environmentally approved and acceptable to allow PG&E or some agency to muck out the entire river a couple times a year for maintenance purposes?
After all some Government agency approved PG&E, Cal-Trans, or another agency to allow the rivers to be muddied and flushed with silt and sediments as a direct consequence of performing maintenance. One would presume that such approval came as a result of environmental analysis and consensus that that such mass contamination of short duration will not likely kill appreciable amounts of fish, fry or eggs.
Certainly, these projects routinely release massive volumes of sediments into the rivers, which cause turbidity and make the rivers too muddy to see if you were diving. So if all these other reclamation dredging projects are always sanctioned by the Legislature, and mucking out an entire rivers for the purpose of maintenance by maintenance suction dredging operations, or mucking out a river with excavators for cleaning siphon discharge is all sanctioned by our Legislature, and by extension sanctioned by all the Government agencies who routinely approve this work, then I am baffled why DFG is so persnickety about the comparatively tiny amount of sediment and turbidity the cumulative suction dredge miners might release.
By contrast, suction dredge miners in aggregate could not possibly contribute the kind of sediments these other Government sanctioned projects release as needed. And reclamation dredging for maintenance as stated in AB-670 will also pollute our rivers with mass volumes of sediment, rust, and will cause mass turbidity. I know this is true because I have seen the rivers suddenly turn muddy as the result of maintenance dredging power projects in particular.
And another point is that all of the dams on the Feather River are pretty much filled at full capacity with gravel and massive sediments that we have no right to enter or dredge because most if not all are withdrawn from mineral entry. They certainly do not hold back much volume of water as compared to when they were first constructed. (Without fish ladders in most instances) Of course, these reservoirs are going to need to be dredged out and very soon. These reservoirs are a prime location for deposition of; sand, silt, sediments, small heavy metals and tiny fragments of heavy metals, elemental mercury, and floured mercury no doubt.
The reason the dam reservoirs are prime for deposition of heavy metals is that the slope; the gradient of the dam fill materials being fairly horizontal, and taking into account the designers of the dams took advantage of wide canyons so that the reservoirs cause normally focused river currents to spread out into a lake so as to maximize the volume of water that can be stored. As the waterpower diminishes from a narrow focused channel to the wide section of dam reservoirs, the streambed load swiftly drops out and generally the approximately 10” minus gravel, sand, and sediments fall out of suspension and deposit into the reservoir.
This suspended load most certainly includes all forms of heavy metal, mercury, aluminum and tin cans etc. The key problem is that getting the permitting approved to remove such contaminates will be all but impossible. The DEIS briefly touched upon the dams and the sediment loads deposited within them. DFG is suspiciously silent in the SDEIR regarding the obvious heavy metal contamination that is concentrated behind all of our dams in California.
Mark my words, all these dams are near full capacity, and PG&E has already attempted to run a ten-inch dredge as a pilot test plant to see if it is feasible to clean them out. The test plant consisted of a 10-inch nozzle, diesel engine with a gravel pump, and this dredge pumped material from above the dam to below the dam using a curtain to drop sediments out. Unfortunately, one of the upstream dams opened its gates unexpectedly and the entire dredge was blown over the dam, and the engine and pump tore loose from the floatation and was deposited in the river below the dam. The engine and pump assembly are still underwater and lost, but 10 years later it is still buried in the river gravel to this day along with the engine motor oil, and very large diesel fuel tanks. Hey, what’s the big deal, it is out of site and out of mind. Who would know it is even there?
As you might be aware, cleaning out these dams is going to be tricky. It will require one of two methods. Drain as much of the water as possible and use massive excavators to dig the reservoirs clean, or, send in oversized dredges to pump the material some distance to railroad cars for shipment to a gravel plant for cleaning, screening, and extraction of all heavy metals. I believe there are 8 major dams on the Feather River drainage. Other California rivers have the same problems with reservoirs near full capacity with gravel and sediments. When this kind of work begins, you can count on seeing rivers loaded with vast amounts of sediments flowing in massive quantities whether DFG likes it or not. There is no choice in this matter. DFG will undoubtedly do analysis and will predictably conclude that removal of the sediments and gravel is essential, and will ultimately sanction or approve the operations and likely will find the project will not significantly harm species or habitat. We all know how this convoluted process works.
Following is California AB-670 concerning reclamation dredging.
(3) The new regulations described in paragraph (2) are operative.
(c) 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.
One thing I know about so-called reclamation dredges is they are also diverse in design. Some dredges use a hydraulic blaster in front of the nozzle, and other dredges have mechanical cutters for weeds, cutter-heads, or tillers to break up material enough to vacuum. Some reclamation dredges do no filtering whatsoever; they merely move material from point A to point B. Most reclamation dredges are specialized for various jobs, yet despite the fact that materials are laden with heavy metals, reclamation dredges, (or their specific project plan) calls for dredging materials, but absent a recovery system, these operations fail to recover the heavy metals and they are simply transferred from one point to another full of toxic waste.
Miners are only group forbidden to use what reclamation dredgers use
With respect to suction dredge mining regulations for mining, and considering the incredible array of dredges of every size and configuration available to reclamation dredgers, and considering the size of these monsters, 10 inch, 16” or more nozzle or hose size, it seems strange and fundamentally unfair that suction dredge miners do not have the same choices of equipment that reclamation miners enjoy. This is strange also because it appears that ordinary citizens who are not operating under the US Mining Laws can go out and purchase a permit for any specific project using the dredge of choice, that is, provided the project operator does not mention any intent to seek and recover gold under the mining laws. Reclamation dredgers may indeed select the size and type of dredge of his choice, selected to meet the needs of the job at hand. He is not going to be bothered with the California Suction Dredge Mining Regulations or some arbitrary nozzle restriction of 4 to 6 inches.
Imagine that, miners, who have a “Grant” from Congress, bona-fide mining claims, “private property interests,” the “Dominant and Primary use of the surface of mining claims,” and who have a “statutory right to mine” are being force fed unreasonable regulation that have an absolute limit on nozzle size regardless of stream conditions.
Yet reclamation projects and other construction projects and even commercial enterprises and real estate developers routinely hire dredging companies to dredge channels for boat dock construction, or to maintain channels using dredges appropriate for the task.
However, suction dredge miners, because of the operative word miners, are absolutely prohibited by the proposed regulations from even asking for a dredge greater than 6 or 8 inches! So, it appears that it is DFG’s opinion that it is suction dredge in stream mining that is environmentally bad, but suction dredging for all other purposes, commercial development dredging, and environmental reclamation dredging, regardless of nozzle size are good and need no restrictive regulations for in stream suction dredge mining for Heavy Metals.
Sounds like use prejudice to me. Sounds like DFG is discriminating against suction dredge mining. This appears to be true in part because a suction dredge miner who tries to mine his claim should have the lawful right to use precisely whatever size equipment he needs to economically extract his minerals, his property.
There should be no absolute limit on dredge size.
Allowing dredges of 10” – 14” and 16” does not invite environmental harm for many reasons. One reason is that the benefit is that with very large dredges we will be able to tackle the overburden over six feet deep, up to 18 feet deep, and in so doing, we will be dredging up and exposing all the super-sized garbage in our path.
Another reason is that you can only put a dredge where conditions are appropriate, access is the key. So even though a person may want to dredge a certain area with a large dredge, the location access, labor, and expense may or may not lead to a decision not to bother.
On most streams the ratio of aggregate sizes in the streambed load dictates the size of dredge needed. Not some arbitrary DFG regulation.
Seems to me that allowing larger dredges into all the waterways would dramatically increase the rate at which our heavy metal reclamation dredgers can clean out the filth and toxins, and DFG will get the benefit of all this for the low, low price of a reasonable dredge permit and the hope a miner has to find some gold. Wow, what a deal!
In fact, many stretches of the Feather River carry up to 10 to 15 feet of overburden. By the way, most of the super sized garbage is located in these deeper channels with over 6 feet of overburden. The only way to have a snowball’s chance in hell of making a profit, or finding economic quantities of gold in such a location is to use a suitable dredge, the bigger the better. In the example above, a 14 inch or 16 inch dredge would do the trick, and as a result, vast amounts of heavy metal garbage would be removed, minerals would be profitably extracted for the benefit of all citizens of the United States just as Congress intended under the US Mining Laws.
Also, running these large dredges costs more to operate, thus, miners will use dredges of this size to punch large sample holes looking for pay streaks. Once a pay streak is found, (usually defined by heavy metal garbage) then mining will begin. If such an operation does not find profitable quantities of gold he will not continue going broke, he will quit and haul the dredge out of the river.
So, Oversized dredges will only operate as long as they are profitable. Profit is directly proportional to the miner’s ability to run the maximum amount of gravel in the least amount of time. This is something your regulations since 1994 and your proposed unreasonable regulations absolutely prohibit. And therefore your proposed regulations prohibit reclamation and heavy metal extraction of toxic substances that are currently hiding deep in our river systems.
And because suction dredge miners using appropriate sized dredges can efficiently mine more of these gravels, and remove more of these toxins, and the shortened length of operating time – as compared to using a “teaspoon and a soda straw” (AKA so-called recreational dredge) – will benefit the wildlife such as the little birdies DFG is whining about in the SDEIR. Larger dredges ensure the job is done quickly, efficiently, profitably, and guarantees that even more garbage will be encountered and removed in a shorter period of time. Therefore, it looks to me like allowing over sized dredges would be a good thing, a win-win for a variety of fish and water quality.
And oversized commercial dredges start getting very expensive the larger the dredge gets. The average Joe, and so-called recreational suction dredge miners’ will not be buying them or using them. It would not be uncommon to spend $20,000.00 on a custom production 8” or 10” dredge. Going up to 14” and 16” dredge this price could easily double or triple to $40,000.00 – $60,000.00 very easily. The only suction dredge miners operating these larger dredges will be highly experienced and serious miners who do this for a living full time. Purported recreational suction dredge miners are not going to be using these larger dredges at all. And frankly, without these larger production dredges DFG is absolutely guaranteeing every American Citizen in the State of California that all of our deep rivers loaded with toxins will remain toxic forever. Absent the use of large production dredges will virtually guarantee that these toxins will be blown further down river with each and every flood event in the future.
Undersized, Recreational, and Sampling Dredges
Dredges 4” and 6” are considered recreational dredges according to DFG. This is a strange concept. I will argue that these “piss ant dredges” and “toys” are more appropriately defined as sampling tools. Yes, they are small and portable, but often stream conditions are such that we cannot use a larger dredge even if we had a legal right to do so. Therefore it is really a misnomer to refer to these smaller dredges as recreational dredges.
Here is an example; what if I had a small pilot mill for sampling hard rock materials. It is known as a pilot mill. It reduces ore and extracts the gold in the same manner a larger plant would, but the pilot plant proves that the grinding, reducing, and extraction process will work effectively if the mill is simply increased in size only. Would my 1-ton per hour $80,000.00 example pilot mill be considered recreational equipment? I think not.
But, when a 4” dredge is taken to a river, and proves gold deposits are present, the dredge did its job. It is a pilot plant; it proves that if the miner brought in a much larger dredge with the same recovery system, the dredging operation would be profitable. Thus the miner would bring in a very large dredge suitable for the specific job. Unfortunately the DFG dredging regulations since 1994 have prohibited miners from using larger dredges that would do the job efficiently and profitably. So the miners, given no other choice have had to mine full time with tiny dredges, and to top it off, DFG now labels the dredges as recreational and the miners as recreational suction dredge miners.
It may be true that some miners consider themselves recreational dredgers and that smaller dredges can be used for recreational purposes, it can also be argued that people who call this recreation will easily spend $5,000.00 to go play, and as they play, they remove garbage DFG should have acknowledged and devised a long term plan to clean up decades ago. So, small dredges are invaluable sampling machines, they are intentionally small for portability, ease of disassembly and reassembly in remote or difficult access areas. But they can only be considered a production machine when the gravel is “stinking rich in gold” with very little overburden or when DFG regulations prohibit larger dredges. Generally the term “Production” dredge is generally an 8” or greater nozzle size which DFG has with rare exception outlawed, but such oversized dredges are only outlawed for those suction dredge miners with the evil intent to extract gold or those evil suction dredge miners who own mining claims.
Another point about purported recreational dredging is that the agencies came up with the term decades ago. Oregon in particular back in the early 1990’s used the term broadly and this is how I learned the term recreational dredging. Further, as a society we say that the ideal situation for employment or our careers is that we should love what we do. We are supposed to have fun, enjoy our work. But when small-scale prospectors and miners say were having fun dredging, somehow agencies warp this concept of enjoying our work to labeling us as recreational miners. In fact, the term recreational mining is further confused with the Federal and State Agencies that set aside land in withdrawals to provide recreational areas and recreational dredging opportunities. Unfortunately, these days, many small-scale miners refer to their dredging as recreational, in part because they heard the term somewhere, most likely DFG, but these poor misguided people are ignorant of why they call themselves recreational miners to begin with.
I have no doubt in my military mind that the reason DFG is using the terms recreational dredges and recreational suction dredge mining, and recreational mining has diabolical origins and purpose.
I have extensive knowledge of the mining laws, and that knowledge, coupled with USFS and DFG actions and arguments to date, leads me to believe these terms will indeed end up before the courts for the purpose of eliminating purported “recreational” mining of any kind. It is a sad day in America that DFG cannot, or does not want to understand the reasons why truly “recreational” mining lacks statutory authority under the mining laws.
Even worse, the DFG is attempting to regulate recreational suction dredging for gold, when really, the only mining authorized by Congress is small-scale mining, prospecting, development, and outright economic mining and recovery of such mineral deposits under the mining laws. Frankly, even if certain aspects of recreational mining were deemed illegal, it will inevitably also be recognized that such so-called recreational prospectors will gain knowledge and proficiency as recreational miners, and be schooled by experienced suction dredge miners and therefore some of them will choose to pursue suction dredge mining as a vocation. Hence, purported recreational dredging will not only extract minerals and heavy metals, but serves as training ground for new placer suction dredge miners.
Now, DFG asked miners for a report of how much gold each suction dredge miner produces. First of all, miner’s mineral recovery is especially secretive, and for just cause. Historically, loose lips sink ships. Blabbing and bragging and such will get you claim jumped, robbed and/or high graded. No good ever comes from quantifying how much gold we can or do recover on our mining claims.
By extension, no good ever comes from reporting our gold recovery to the Government, who predictably will find a way to screw us regardless of whether we report fabulous gold recovery or dismal gold recovery. So if you are asking miners to make it a matter of public record how much gold we get or got, DFG cannot rely on the answers as being truthful. I would never report what I find to Government stooges especially for the public record. You guys must be brain dead to ask us to report our gold recovery or to believe any reported finds that were sent in and to analyze recovery based on that belief.
*There is no lawful statutory obligation for suction dredge miners or any other miner for that matter to advise or inform DFG as to the quantity of gold we recover or where we are recovering it, or where we plan to recover it. In fact there are court decisions that make it clear we do not have to answer your silly questions about how much gold we have recovered any where at any time. And because asking is unlawful, the answers should be stricken from the record and eliminated from the SDEIR analysis.
Furthermore, one would expect that a miner’s gold recovery would be reported as low in part because DFG’s prior 1994 Suction Dredging Regulations were far too restrictive and therefore gold recovery had to and did suffer dramatically. For example, nobody has been able to mine the gut of our major rivers since 1994 dredging regulations were adopted because using under sized suction dredges make dredging deep overburden nearly impossible, far too dangerous, insanely expensive, labor intensive and ultimately unprofitable in numerous locations. Now, after learning how gold recovery has suffered dramatically since DFG adopted the 1994 regulations, DFG is pursuing forward with even more restrictive and draconian suction dredging regulations that will reduce nozzle size and by placing even more heavy-handed restrictions on suction dredge mining. Production rates will fall like a stone, and heavy metals reclamation will cease, if DFG carries this out.
Truth is, gold recovery is low in part by depletion and in huge part by the severe regulations that we were compelled to accept. Many miners have been killed in the Feather River alone. Rock slides, or pinned under water with boulders. And, it is avoidable, it was not lack of skill or experience, it is that we are under gunned. We are simply so incredibly restrained that we end up putting our lives in extreme peril because the toys we are allowed to use along with a host of other ungodly restraints offer us no other choice.
OK, lets say that he worked 5 more days with his toy to make it safe. He gets to mine a bit, clean bedrock, a couple hours later, he has to advance and he runs into more precarious boulders in weird places that require days and days of moving worthless overburden, handling every single rock one at a time that is larger than the nozzle. So, a reasonable person could predict that all you have is tiny machines tackling a monster and punching holes. 90 % of a dredged hole is worthless overburden and garbage. Usually the lower foot gets interesting, and that is the 10%.
So, by God you are correct, gold production is down, and the numbers of dredgers has diminished. This is what was anticipated would happen, and it did happen. Couple that with miners are constantly under fire, and relentlessly harassed by USFS, miners getting cited and prosecuted every which way but loose. USFS regulations and Forest orders killing us, DFG regulations killing us, and makes us work in a hostile environment without protection. Is it any wonder gold production is down?
And the past two major floods re-concentrated the pay streaks in the rivers, and another flood re-concentration should make it prime time to start searching. But, we can’t dredge if your regulations wipe us out. We need real dredges for the main rivers, and we need to get the gorilla off our backs.
Look at how dangerous it is in a underground placer drift mine, as an old MSHA friend said once, “a mine is a hole in the ground just waiting to kill you.” Now, go try mining the same materials; underwater in strong currents, with tunnel vision, in low visibility, in low light, and being forced to dredge with toys. Nobody can operate a paying mine like that.
I believe that DFG should disregard the reported gold recovery to the extent that miners who actually produce high quantities of gold absolutely will not declare what they find, especially when you ask us to name up to six locations we plan to mine in a season. And when a dredger’s name, is tied to his recovery rate, and tied to a list of sites he wants to dredge, and it is all published as a matter of public record, then anyone could go out and find ways of stealing his gold, stealing or vandalizing his equipment, or jumping the man’s claim, or even break into the man’s house knowing he is on the river dredging.
3 inch lettering
After all, many people may not recognize the particular dredge ‘John’ owns since many dredges look alike and many are identical to each other. There are only a few dredge manufacturers in the United States, therefore it would be difficult for a would-be criminal to know – for example John was dredging here. When we “identify” basically identical dredges with an Identification Number, then we are identified, for under regulations I could not let others dredge in my stead. So if we see John dredging in the morning, we can go to John’s house and break in. It is not far fetched. After all DFG proposed regulations requires 3 inch lettering for identification at a distance no less. Once a suction dredger’s dredge number is known, then any would-be criminal can and will recognize he is far from home and thus he can be robbed blind since he is not home to defend it. So, the provision asking us to identify our dredges with 3 inch numbers, to identify our dredge locations and asking dredgers for production records or gold recovery rates is completely unreasonable, it borders on giving up trade secrets, it is further invasion of privacy, and should be stricken from the record or clarified to ensure miner’s information is absolutely protected from public viewing of any sort. And, even so, who in their right mind trusts Government to protect them?
Question; Is the Department of Fish and Game looking out for my best interest – and is my best interest well served in these proposed regulations?
Question; Has DFG seriously considered the enormous investments we have made in a broad variety of mining equipment that supports the complete reclamation of all heavy metal toxins and gold that the gold miner is able to extract?
Question; Do you trust Government?…. Considering you are Government?
I don’t, I am firmly convinced, and Government has proven that they cannot be trusted to safeguard any information for any reason and Government will indeed find a way to jack us around anyway. It doesn’t get any plainer than that.
Considering the facts discussed above, the SDEIR economic analysis pertaining to the losses to the miners and/or gold recovery is faulty for lack of credible reporting and for the fact that lawfully you have no right to ask gold miners this question to begin with. I will provide the court’s decision if you really need it, not that you give a damn.
Are these proposed suction dredging regulations?
Placer Mining Regulations / with Plan of Operations?
I am somewhat confused at whether DFG is attempting to establish new “placer mining regulations” or “suction dredging regulations” within the active streams and rivers of California from the water line to water line.
The new proposed SD regulations and permitting system appears to be far too complex and cumbersome to be efficient. Based upon the proposed rules I must 1st fork over my money to DFG and apply for a permit, and provide a list of up to six specific and defined locations where I would like to dredge. Then I must contact DFG to inspect all my mining equipment. And because I will need to apply to operate a 6 inch dredge on one claim in particular, then I must schedule an on site inspection and request approval for a 6 or 8 inch dredge, and I must also apply for 1602 permit, which must also be approved. And because I need to use a power winch I must also request a winch permit, request an on site inspection, and hope for an approval. And I understand that I need prior approval for moving all boulders. Nothing is certain. Accept one thing is certain, these proposed regulations are unreasonable.
A prudent man, and a prudent miner would never accept these regulations because they absolutely destroy any hope for genuine economic mineral extraction.
Frankly, I don’t think DFG could have made obtaining a permit for suction dredging any more difficult and complicated if DFG tried.
Further, these so-called proposed regulations and permit system is really akin to a Plan of Operations than a set of rules and a permit, because the application processes requires a series of future applications, inspections, and approvals, and requires miners to provide specific locations where we plan to mine many months in advance, and now we are expected to dredge only during the hours of the day DFG has specified in these proposed regulations, and we must also provide specific dates that we plan to work at each site. Hell, even BLM and FS Plans of Operations under mining regulations don’t establish hours of operation or days of operations. And forcing miners into this plan of operations scenario is precisely what all the Siskiyu and Karuk litigation was aiming for. What a remarkable coincidence Isn’t it? They get their wish! Thanks for all the biased science to make their dreams come true.
DFG Proposed Suction Dredge Regulations (PSDR) states that foreign materials may not be introduced into the stream or river. This regulation needs further clarification. I suggest that DFG specifically state that foreign materials may not be thrown into the river for the purpose of suction dredging these foreign soils/materials. Since these regulations are proclaimed to be “Suction Dredging Regulations” and not “mining regulations,” the regulations as proposed may lead one to believe that dredgers may not pan lode or placer materials located outside of the existing water line.
Panning and/or sluicing foreign materials in the active stream course are not a dredging activity and therefore should not be included in “Dredging Regulations.” The weird part is that when we agree to the terms of the DFG permit, we are actually signing a contract thus we cannot argue later that our mining rights under the US Mining Laws have been usurped by the regulations.
Now, if a miner holds a valid mining claim and has not agreed to the terms of the dredge permit, he may indeed pan foreign materials because he is not under contracted terms and conditions. Furthermore, placing a prohibition on panning and sluicing of foreign materials would unreasonably restrict and frustrate one’s ability to prospect for either placer or lode minerals for future location and entry. As I will extensively demonstrate in the following pages, in the scheme of things, your prohibition of introducing foreign materials into the rivers would be laughable if you weren’t seriously trying to regulate gold panning and / or sluicing.
These new Proposed suction dredge Regulations, if not rectified, prohibits panning samples taken anywhere above the water line of the stream, and it stands to reason that suction dredge miners can not shovel streambed gravel (located anywhere in the forest above the waterline) into a sluice box – operating in a stream – even for taking minimal samples consistent with prospecting on lands free and open to exploration and location. However, prospectors who have no interest in suction dredge mining and who have not agreed to the terms and conditions of a dredge permit are in no way bound by your suction dredging regulations, thus the dredger may be cited for violations but the prospector would be free to go. Anybody see a conflict here?
This portion of the new proposed “Suction Dredging regulations” is unreasonable and unwarranted. Panning is not and never has been a feared, dreaded, or destructive mining practice. I doubt sincerely that any miner has ever caused a “significant disturbance of surface resources” by panning samples in a creek. Panning is typically used for removing gold from concentrates, and/or for sampling streambed materials and mosses located near and above water line (but often well within the high flood Stage Water line). Panning is a back breaking and labor-intensive task and therefore it is obvious that no appreciable amounts of “Foreign Materials” would enter the stream course by suction dredgers in aggregate using a mere gold pan or sluice box for the purpose of prospecting.
Again, DFG appears to be out to lunch when it comes to panning. Once again, experience in the field is the key to understanding panning in the field. Why? Because just about every pan full of material taken from most stream banks and river banks will have heavy metals in the concentrates when panned down. Therefore, since there is so much heavy metal showing up in sample pans, it appears far more wise to allow citizens to pan without regulation for the sole purpose of cleaning up the very places gold dredgers cannot dredge, namely the banks and exposed bedrock above the water line. Here too, one is hard pressed to pan a half dozen pans of purported foreign materials and not find numerous pieces of lead and other toxic metals in every pan.
The so-called “foreign materials” referenced in the Proposed SDR can be fairly described as auriferous gravels / bedrock w/gravel / and sand deposited or rewashed during major flood events. Mother Nature carried these gravels, and all the garbage that transported with it, to a specific location during flood events from higher elevations. Eventually, another future flood will either wash or transport some portion or all of these gravels downstream along with vast amounts of asphalt; concrete, road signs, guardrails, bridges, culverts, and virtually any object that happens to be in the way of powerful flood waters.
Flood Events – Foreign Materials – Highway Road Beds
Since DFG is evidently concerned about miners panning foreign materials in California streams, then DFG has brought my undivided attention to a huge problem concerning foreign materials. I have been mining in California for over 16 years. I have personally witnessed two major flood events on the NF Feather River drainage, which includes all drainages into the NF Feather River. During the Jan 1st 1997 flood event, the Feather River Highway was destroyed on countless outside bends of the river. At the same time, on the opposite side of the river, the Railroad tracks are located at approximately the same elevation, and the flood also tore out miles of RR bed. RR tracks were suspended in the air with nothing under them in some cases for hundreds of feet at a stretch throughout the Feather River Canyon. The destruction was significant, requiring some 8 months of work just to re-open Highway 70. In fact, at Rich Bar, the NF Feather River completely destroyed a bridge (some estimated 200 feet in length) and the flood pushed the bridge several hundred feet downstream. The bridge was constructed of steel, wood, paint, wood preservatives, and asphalt. The bridge has likely been buried in the river gravel ever since.
Now, all these Highways and RR beds were re-built after the floods using foreign materials from local borrow pits (usually Serpentine or granite). These Foreign materials are loaded with earthen materials and clay, and these materials were “side cast” (or dumped all the way to the river’s edge) to re-create highway and RR beds. Then, after grading, the roads were repaved with asphalt, a known hazardous material. Then, on certain selected river bends, Cal Trans used a concrete pump to pump concrete on top of the side cast (road bed and RR beds) from the shoulder of the road/RR to the waters edge. In 1997 when the river flooded and tore out massive sections of the highways and RR tracks, all that foreign material (road fill base) and asphalt and concrete taken by the flood was washed directly into the Feather River system.
My research uncovered the fact that the road work and concrete pumped on fill slopes was conducted under a 1936 FS Permit!
Foreign Materials; RR bed under RR Tracks
With respect to the RR tracks and fill base, all that material also washed into the river system.
I have personally walked miles of RR track in this area. On the downhill slope from the RR tracks to the river, I have seen vast amounts of RR trash side cast all along the way. The trash I am referring to is; old RR spikes, massive bolts and washers, scraps of metal, welding rod, old creosoted timbers, oil drums, 5 gallon buckets with various oily or chemical residue, hunks of RR track, industrial batteries and so forth. In certain areas, where the flood completely tore out all the RR bed, this kind of trash washed into the river. Oh! You need proof, and you folks don’t get out in the field much, so when you take your field trip to the Feather River Canyon, be sure to check out the downhill slope of the RR tracks from a mile west of Belden, Ca. and 1 mile East of Rich bar. There will be ample evidence of RR trash and debris to consider in your analasses. Furthermore, the gravel under the RR tracks is often saturated with oil/grease that heavily contaminated numerous sections of RR track along the route throughout the canyon. All that oil contaminated rock and dirt washed into the Feather River. You can observe the evidence of this special feature as well when you take your field trip! Note that most RR tracks along most rivers in the Sierras have precisely the same gross contamination. Perhaps it is time to investigate and make the RR clean all of it up.
Foreign Materials; Asphalt
Now, considering floods occur here in Northern California on average every ten years, (major floods 1986 and 1997) DFG must accept the reality that another flood is due any time. If DFG truly wants to protect the river systems and ensure clean water for our future, it appears to me that DFG must examine this issue carefully and thoroughly.
I am certain that DFG can contact Cal-Trans, PG&E, and other involved parties to obtain essential data, which would prove; how many tons of asphalt was used to repair the Highways after the 97 flood, which would be a good indicator of how much asphalt washed into the river by one flood. The data would also approximate how many cubic yards or tons of foreign materials (road fill base) were used to rebuild the roadbeds and the RR track beds, which would provide an accurate estimate of how many hundreds or thousands of tons of foreign materials were introduced into the river. If DFG searches out the data referred to here, it will stagger the imagination how many hundreds or thousands of tons of toxic asphalt and of tons of foreign material washed into the North Fork Feather River during one flood event alone. There have been several floods since the 1940’s when Hwy 70 was constructed.
This is only one river in the State, therefore, using similar data, DFG should be able to gather enough information to calculate the volumes of various other foreign materials washed into the rest of the rivers in California.
Taken a step further, this was not an isolated flood event. During the flood events of 1986, this same river and countless other major rivers and streams flooded in a similar fashion throughout California, especially the Mother Lode Country known as the Sierra Nevada’s. There can be no doubt that thousands of tons of asphalt and concrete entered the NF Feather River alone as a result of the 1986 flood event.
If DFG investigates this issue, and they should, and calculates the total volume of asphalt, concrete, and road/RR fill material that was washed into all the rivers and streams in California during any one flood event, and considering the impacts of many prior flood events, then the DFG must analyze the probable long term adverse environmental impacts to various aquatic species and water quality as a direct result of major flood events introducing massive amounts of asphalt, concrete and road/RR bed materials into the active stream beds.
Further, DFG should also calculate how many thousands if not millions of tons of roadbed base and RR bed base (foreign materials) washed into all the river systems throughout California, and then analyze what harmful environmental effects these foreign materials have caused, may cause, and/or will cause within the riparian zones or rivers generally
Please take note here that up to this point I have only addressed the foreign materials related to the introduction of road bed and RR bed materials, and the associated asphalt and concrete that has been introduced into the active riverbed as a result of floods. There is far more.
Field Trip Recommended for Educational purposes
Since DFG does not get out in the field very often, I highly recommend that your environmental scientists take a drive. I suggest a 12-mile strip of the North Fork Feather River, in Serpentine canyon, Hyy 70, east of Belden Ca. in Plumas County.
Why? Because this strip is easy access, and is a winding river section resembling a third world ditch, a hodgepodge of patchwork man made crap. This section of river was and is the poster child for evidence of the destruction caused by flood events. In the riverbed, it is obvious to any one that it is full of RR bed, Roadbed, Asphalt, Concrete and so forth.
The entire scene is a disgrace. But, it might be a good place to cook up more science concerning the break down rates and leaching characteristics of asphalt, and to gather relevant information as to the adverse affects of asphalt leaching. One cannot know what adverse impacts may be occurring without quantifying the volume of toxin (asphalt) that can reasonably be determined by chasing down financial data or County records, or Cal-Trans, Pg&E, or other resources beyond my immediate grasp.
It would seem crucial to determine the shear and vast volume of foreign materials that have washed into the river over a long 160 year history of flooding and destruction of Hwy and RR beds. The entire length of the NF Feather on Hwy 70 is absolutely a prime location to examine the riverbed in detail. All the evidence is visible even as one drives along at 55 MPH. Everywhere you see concrete shot from water line to either RR bed or Hwy shoulder, is a place where entire road and RR bed had been ripped away by the 97 flood in its entirety.
The concrete plaster job that was done looks like hell. And when another angry flood rages with the literal sound of thunder, putting entire riverbeds into suspension, and the “meat grinder” is in full force, that concrete plaster is going to take the pounding of “the wrath of God” when 4-5 foot diameter boulders in suspension with vast tonnages of cobs and gravel relentlessly pummel and smash it on an outside bend of the river. And guess what, DFG will have a even more of Foreign Materials to ignore for, I don’t know, another decade or so.
But, then we still must consider and estimate the vast volumes of all the other foreign materials (AKA earthen foreign materials) that were deposited into the river as a direct result of flooding on the NF Feather River drainage, and by extension, DFG should estimate how much of this more natural earthen material entered all the rivers during each flood event.
Flood Events, Foreign (earthen soils) materials
After the 97 floods, I hiked through many small streams that I was very familiar with in the recent past. I observed numerous small streams that in the summer typically run 4 feet wide and a foot or so deep that were unbelievably altered by flooding. On tiny streams like this I saw log dams created by the flood that were thirty or more feet high and 80+ feet in width which were composed of downed timber and were filled with gravel. I saw areas that the year earlier had several feet of streambed material, but the flood stripped away the entire gravel bed down to bare bedrock. I saw areas along small streams as described above where I could count approximately twenty trees leaning or laying across the stream in an area perhaps 150 feet in length. The trees are all sizes, but I am not talking about trees the size of bushes, no, the trees ranged between 8 inches to 2 feet in diameter. The floods scoured the banks, undercutting the tree roots causing the trees to fall toward and across these streams.
The floods also destroyed gravel and dirt roads throughout the forests, and in many locations, the flood ripped out numerous culverts ranging in size from perhaps 2’ to 10’ in diameter that were used to construct roads across small streams. Many of those galvanized steel culverts were simply blown down stream, crumpled up and partially buried in streambed gravel. You can bet that these culverts are still located where the flood pushed them to this very day.
The point is that natural erosion within the river drainage system caused mass erosion and transport of massive volumes of foreign earthen materials; stream bed materials, river bank materials, sand, silt, clay, gravel, vegetation of all kinds along with trees and bushes. This is in addition to the previously discussed foreign materials from RR and Hwy. Beds.
DFG – total disregard for the rivers current environmental health and outlook
There is no genuine science analyzing a reliable series of field examinations contributing to an in depth analysis of the current condition of our rivers and streams. None of this is reflected in the SDEIR. I would have thought it wise for DFG to have figured this out decades ago, I mean the need to examine the rivers health and plan for swift, orderly and economic cleaning and maintenance should have been accomplished decades ago. So, DFG pretends all is well, nothing to see here folks, move on…
Who cares, a little mass of steel, galvanization, and I assume zinc. No problem, but those pesky suction dredge heavy metals miners gotta go!!! God please save us all from those evil volunteer heavy metals reclamation experts we love to hate called suction dredge miners. Yea, we are certainly portrayed as, well take your pick; Greedy, exploiters, awful, and evil miners who rape and pillage, make unacceptable noise, disturb my serenity, and don’t care about the environment. We have all heard the diatribe and the narrative over and over. And mind you, these remarks from the very people who are there to get something from Mother Nature for their own personal reasons, pleasures, and amusements.
Question; What are the other river users giving or giving back to Mother Nature?
Question; How does Mother Nature benefit from these people (River users) who come to use the rivers and streams for their own selfish pleasures?
Question; What is Mother Nature’s cut out of the deal?
Looks to me like Mother Nature is getting a raw deal.
DFG management reminds me of a 1970’s pimp. Seriously, you guys are charged with the responsibility to protect Mother Nature. But you have thus far failed to even diagnose the current health of our waterways as evidenced by your SDEIR. You use her to wield vast power, to promote flimsy and biased science for a predetermined political conclusion, and never truly do anything that actually benefits her. You do every thing in your power to stop anyone from healing her wounds and removing the hidden insidious poisons that harms all her children. For profit you sell out her fishes, deer, elk, and yet you refuse to allow us to help her, to cleanse her, and to top it off you beat us down like a pimp for disregarding your implicit regulations.
Quantifying number of homes/estates washed into our rivers;
Major flood events have occurred throughout California Rivers and watersheds nearly every decade since the 1850’s. Plainly DFG must have reasonable access to credible data and statistics proving this point. Since the mid 1800’s humans have built homes, sheds, cabins, and businesses along rivers and streams in the Sierra Nevada. Numerous major floods have completely destroyed many of these structures along with all their contents and washed it all into the rivers.
One very important point is that if we consider a dozen or so major flood events spanning the past 160 years, we must acknowledge that hundreds if not thousands of homes, cabins, sheds, vehicles, and structures have been washed into our rivers along with all contents such structures contained. As these structures were ripped apart by the power of the water, virtually all the contents of these structures that do not float obviously sank and became mixed with gravel and boulders and the bulk of all that garbage still remains under the river gravel today. Obviously, as an entire fully loaded home gets torn apart, everything in such homes become part of the river gravel; Kitchen sinks, bathroom sinks, faucets, toilets, refrigerators, washers and dryers, dishwashers, cabinets, small appliances of every kind, record collections, lamps, light fixtures, electrical panels, switches, and wire, copper and galvanized plumbing, tools, lawn mowers, gardening tools, you name it!
Now, imagine a half dozen or two-dozen homes completely consumed and ground up in one river. Imagine how much garbage is at bedrock under the streambed just from a few homes being gobbled up. Wait until you do your homework and discover dozens or hundreds of homes were consumed by one Specific River flooding numerous times over the past 160 years. And not just homes, there are what I call river estates, to cover the; garages, work shops, shop equipment and tools, storage sheds, propane tanks, gas cans, oil cans, garden sheds, parked vehicles, travel trailers, campers, boats and motors and on and on. Virtually any item that the flood has pushed down the river at some time in the past has been ground up many times and redistributed along the bedrock under the gravel. So, I think it is time to do your homework and get realistic about our river health throughout California.
During these flood events, the streambed goes into suspension moving vast amounts of gravel and boulders; the best way to describe this is equating a flooding river to a massive meat grinder or a ball mill. If you toss a refrigerator into this raging grinder, it will tumble, and be crushed over and over, and any open cavities will fill with sand and rock, and ultimately it will be found in the future as a crushed ball like mass under river gravel perhaps several miles from where it originally entered the river. Therefore importance of flood events and the cumulative quantities of foreign materials, freon in refrigerators, asphalt, heavy metals, and general garbage should not be overlooked.
The DFG – and perhaps the environmentalists who dream of destroying mining rights – appear to erroneously believe that the rivers and streams are somehow pristine and natural and in need of protection from evil suction dredgers. The river systems in California are in fact loaded with garbage and heavy metals. The problem is that most of the garbage and heavy metals are out of site and out of mind. Personally I would be amazed if I dredged a day and did not find any garbage.
Even DFG appears to turn a blind eye to the vast amounts of cumulative trash and heavy metals flowing through our rivers. (And for good reason) The DSEIR is void of any meaningful investigation or analysis pertaining to the quantity of garbage in the rivers, and void as to an analysis of the types of garbage in the river, and void as to providing any genuine analysis of how the; break down, corrosion, oxidization, rusting, and leaching of these heavy metals and toxins might effect the aquatic species and water quality. All the flood events spanning the past 160 years have washed virtually anything and everything imaginable into the riverbeds. All “experienced suction dredge miners” have uncovered vast amounts of heavy metals and garbage in pretty much every river that the public has had access to. All suction dredgers are the only real witnesses to this statewide tragedy and most will eagerly testify as to this issue as needed.
If you send out a letter to all previous suction dredge miners and ask for a list of big Super-sized garbage they have found in the past, and to list typical heavy metals and how many pounds they remove say in a month or season, and ask them to list some of the other garbage they have found, you will be shocked into action.
If DFG fails to dig deep and do proper analysis of our rivers current health status as relates to pollution and heavy metals as I have discussed throughout my comments, the DFG will be prime for a major lawsuit, and with thousands of letters from suction dredgers, the courts will rip DFG and WQCB, USFS, BLM to shreds. I cannot imagine the Courts giving the responsible Agencies much slack over these egregious pollution and subsequent management decisions that assure that our water Quality will continue to degrade.
I will assist anyone to accomplish that goal by ensuring they have a copy of my comments, and it will be difficult for DFG to complain that DFG simply had no idea our rivers more closely resemble a super-fund clean up site than a place for species to have a snow balls chance in hell of surviving. Try explaining this to the court, especially when such a suit will dig through all pertinent files and locate solid data that will prove that DFG willfully turned a blind eye to the pollution and used fraudulent science to stop reclamation dredging / heavy metals dredging, and prevented us from cleaning out the rivers.
Frankly, it would not shock me to discover that an Environmental organization (not currently kissing your butts) may decide to sue DFG for failure to protect species, water, and so forth. Good Luck.
Description of typical trash/garbage in our rivers;
A description of the garbage dredgers encounter routinely includes but is not limited to this brief list; Crumpled automobiles, automotive frames, engine blocks, transmissions, wheels, wheels with tires, tires, car batteries, bridges, culverts, guardrails, road signs, silverware, nails, nuts, bolts, rivets, threaded rod, steel rebar, bailing and barbed wire, old pull tab cans, aluminum and steel cans, broken china, broken and unbroken bottles of every description, hubcaps, welding slag, small engines, aluminum ladders, metal buckets and tubs, copper and steel pipe and fittings, copper and cast iron sewage pipe, and virtually anything else you can imagine.
Description of typical heavy metals in our rivers;
The smaller heavy metals that we routinely encounter in our sluice boxes include but are not limited to the following; lead fishing sinkers, lead split-shot of all sizes and types; brass swivels and fishing lures, broken fish hooks with or without leader, bullets of every caliber, lead/copper projectiles and spent ammunition cartridges and casings, shotgun shells fired and unfired, buck-shot, lead balls, steel ball bearings, bb’s, lead pellets, metal zippers and grommets, silverware, occasional coins, copper wire and plumbing fittings, solder, mercury, gold, amalgam, lead from auto batteries, pull tabs, bottle caps, tacks, zinc and galvanized nails, square nails, garden tools, shovels, rusty nails and scraps of rusty iron of every description.
Garbage and heavy metals found in pay streaks;
Basically, our rivers and streams are loaded with trash and garbage of every description. And, the river will deposit much of its garbage and heavy metals in pay streaks along with the gold. To me, a river or stream is a sluice box. In fact, during major flood events, when the entire streambed goes into suspension and flows downstream, all the higher specific gravity materials (gold, metallic garbage and heavy metal) drop down to bedrock and settle together in what is known as a pay streak. Most experienced dredgers have learned that if you want to find gold, follow the trash. All of the trash and garbage descriptions used above and throughout these comments will most likely be found in a pay streak.
Flooding – Act of Nature – Recurring Floods predictable;
Having covered the topic of flooding above, I am keenly aware that it can be argued that floods are often construed as an act of God, or may be described as periodic and natural events. However, flooding is also a re-occurring event that can be predicted to some degree, and there is no doubt that the next major flood(s) will cause precisely the same problems previous floods have caused. Hwy 70 and the RR tracks have not been moved to new locations or elevations since the last flood, thus there is no doubt the rivers will flood again and flooding will introduce another massive volume of foreign materials, road base/RR base, stream bank materials, garbage and debris, and yes more estate property will wash into the active stream and river beds.
Since the DFG appears to be so genuinely concerned about gold miners “panning” which would introduce comparatively miniscule amounts of the dreaded foreign materials into the watershed as a result of panning samples, then I think the DFG must incorporate a careful in depth analysis of the cumulative impacts of 10 year flood events in the DEIS for the proposed dredging regulations. The Environmental Impact Statement must make reasonable efforts to analyze the adverse environmental impacts resulting from past flood events which introduced; natural streambed materials, stream bank materials, road fill base, RR fill base, asphalt, concrete, garbage and other contaminates into the river systems.
The EIS must then presume that future flood(s) of similar magnitude will cause similar results which will have a variety of adverse impact on the aquatic habitats and fish in the aquatic environment and upon water quality. Such analysis should include the adverse impacts of all rivers and streams not open to the mining laws, and the affects of that protected pollution – heavy metals and elemental mercury – transport, and the affects of streambed down slope migration when such streams carry hazardous materials and pollution downstream in flood events.
This year in particular, we have near all time high snow pack in the Sierra Mountain Range. Depending upon how quickly this snow pack melts, and considering the last flood was 1997, it is highly probable that flooding will occur this spring.
Foreign Materials; Early Day Construction Project Waste/Garbage;
Another reason we have such vast amounts of garbage and pollution in our rivers is that there were no environmental laws related to the early day construction of highways, RR, Bridges, tunnels, dams, and roads. Today, anyone could set up a dredge below or slightly downstream of a number of bridges and find massive amounts of; scrap steel, rivets, metal straps, welding rod, welding slag, and so forth. Early day construction was not concerned with the environment, and it was common practice to dump scrap iron and construction debris into the rivers or into road base fill as the road construction proceeded. All the junk that had been thrown in the side cast materials for the roadbed on outside bends of the rivers has long since washed into the rivers as a result of major flood events.
Wrapping up the significant issue of flood events in relation to how floods have caused vast volumes of foreign materials, earthen materials, asphalt, garbage and pollution into our rivers over the past 160 years, I have a few more points to make and several questions.
DFG repeatedly informed of River pollution and Heavy Metals for Decades;
DFG has been informed for decades that individual dredgers conservatively remove 10 – 20 or more pounds of heavy metals (primarily lead) steel, and mercury, and mercury amalgam during a single mining season. We generally only add up the weight of the small pieces we find in our recovery systems, we do not add the weight of all the other large scrap metal and garbage we remove.
Tally average heavy metals recovery
Assuming that in one year, 5000 dredgers removed similar quantities of heavy metal, then simple arithmetic demonstrates that suction dredge miners remove 50,000 to 100,000 pounds or 25 – 50 short tons of heavy metal from our rivers in one season, and this figure does not include the weight of all the other manageable sized garbage we remove and excludes the super-sized garbage we leave in the rivers.
Now, estimating that dredgers have been removing these heavy metals for nearly 40 years, and converting pounds to tons, it appears that dredgers have been responsible for removing between 1000 and 2000 short tons of heavy metals from our rivers and streams.
Fishermen and hunters Leave Lead Legacy – Verification
Do these calculations make sense? Let’s see. Take 1,730,000 fishing licenses, assume each fisherman is bound to lose at least 1 ounce of lead in 11 days of fishing per season. So, 1,730,000 x 11 days average (from SDEIR) = 19,030,000 use days of fishing. Then, assume one ounce lost for each fisherman in 11 days. That is 19,030,000 ounces of lead lost in our rivers in one season. Then divide that by sixteen to get pounds, and we get 1,189,375 pounds of lead all scattered by your fishermen friends in one fishing season in California Rivers, lakes and streams.
In fact, DFG authorizes all of this lead by selling these fishing licenses to fishermen to go sling lead at fish. Now, having been an very avid fisherman years ago, I know for fact that 99% of these fishermen will more than likely lose far more lead than this in 11 days of fishing! Nevertheless it does provide some insight into how much lead is introduced into our rivers, water supply, and fish habitats on an annual and ongoing basis. Therefore, looking at 50,000 to 100,000 pounds of lead recovered by suction dredge miners annually appears to look mighty reasonable. Especially when fishermen have been fishing these rivers and streams for nearly 160 years.
Question; Over the past 40 years, how many pounds or tons of heavy metal has DFG removed from our rivers and how much money did it cost you to remove these heavy metals?
Pease answer in cost of removal per ounce of listed heavy metals and mercury.
Fact is, you folks have a lot of nerve persecuting heavy metals extraction experts when your 40 year history ruling the waterways with an iron fist at enormous expense to our treasury has failed not only to see big pollution and Hazardous Materials problems, but has failed to remove what a hand full of suction dredge miners do in a single season. So for an agency incapable and unwilling to recognize and diagnose the pollution problems and get down to the nitty-gritty clean up, to chastise us for accomplishing what you fail to see, is truly egregious. This willful blindness is prime for major litigation. And, if it is litigated, DFG’s entire job description and mission will change big time forever more. No more fun and games projects for DFG, nope, you guys are going to be spending all your time coping with the largest super-fund cleanup site in the USA if you’re not careful. I suggest you go back to the drawing board and try real science this time. Get off our backs or there is going to be hell to pay. I will personally see to it.
Question; Has the DFG ever seriously analyzed the amount of background garbage suspended in the streambeds of our rivers or developed a plan to clean up our rivers?
Question; If yes, where is the data and analysis?
Question; Will you share that information with us?
Question; is there any other user group that is actively removing streambed garbage and heavy metals from our rivers?
Question; I understand that the DFG at one point attempted to collect mercury from miners. So, after all the years DFG has “regulated” suction dredging, why is it that DFG has not created a simple way for dredgers to turn in their heavy metals and mercury for disposal?
Question; Has DFG ever pondered what might happen to the mercury miners remove from the streambeds, since DFG has refused and currently refuses to coordinate orderly disposal or recycling?
Question; Has DFG ever conducted a study or analysis to determine how much asphalt has washed into our rivers, and if so, has DFG made any determination(s) regarding the adverse environmental impacts to species and water quality?
Question; Has DFG analyzed the adverse impacts to aquatic species and water quality as a direct result of all this asphalt breaking down over time, releasing toxins by leaching into the river water, and what harm(s) this asphalt might cause to fish, frogs, frog eggs, and our water supply?
Question; Has the DFG considered or developed a plan to remove asphalt from the riverbeds? Boy, this is a tough one to remove.
Inspections, approvals, mileage, permits galore
It’s an application for a Plan of Operations
I fail to see how or why DFG has created a separate inspection and approval provisions for dredge nozzles over 4” diameter and less than 8” diameter, and for power winching boulders. These extra steps, seeking various inspections of; dredge equipment, nozzle restrictor ring size, dredge permit numbers, intake screen size, and application for power winching and approval process for power winching, and various other approvals are overly cumbersome, intentionally burdensome and they will take considerable time to arrange, schedule and ultimately to approve or disapprove, nothing is certain.
This brilliant proposed regulatory scheme will require 4000 miners or more to drive to meet DFG officials at various remote locations throughout the State, including site inspections for oversize dredge permit, winching locations and streambed alteration permits, and on and on. Don’t your scientists at DFG understand that most miners will be traveling hundreds of miles on highways and dirt roads to actually follow the regulatory process just to attempt to acquire the right combination of permits?
Numbers are helpful
Now lets do a little arithmetic. Not only do we have to drive all these miles, so do the State officers charged with the duties of meeting perspective “Permitee’s” and licensees on remote streams throughout the Sierra Nevada’s. There will be more traffic on dusty Forest Service roads, wear and tear on the Forest Service roads and wear and tear on the vehicles.
So if each of these 4000 miners (since this article was written, DFG has reduced the number of permitted dredgers down to 1500) were averaging 250 miles each, which I believe is a low estimate, that amounts to one million miles driven. (Not including DFG miles) So that also amounts to 50,000 gallons of fuel, at an estimated 5.00 per gallon for fuel, and assuming 20 miles per gallon, that would be a $250.000.00 expense for the miners. (Not including DFG expenses) I took 1 million miles and arbitrarily I assumed average speed of 50 mph and came up with 20,000 hours behind the wheel driving. Driving just to acquire all the necessary applications, inspections, approvals, permits and signatures, just to reach final approvals for each of the combination of permits needed to satisfy the unreasonable regulatory requirements.
It would be safe to say that DFG will have similar mileage, expenses and so forth, so we can double the figures from the miners to account for DFG officers travel. This means that combined, the miners and DFG will annually spend at minimum; 2 million miles driving from location to location, 100,000 gallons of fuel, 40,000 hours behind the wheel driving and $500,000.00 in fuel expenses for necessary approvals before the miners can even begin suction dredge mining operations.
Another thing is that with a series of permit applications, inspections, approvals and so forth, I envision miners placing equipment in a remote location, having it inspected, and then waiting for the next inspection, or perhaps they cannot get the next approval for several weeks because so many appointments will flood DFG, and DFG is not equipped to meet the demand. I imagine that equipment will need to remain unattended in or near the remote streams until the next DFG inspector approves the next phase.
Question; can you explain the difference between a permit and a plan of operations?
Question; What about if the USFS finds this staged equipment unattended and declares it was stored on NF lands w/out authorization, or was abandoned equipment?
And, if prosecuted, tried, and convicted, that would cost up to $5,000.00 fine and six months in jail for each alleged violation. Citations are always possible, or probable knowing the FS reputation for overzealously persecuting miners.
The point is that I can see the reality of this process and miners are going to have their equipment and gear stolen or sabotaged. Or the miner will be forced to pack the dredge and other equipment in and out of the claim several times for security reasons, and that is just during the application/approval process.
Question; Does DFG think this is a wise environmentally sensitive plan?
Question; How does DFG reconcile the proposed suction dredge regulations with the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA)?
Question; Has MSHA been consulted regarding your proposed suction dredge regulations?
Question; Did DFG consult with MSHA regarding mine safety, and diver’s safety in relation to the new proposed regulations?
Packing a dredge back and forth from dredge site to truck for security reasons will mean a half dozen or so round trips, multiply by 2 or 3 times (for each time DFG drags their feet on inspections or approvals), and you get 12 – 18 or more round trips from truck to stream. This is environmentally ludicrous.
Therefore this multi-level application/approval process is unnecessary, and amounts to unreasonable regulation that impermissibly encroaches upon the rights given to miners by Congress. The proposed regulations “endanger and materially interfere” with bona fide economic mining.
All these inspections, approvals, & various permit applications will be very costly;
This lengthy process will also require the DFG to spend vast amounts of time and money traveling all over the State to make inspections and ultimately to approve or disapprove certain equipment and requests; for example power winching and oversize dredge nozzle. With our economy in such sad shape, I cannot believe the State of California can possibly afford to perform all these silly inspections and approvals in a timely manner. If you have not addressed the State budget of both time and money for all these unnecessary activities, you simply will not be able to fulfill your obligations to the miners who apparently will be required to wait for your inspections and authorizations.
I suspect you don’t care about the expenses and that your agency has no intention of working efficiently to inspect claim sites and equipment. The miners simply will not be helped; he will be stalled, delayed, impeded, and interfered with, in part because DFG doesn’t have the staff or resources to do all this crazy nonsense. I don’t believe DFG has any intention to follow through with these procedures even if they have unlimited funds.
Mine Safety Health Administrations (MSHA) would have a big problem with the safety issues
The 4” dredge restrictor ring limit is going to cause injury and death. If DFG limits the nozzle to 4” then you have pretty much regulated profitable mining out of existence.
If a miner can not obtain a permit for anything greater than 4” and he must work 6’ – 10’ – 15’ of overburden, it goes without saying that most dredgers are going to be compelled to take a lot more dangerous risks, they will make their cut slopes nearly vertical, and as a result these walls (cut slopes) will cave in on dredgers – and mark my words – dredgers are going to be injured or killed as a result of DFG’s half-baked idea of reducing nozzle size and compelling miners to use only hand winches, or where DFG prohibits power winches.
Question; The question that plagues me is why DFG is so eager to restrict the size of nozzle to 4 inches?
Here I will provide a hypothetical situation to prove my point; Assuming a six inch dredge will move over twice as much material as a four inch dredge per hour, and assuming it will take a miner 2 months to mine a particular area with a 4-inch dredge, then the same job should be completed in one month using a six inch dredge.
Question; why in the world would DFG find it more environmentally sensitive to require the miner to use a 4-inch dredge considering the scenario I presented?
The economic cost & Cost to wildlife reducing nozzle size
The net result of this folly is that the miners will be compelled to; commute for an extra month and make the miner work harder and in far more hazardous conditions. Dredgers that travel say 30 miles a day (one way) to dredge 5 days a week will travel 1200 more miles for the extra 20 days it will take to do the same job. At 20 mpg on gravel roads and nearly $4.00 a gallon for fuel, it will cost the dredger in this example another $240.00 in fuel for the commute alone. It will also take 25 to 30 hours to commute to the dredge site over the course of the extra 20 days. As a result of being forced to use a 4-inch dredge the commute includes travel on gravel roads. There will be more traffic on these roads, more dust from the roads, When rainwater falls, there will be more muddy water runoff, more wear and tear on the roads and our vehicles and more toxic exhaust emissions. One Miner’s expense one month.
Considering a minimum 4000 dredgers who are in the same pickle, extending my arithmetic, we get an extra 4,800,000 miles in one month only, 240,000 gallons of fuel, $960,000.00 in fuel expenses at $4.00 per gallon, and at 20 mph, that is 240,000+ hours commuting in one month only. 4000 miners and One Month.
Extending arithmetic to cover 5 months of dredging season amounts to a staggering 24 million miles, 1,200,000 gallons of fuel burned, $4,800,000 in fuel expenses and 1,200,000 hours – perhaps less – driving on the roads. 4000 miners and One Season.
Question; Can DFG see a predictable problem here?
I used very conservative assumptions. Personally, I travel approximately 1500 miles per month with only 4 round trips per month typically I drive more. So the above estimate is likely very low.
Nozzle reduction – other environmental costs – and wear & tear
We are only looking at 4000 dredgers spanning five months whose dredge size and restrictions have only cut production in half. The above calculations illustrate that the environmental cost will be profound with respect to air quality; Co2 emissions, forest road dust, storm water runoff, wear and tear on forest and county roads, and 4000 dredgers will spend twice as long mining in each location as a direct result of these proposed regulations. Not to mention the increased vehicle maintenance expenses (not calculated above). For example, if tires last 30,000 miles and cost $75.00 each, lets check the arithmetic. That equals 40 new tires and another $3,000.00 in rubber destroyed that we must pay to properly dispose of.
And, miners will spend twice as long mining each site and allegedly disturbing birds and wildlife, and we will get ½ the gold and ½ the heavy metals we would have recovered if DFG proposed regulations as written take affect.
Costs of 1994 Suction Dredge Regulations – Lowball Estimate
And, doing some more arithmetic, and assuming that DFG 1994 regulations caused a very similar problem, which it did, then we calculate 16 years. Assuming you cut production in half for the past 16 years then we are talking about an arbitrary 4000 suction dredge miners that burned 1,200,000 gallons of fuel, x 16 years = 19,200,000 gallons of wasted fuel all because DFG insisted via SD regulations that we use smaller dredges. Certainly we had approximately 12000 dredgers at one time. So, if any of you DFG scientists want to crunch some numbers and come up with more precise calculations, be my guest. It will only make DFG decisions look more and more draconian.
If not but for DFG unreasonable suction dredge regulations and mismanagement since 1994, our rivers biological health would have been vastly improved as a direct result of our reclamation efforts. DFG is prohibiting the removal of toxic substances of every kind with these new proposed suction dredging regulations.
Question; And what about all the little nesting birds DFG is sniveling about?
Question; If dredging goes on one month longer than it would have solely because DFG arbitrarily limited the size of suction dredge nozzles, and our presence allegedly bothers the little birdies, then what benefit is there in regulations that will double the time suction dredge miners will bother the little birdies and wildlife? After all once it is mined we move on.
Frankly, back in 1994 you established draconian regulations that doubled and tripled the amount of time miners would spend mining on a claim because you dramatically limited the nozzle size and so forth. Now your doubling down and tripling down the time we spend working our mining claims to do exactly the same job again!
Nozzle restriction increase in fossil fuel and emissions
Come on DFG, I thought you guys and your pals at the EPA wanted to regulate greenhouse gasses and regulate carbon, and want us all to have more efficient clean burning vehicles. Yet, you create dredging regulations that serve to cause far more environmental harm than if you did nothing. In fact, DFG has been more of a hindrance than help when we consider how DFG regulations have unreasonably regulated suction dredge mining and DFG proposed regulations as proposed will, “endanger and materially interfere” with heavy metal reclamation dredging and gold mining with overly restrictive and arbitrary regulations since 1994.
Ultimately the exact same “work” will get done, it will just take twice as long and costs us twice as much and will be at least ½ as profitable. As a direct result of DFG proposed regulations, suction dredge miners will disturb wildlife twice as long and suction dredge miners will trudge up and down the riverbed and stream banks twice as many times. It will require transporting and storing more fuel, for a longer duration and will require refueling more often. It will also take more fuel to run a 4-inch dredge than a six-inch dredge because of loss of efficiency. While the dredge is running, we must handle all the rocks by hand that ranges in size over 3.5 inches because they will not fit through a 4” Nozzle restrictor ring.
Furthermore, a 4-inch dredge comes with a 3.5-inch restrictor ring because if the constrictor ring is the same size as the hose, the rocks will get hung up in the hose and it will take time to clear the hose thereby losing efficiency. Therefore most dredgers who own a 4-inch dredge can only use a 3.5-inch restrictor ring. So the only way miners can avoid clogging their hose and dredge with a 4-inch restrictor ring is to use a 5-inch or 6- inch dredge. Brilliant!
Size matters. On every job mankind does, there is an old adage. Choose the right tool for the job. In both placer and hard rock mining, every mill is designed for a particular mine. There is no one mill that has ever been designed that can be used at any or all other lode mines because every mine has its own unique issues. The same is true with placer mining and suction dredging. There are a vast number of streams that DFG has proposed we cannot ever use a dredge larger than 4-inches on. Yet there are many streams of that description that have well over ten feet of overburden in patches, and other patches of the same stream might be completely exposed bedrock. Experienced dredgers can look at a project area and select the proper dredge for that job, but with these proposed regulations we are limited to taking the river apart with our bare hands and sucking up the crumbs. DFG is arbitrarily selecting the dredge size we can use in all locations, and this is a significant safety concern that is going to get suction dredge miners killed.
Another important factor is that each stream course contains a very unique mix of aggregates. Some streams are comprised primarily of slates. Slates will be ground down but all the rocks are flat, rounded and thin which persistently get stuck in the dredge hose, power jet and nozzle. Some streams high percentages of sharp, jagged, irregular rocks generally the kind of foreign materials that fall into the rivers by; Deer, bear, or animals disturbing the surface, or weathering; such as freezing, or rain, or summer when the hills dry up. All these factors and more cause foreign materials to fall from the steep riverbanks and mountainsides enter the rivers.
And, these odd rocks tend to hang up in our dredges. This always slows the production rates. Other streams have a high percentage of small rock, so that using an 8-inch dredge would suck up the vast majority of the streambed with very few cobs and boulders to deal with by hand. This is fairly rare in my experience.
Other rivers have vast amounts of cob and boulders, and comparatively very little small gravel that can be vacuumed from the bedrock thus a smaller dredge might be the right tool for that particular site.
And, every stream has its own special mix of aggregate and therefore to efficiently dredge, miners need the flexibility to select the most efficient dredge for that particular location on that particular stream because dredging is a business and that business must be profitable. Suction dredge mining can be very profitable when the dredger is efficiently moving materials and that can only be accomplished when the miner uses the right tool for the job. Again, this is where DFG regulations concerning the establishment of dredge maximum nozzle size on all state waters is arbitrary and capricious and without merit. This proposed regulation is unreasonable, inflexible and far too restrictive.
Perhaps DFG should cite Mother Nature and all her critters for causing and introducing foreign earthen materials and rocks into DFG managed rivers without authorization and necessary DFG permits.
The general rule of thumb is that we need 1 inch of dredge for every foot of overburden. Now, most major gold bearing rivers contain 8 to 20 feet or more of overburden. So the question is how can DFG create a set of regulations that prohibit the use of the proper tool for the job, meaning the right size dredge and power winches for efficiency, health and safety, and profitability?
X Creek, Plumas County
Regarding X Creek, Plumas County, I see that the proposed regulations have changed the 6 inch dredge with option of using an 8 inch dredge (with permission), to a 4 inch dredge restriction and option for a 6 inch dredge with permission.
Now, from the intersection of Hwy XX and Hwy XX, heading up stream, this placer ground is suitable for an 8 inch dredge because of the deep gravel beds and shear volume of water in the stream. From the Hwy junction to the bottom of XX falls, a span of perhaps 3-5 miles should be open to an 8-inch dredge. Once you go past XX Falls, there is no dredging because the valley is so deep with gravel one would need a bucket line dredge to mine it. My claim has typically average overburden on the lower end of the claim, but the upper section covering several acres is up to 18 feet deep and most of the overburden is comprised of large rock and boulders. This stretch of river needs to be open to 8” dredges with option for larger dredges as needed for this commercial mining claim.
XX Creek – MSHA – & Extremely Dangerous Regulations
Question; Now, how can you expect a miner to safely dredge this massive wall of boulders described on XX Creek with a 4-inch dredge and a hand winch?
Question; If I am mining this wall of rock and I create a slope or ramp to allow winching boulders, and I hook up my hand winch, how do you propose I can winch by hand if I don’t even have something to stand on?
Question; You want me to place a stepladder underwater and see if I can winch a boulder from on top of the ladder underwater?
*And then I would be directly in harms way because I would literally be winching from a position between a rock and a hard place!
And working with Boulders on a steep uphill ramp under water, where the boulders may be 10 – 15 feet or more in height above bedrock, we will be forced to climb up the ramp on an unstable dredge face (ramp; comprised of unstable boulders, cobs, & gravel) and dredge around the boulders with a toy – that extends the amount of time we are vulnerable to unanticipated and sudden rock slides. If no rock slide occurred, then we still have to rig these dangerous unstable killer boulders, and then on the down hill, down stream side of the boulder, we are expected by regulation to literally stand (in front of and on the down hill down stream side) of the boulder, and under the boulder(s) we plan to move. This is an accident waiting to happen.
If the boulder does slip at any time we are rigging it, or attempting to move it with a come along (hand winch), then you can reasonably predict that the boulder will roll and/or slide swiftly downhill immediately toward the suction dredge miner and it can only be by the Grace of God if we are not mashed into the bedrock and killed dead. Thanks, for looking out for our collective health and safety DFG.
Without elaborate rigging, using a come-along / hand winch puts the human physically between the boulder and bedrock. In fact, MSHA would have a BIG problem with anyone performing any other job where he is put between a load and a hard spot specifically by terms of the unreasonable regulations. This is an unacceptable safety issue that will get miners killed and buried. Kind of convenient though, buried out of site and out of mind just like all the other river trash. What is this, poetic justice?
The dangerous scenarios that unfold daily when suction dredge mining is conducted in overburden over a couple feet in depth. Every suction dredge mining site with a few feet of overburden can easily get a dredger killed very easily. Especially when compelled to use a toy where a serious tool is required for safety and economic reasons.
When a miner is free to choose the proper tool, and in this scenario, where overburden is 6 – 18 feet deep, he will select the largest dredge suitable for the task. Why? Because if a man can quickly and efficiently move materials, he will open a larger dredge hole – (Large hole = safe hole) – he can quickly slope the walls as needed for safety, he can create a safer and more gradual ramp, he can terrace the working face or side walls to prevent the probability that hazardous boulder perched high on unstable aggregates will not unexpectedly slide in on top of him which would likely kill him.
Workplace Safety First.
Now, imagine a 3-ton – 6-ton boulder, perched 15 feet over your head on unstable aggregates. Imagine working with the constant fear that killer boulders are perched in such locations that they may slide in on top of you at any time. And boulders falling follow the Newton’s laws of gravity, a falling boulder will accelerate in velocity for every foot it falls in elevation. Your brilliant scientists might want to crunch the numbers to estimate the impact, or kinetic energy of a 5 ton boulder free falling 10 – 15 feet in water. Wow, isn’t purported recreational dredging fun?
Now, imagine the poor bastards who are paralyzed by insane regulations to the extent that the recreational toys authorized by DFG would necessarily mean that the dredger might spend weeks accomplishing what can be done with a large dredge in days. He will inevitably take shortcuts. It is human nature to adapt. I have seen it all, dredgers with a 4-inch dredge literally drilling a hole strait down six feet and more, not much bigger than the dredgers body. Why? Because he needs to know how deep the overburden is, what the streambed is composed of, and what the bedrock looks like just to decide if he should invest more time and labor dredging in these particular conditions. Sometimes all the observer will see is his feet sticking out of his hole and some air bubbles. He is in a gravel tomb that can collapse at any time regardless of how safe it may appear. Why did he do this? Because the toys DFG allows us to use is far too small to allow the miner the luxury of dredging a safe exploratory hole. So, here too, the proposed regulations will lead to injury and death of suction dredge miners.
Now, imagine a dredger working on the bottom of the river, handling every little 4” plus piss ant rock that gets in his way. He will be there a very long time placing 4” plus rocks in buckets, crates, and nets. The longer the dredge hole is open the looser and the more “unstable” the dredge hole becomes. Now, your regulations keep the dredgers in this hazardous situation for; vastly longer periods of time, sucking -3.5 inch rocks and gravel through a 4” nozzle, handling every rock over 3.5 inches diameter, which dramatically increases risk exposure 10 fold, and thereby increasing the probability that gravity is going to have its way with the dredger sooner or later, and it ain’t gonna be pretty.
Your purported scientists can crunch the numbers to determine whether “10 fold” is reasonable. I believe it is even more dangerous than that.
Dangerous, well perhaps it is wise for DFG to understand that working underwater under any circumstance could be classified as working in one of the most dangerous jobs in the world. I’m sure there is plenty of data readily available supporting this well known fact. Now, couple that with standing under a land slide underwater, undermining massive boulders, resting on unstable aggregates looming and ready to kill you, and add into the equation the fact that DFG dictates that you cannot use the proper equipment, then I think you have created “by unreasonable regulation” an even more dangerous job than “one of the most dangerous (working environments) on the planet.”
Dangerous? Perhaps your purported environmental scientists who dreamed up these dangerous regulations can “imagine” the continuing perilous saga unfolding. Imagine, that 3 ton – 5 ton boulder perched 10 – 15 feet or so above the evil dredgers body while he is working feverishly to take the river apart with his bare hands and a (toy dredge).
He is on the river bedrock “whistling dixie” picking up gold and heavy metal, when without a single noise heard, and without seeing a thing move, this killer boulder suddenly slips from its perch dropping 10 –15 feet nearly strait down and landing directly on top of the dredger. Needless to say, it will break every bone in his body; mash him into the equivalent of road kill, a bloody pulp. He would typically never see it coming and wouldn’t have a chance.
If not killed - and this has also happened many times – lets assume the 3-5 ton boulder only lands on his arm or legs from 10 to 15 feet. If he has no communication with a top man on the surface, and if he cannot unpin himself, he will either bleed to death, pass out from blood loss and trauma, go into shock, or he will simply drown as the dredge runs out of air when the engine runs out of gasoline. Charming. So what, he was just an evil suction dredge miner, BFD. The world is better off. Right?
All, of the hazards discussed in this section and throughout these comments are directly caused by DFG “reckless and dangerous” regulations that have taken away the very tools we need to do our jobs efficiently, profitably, and safely. Remember,
Another MSHA Safety Issue Power Winching
Regarding winching in the active stream course, the PSDR allow only non-motorized hand winching without asking (or begging) DFG for an inspection and permission to use a power winch. First, what is the logic behind allowing a miner to winch boulders with hand operated winches versus power winches?
Look, I was a boatswain’s mate in the US Navy, which means I was also a cargo handler, a rig captain transferring 8 ton missiles from ship to ship, and that I do know a thing or two about how to move anything with a winch. Hand winching takes much longer to perform than power winching. Further, most small hand powered winches are rated between two tons and 6 tons. Hand winches generally are capable of holding only 20 to 30 feet of cable, meaning that if the 2 ton hand winch must move a 3 ton boulder, then the cable must be doubled up for a 2:1 ratio. This shortens the cable length to 10 – 15 feet, which allows the winch to only feel 1500 pounds, which also means that a miner may need to hook up the boulder(s) perhaps two or three times to get the boulder out of its original location and to a location far enough away to be useful. This can take hours of time on one-boulder and puts miners directly in the way of the load they are trying to move. Safety First. It is extremely dangerous underwater particularly because of tunnel vision, water currents pushing on us, boulders resting on other unstable boulders and cobs that can slip and shift unexpectedly at any time, and as we drag the load it continuously slides on uneven surfaces causing the boulder to rock, tip, slide and roll uncontrollably.
Considering also the fact that hand winches are very slow, may require hooking and re-hooking up the same boulder several times to get it where it needs to be, moving these boulders by hand is hard physical labor, is extremely labor intensive, and moving large boulders underwater is extremely dangerous as it is, but becomes even more dangerous when hand winching. The longer the miner is underwater; fiddling with rigging, winching by hand under & in front of the load, re-connecting the hand winch, prying to loosen a boulder, the more likely he will be injured or killed.
Why? Because the miner is “up close and personal” with each and every boulder he must move under water and he is literally working in between the boulder and other boulders, or between a boulder and bedrock. Ever heard the term “Between a rock and a hard place?” Safety first.
When we use power winches, we hook up a boulder, we go to a safe place on shore where the winch is set up and we pull the boulder to where we need it. Nobody needs to be in the water risking his or her life while struggling to move a boulder with a Micky-Mouse hand winch when power winching is and would be far, far, far safer.
Furthermore, power winches have one or two drums that hold the cable depending upon the model. Such power winches can be as small as two tons but depending on the model, these winches suitable for dredging operations can move a 40 ton boulder if need be. Using a power winch allows the miner to move the boulder(s) 30 feet – 50 feet – or more as needed and the move is accomplished in one quick safe move. I have moved rock sleds, rock nets and boulders with loads of up to 4 tons as much as 70 feet in one pass, and each pull takes perhaps 30 seconds. Each pull can easily move 2 tons using a 5 hp gas motor driven Mighty-lite winch which measures 3’ long, 18 Inches wide and 16 inches tall, weight is about 100 pounds. Once the boulder is attached with a strap, net, or choker, it can be moved quickly and safely.
Remember workplace safety first.
It is obvious that compelling miners to use hand winches will undeniably lead to death and / or injury of suction dredgers. Why? Because if the suction dredger cannot acquire the necessary permit to use a power winch, the miner will attempt to undermine the boulder or boulders, and he will try to use pry-bars and gravity to move the boulder(s).
It is a common occurrence that when we least expect it, such boulders suddenly move and move extremely fast. Even when we see a boulder slip toward us, we can’t move out of the way quickly because of our buoyancy underwater. We move like snails comparatively.
Now, it must also be understood that suction dredgers wear a facemask underwater. Anyone who has ever spent any time underwater knows that the images we see underwater is very distorted, like tunnel vision. In fact, I have worked around boulders underwater many, many times over the years. As I worked around them, I thought my work was safe, until I came out of the water and looked down at the scene from the surface. Then it became obvious that I had been working in a very dangerous situation that I had not recognized earlier when I was underwater. I have seen this situation occur on many occasions, this is not an isolated incident. This proposed rule as relates to power winching and hand winching presents serious safety issues that even MSHA would complain about and likely compel DFG to make necessary changes to ensure health and safety that DFG is not going to like.
Another significant issue with hand winching is the adverse economic impact. Requiring hand winching only will make movement of boulders considerably more labor intensive. As such, when the BLM or USFS elects to challenge the validity of a particular mine in the future, the economics of mining the deposit will be heavily scrutinized. I have significant first hand experience regarding how the USFS and Office of General Council attack mining claims, namely economics and the “prudent man rule.” See US V Burton and US v. Eno IBLA cases, and see also the EA for the Soda Rock Mineral Withdrawal for an education in relation to how the economics of suction dredging, moving boulders, using a 4 inch nozzle, will adversely impact the economics of a mine.
For example, USFS Geologist Richard Teixeirra is a geologist and an “expert witness” for the USFS in validity determinations. Mr. Teixeirra documented and testified specifically about the economics of my “Hound Dog” placer mining mine. Mr. Teixeirra plainly stated in my case that he uses an estimation of how much gold can be recovered per unit of time, generally in milligrams per hour. He lists all regulatory restrictions so as to show that under existing DFG, USFS, and/or other regulations, a miner cannot make a profit. Therefore, as discussed at length earlier, the 4” nozzle restrictions and hand winching will make an otherwise profitable mine unprofitable, and all because the proposed DFG regulations are unreasonable and places unnecessary economic and regulatory burdens upon the miner.
Worse, the regulations will lead to injury and death. And because you DFG folks are so eager to whisper sweet nothings in my ear and slip one up my xxx, I will be the first guy eager and waiting to hear about suction dredgers getting injured or losing their life as a result of these regulations. I will track down the family of the deceased or injured and provide them a copy of my comments to prove DFG knew well in advance of promulgating these regulations that dredgers will be injured or will die as a direct result of these proposed regulations.
Workplace safety first
Prohibiting mining within 3 feet of waterline
The proposed regulations that limit dredging to within 3 feet of the water line also impermissibly encroach upon the miners right to mine his property, (the gold contained in the gravel). This is completely unreasonable. For example, if a citizen owns a placer claim on a small stream say 10 feet wide waterline to waterline with gravel river banks a foot or more high, then the miner can only dredge a narrow four foot strip of gravel in the center of the stream. Now, if he has 3 feet of overburden depth in the center of the stream, the miner can only expose perhaps one or two feet width of gravel on bedrock. If per chance, the side of his trench sloughs in, then DFG can measure from the bank to where the trench sloughed, and the net result is that the miner will be subject to fines, appeals and litigation under these proposed regulations. This is completely unreasonable.
Taking this logic further, if the stream is 6 feet wide, then any attempt to dredge would result in citation, appeals, and litigation. Effectively, most streams 8 or 10 feet wide or less will become un-mine able entirely if your proposed regulations take effect as planned. I must note here that the 4 inch and 6 inch dredges are really designed and intended to work this size of stream. But because DFG is outlawing suction dredging on these smaller streams with the 3-foot bank rule, these small dredges cannot lawfully mine the very areas these dredges were designed to mine!
As such, and considering that the proposed regulations do not provide any alternative methods of placer mining within the stream channel (for example Drag Line Dredging) that might be used in places where dredging is prohibited under the proposed regulations. These mining claims may ultimately be abandoned at some point in the future, but the State of California DFG will be subject to countless lawsuits, and expensive litigation for each and every claim so “taken” by the unreasonable proposed regulations where the miner chooses (or can financially afford) to file such lawsuits. The 3’ stream bank rule is unreasonable and prohibits placer mining on small gold bearing streams.
So far hydraulic mining was banned with the Sawyer decision, dragline dredging appears to be banned by DFG, fluming the river and diverting the river are unlawful, and dredging is all but banned. Absent reasonable options, all hell is going to break loose. Many of us experienced dredgers are not going quietly into the night.
Question; Do any of you DFG geniuses have any alternative means for me to economically extract my gold from my claims? If yes, what other means would you suggest?
XX Creek (described below) should be open to dredging withan 8” dredge minimum with opportunity to request 10” Nozzle.
I own the XX placer claim, located on XX Creek (HWY 89). On the upper half of my claim, the river widens out some 100 feet, and the overburden is as much as 18 feet deep. The entire area is armored with large boulders ranging in size between a half-ton each and 10 tons each. The boulder pile (armoring) has in fact protected the placer gold on bedrock from being washed away for countless centuries. In order for me to mine this area of the claim at a profit, and for my safety, I definitely need to use a double drum winch with the capacity rating to move 10 – 20 ton boulders, otherwise mining this particular dredge site will be too labor intensive to prove profitability and too dangerous for my personal safety. Therefore I conclude the proposed regulations in my case are unreasonable. Indian creek should be open to dredging with up to a ten inch dredge from the Greenville Y (Hwy 89 / Hwy 70) up to the bottom of XX Falls in Plumas County, and the power winching should be authorized without application or permit. Reducing the dredge size from 8” to 6” is ridiculous, and completely unwarranted. Besides, most of the land on this section of Indian Creek is either private property or an agricultural patent; there are only 2 or 3 placer claims on this stretch of river including my own. Safety First.
Pollutants, toxins, heavy metals
Pollutants are also another topic of interest. I personally have removed countless pounds of contaminants from the rivers I have dredged including but not limited to; lead, fishing sinkers, split shot, swivels, fish hooks, bait jars, lures, bullets, bullet casings, buckshot, rusty iron, nails, screws, bolts, aluminum cans, tin cans, copper, zinc, alkaline batteries, automotive batteries, broken glass, and mercury and mercury amalgam. I have removed all these toxins as most dredges do routinely every time they dredge.
Now, I am curious why DFG does not applaud our successful removal of various heavy metal toxins as a direct net benefit of allowing suction dredgers to mine the rivers.
It costs DFG NOTHING to have all this toxic material removed from the river systems. Yet, according to the DEIS for the proposed rule, the big cry-baby issue is that some minute amounts of floured mercury might escape the recovery system and flow back into the river. I firmly believe that removing 95% + of the elemental mercury – and the bonus of having all the other heavy metals removed from the streams – more than compensate for the miniscule amounts of floured mercury that might not be captured in the recovery system from time to time.
DFG must also be aware that elemental mercury in the river systems is not all caused by historic mining. Vast amounts of mercury have entered the human environment all over the world from time immemorial because the native mercury ore “cinnabar” has eroded from its source. Natural erosion, freezing, tree roots, wind and rain, earth quakes and floods have caused natural erosion that put vastly more mercury into the environment than mankind ever has dreamed of. Regardless of the reasons why mercury may or may not be in a river system, the suction dredgers and miners have been cleaning it up for four decades. (With certain risks to our own health.)
Question; Don’t you think it is high time to acknowledge the good works suction dredgers have done cleaning up heavy metals contamination of out watersheds?
Question; Can you provide any credible estimate of how much the State of California would have had to pay to hire “reclamation dredgers” to remove all the heavy metals we have removed over the past 20 years alone?
I guarantee the cost would have been staggering and the State would not have paid anyone to clean up the streams. So all the “talk” about “clean water” is just that, talk, lip service, or worse, it is actually just another means of controlling suction dredge miners and controlling land use via Mickey mouse science.
Fishermen have fishing licenses, AKA a “take permit,” which allows them to enter rivers and streams to fish. Now, these fishermen in their quest to either; catch and keep fish, or worse, to taunt, tease, torment, or otherwise play with fish (AKA catch and release). Plainly fishermen must also have serious impacts to the river systems that apparently are not addressed. These fishermen use the same roads as miners, they park and camp in the same locations, and they trudge up and down the river systems along the river banks both in and out of the water with impunity.
In the course of fishing, these fishermen are not required to observe, look for, or avoid disturbing the fish and frog eggs, and they are not required to avoid disturbing vegetation. And though DFG limits fishing licenses, (3 million) DFG has no limit on the number of fishermen that may go to and fish on any particular river or stream. And there is no regulation or requirement that fishermen gather up any and all trash they find in the streams or on the stream bank.
Further, for centuries fishermen have erroneously presumed that fish don’t feel pain. Well, some years ago a PBS TV broadcast presentation demonstrated that fish do feel pain when hooked. Fish leap out of the water and fight as a direct result of pain. So, it is abusive to all fish species to allow people to fish using the “catch and release” philosophy because fish have been proven to feel physical pain after all.
Therefore, it makes as much sense to allow fishermen to use rod and reel to; fish for, hook, play with and catch cats and dogs with a barb less fish hook, just as long as the fisherman “releases” the cats and dogs when he is done playing with them. I’m quite sure cats and dogs could put up one hell of a fight.
Apparently it is more than OK with DFG that fishermen taunt and kill fish, and trample fish and frog eggs, and trample vegetation at will for the sake of mere recreation and entertainment, but suction dredgers are held to a different and higher standard under these proposed SD regulations. Further, great numbers of the so-called “catch and release” type fishermen are killing fish regardless of the fact they release the fish they catch. This is because fish will bite a fly or bait with a hook. Sometimes the fish gets hooked in the lip, or the throat, gills, or the fish swallows the hook. Then, to make matters worse, fishermen play with the fish with ultra light fishing gear for the mere sport of it. This causes many fish to die of shock and/or traumatic injury regardless of the fact they were “released.”
Add to this all the various other users of the same rivers and streams; forest visitors floating down river using inner tubes, kayaks, rubber rafts, and swimmers, campers, hikers, fishermen and hunters. All these users are free to trample anywhere and upon anything they choose throughout the watersheds and would / do cause the same alleged harms to the vegetation and native species as the suction dredge miners, but none of these other user groups are required to protect the environment under existing law and regulations similar to those that the DFG is trying to saddle suction dredge miners with under the new proposed SD Regulations.
If suction dredge miners are allegedly causing harm to the environment by merely walking in the water, establishing encampments, or walking on vegetation on the stream banks purportedly causing environmental harms, then all users of the forests who might walk in or near the water or on streamside vegetation are causing environmental harm.
Thus, DFG will have no other option than to perform an EIS and propose restrictive regulations related to all other forest users addressing exactly the same issues they have done for the suction dredge regulatory changes, otherwise there will be ample evidence of “use prejudice” as defined in the US v. Milender IBLA case.
It would be, and is fundamentally unfair to single out suction dredge miners for alleged harms to the environment when any and all other users cause the same alleged harms. DFG should also consider how these other users might disturb the nesting birds and other wildlife.
Screaming children, stereos a blasting, off road vehicles, ATV’s, motorcycles, crotch rockets, dirt bikes, cars and trucks, beach parties, and commercial vehicles all disturb nature routinely. Nuts firing off rifles, shooting into the water, and on and on it goes. These people need restraint man!
Therefore I expect DFG to begin “public scoping” ASAP and to perform the necessary environmental analysis(EA or EIS) to comprehensively review and analyze all other user groups’ impact upon the riparian zones, watersheds, vegetation, fish, and aquatic species, and nesting birds. That must necessarily include the Karuk Indian Tribe and all other Native American Indian Tribes to fully analyze their use and the environmental impacts that are caused by their particular uses. The Karuk Tribe isn’t getting out of this unscathed. They wanted this environmental review, they are at the table with DFG eager to help screw miners, and they are a part of the problems just as all other users are. The uses of Native Americans must be accounted for in the final analysis. The river’s health, the quality of water, and fish habitats must be studied with all the “new Science” DFG cooked up in the SDEIR for the suction dredge miners. Therefore, this Science – that is actually valid – must be applied equally to all river user groups.
This means that DFG must propose vast new regulations to protect the watersheds, fish, aquatic species, and water quality from virtually all other user groups including but not limited to; hikers, fishermen, hunters, Native American fishing with nets and other means, swimmers, sunbathers, tubers, kayakers, rafters, skin divers, families with kids building sand castles, general tourists, photographers, 4WD, ATV, birdwatchers, motorcyclists, and virtually anyone who might use or go into or near the rivers and streams of California.
Question; my question is whether or not the DFG has done an EA or EIS as relates to the proper regulation of any or all other river users to ensure those users are not damaging the environment within the stream and river channels?
Question; if not then why not?
Question; If DFG did an EA or EIS concerning regulating all other stream and river users, when was the work done, and does that analysis contain the purported “science” you have applied to the suction dredging SDEIR?
Since the purported “science” is new, and that science is purportedly suggesting that you need to further regulate suction dredge mining, then it would appear that DFG has gained new knowledge and enlightenment as to the river environment. Thus, now that you have this marvelous new “science,” and you see new potential harms you never saw before, I presume that DFG is going to be in a very big rush to perform the necessary environmental analysis on all other user groups to ensure you have not neglected to protect species and habitat from these largely unregulated and unmonitored user groups.
Question; How long has it been since DFG conducted environmental review of each and every one of these other river users?
Question; How long has it been since you last took a requisite “hard look” at fishing and hunting license and/permit /tag processes?
Question; And, wouldn’t it be prudent to review all this random river use very carefully since your scientists have recently “discovered” new and exiting “science” for the proposed suction dredging regulations?
Question; When can we anticipate DFG to get started on the EIS and proposed regulations that will ensure all heretofore unregulated river users, and hunters and fishermen are held to the same environmental standards as suction dredge miners?
Maximum 1500 permits
Another point is that DFG proposes to allow only 1500 permits. I absolutely oppose placing a limit on the number of permits issued because anyone who owns a mineral deposit /claim who must mine gravel in an active stream or river and who cannot obtain a permit will be absolutely prohibited from mining his property. DFG has no authority to prohibit mining. We also understand that the highest number of permits issued in the 1980’s was around 12,000. There should be no limit that will materially interfere with any miner’s rights and the Congressional Mandates to develop the mine. Assessment work.
Question; does DFG maintain any data on how many other users of our state rivers within the National Forests In the Sierra Nevada’s engage in activities in or near the rivers and streams?
If not, please advise us of how you plan to ascertain this information and how soon such information will be made available.
The next issue is related to cultural impact upon miners. California has a long history of mining beginning with the 49ers. Primarily it was miners seeking gold that caused the greatest migration of people in the US to migrate to California, Alaska and numerous other western States. This is a 160 year evolution of miners culture. Suction dredgers are miners operating under the US Federal Mining Laws, and suction dredging was an innovation that was and is environmentally preferable to all other methods available to miners.
(For example, prior to the invention of the suction dredge, the only way a miner could work the river gravel was to flume a river and work the gravel dry. Or, miners would use a dragline dredge to drag the river material unto shore for processing and disposal. Obviously dredging was and is preferred over Dragline Dredging and Fluming Rivers.)
To this day, whenever a miner tells anyone that he mines gold or dredges gold, people light up with enthusiasm. These people are genuinely fascinated and want to know all about gold mining. If the proposed regulations are implemented, suction dredging for gold will steadily decline just as DFG and other Government Agencies are planning. It will be a slow and incremental process effectively destroying any opportunity to mine for gold in any river system within the State of California. In the future, we will only be able to tell our children what it was like to be a California gold miner.
Miners have a culture that DFG doesn’t give a hoot about. In America, it is politically correct to meld cultures, to blend in and to be tolerant of other cultures. The Libraries are packed with mining lore and history, practices, customs of miners and so forth. Yet, our culture is disregarded entirely despite the fascination many Americans have with gold mining lore and diving for gold. It is akin to treasure hunting. I think it is long overdue for DFG to recognize the culture of miners and address it in the SDEIR.
3 Inch Lettering
I strongly oppose the regulation requiring that we affix 3 inch lettering on our dredges for identification purposes. I oppose this in part because equipment breaks down, or might be stolen. Thus, even if we replace the motor, or other inspect able component, now we have to notify DFG and perhaps amend our approval/permit or obtain a new dredge number. Whether a dredge has a number or not, DFG officers will engage conversation and inspections for compliance. So a dredge number is simply another pain in the ass that accomplishes nothing worthy of merit. If DFG is that close to a dredge to read the numbers, then what is the point? Why provide the public an opportunity to identify us and then through public information discover who we are and where we plan to dredge and how much gold we have been getting. This regulation is unnecessary; unreasonable, an additional expense, it exposes us to prying eyes in the public record, and just plain sucks.
Question; Really, how does affixing 3 inch lettering to our dredges lead to protecting species?
You are requiring a “license” for a dredge identified by a number, plain and simple.
Naming up up 6 streams
I strongly oppose the idea of naming 6 streams specifically by GPS or Township, range and section. I object because we must select these sites months in advance of the season, when much of the Sierras are snowed in. If we are selecting streams for prospecting; and we may have never been there before, it will be impossible to know what specific equipment may be needed, whether we need a power winch or not, thus we may have a permit but discover we cannot get a power winch permit until the end of the season. Pre-selecting dredging sites is a bad idea that will most definitely frustrate prospecting and dredging, and much time will be wasted complying with the paperwork nightmare DFG has eagerly prepared for us.
Question; Turn about is fair play, how about requiring fishermen and hunters to identify 6 locations they plan to kill and harass species months prior to the season?
Question; Shouldn’t they also provide specific target hunting and fishing locations by Township, Range and Section or GPS coordinates?
Question; You must have a “need to know” how many people plan to fish a certain river at a particular time to ensure that they are not fishing in an area with endangered, threatened or purported sensitive species, fragile ecosystems, sensitive riparian areas, cultural areas, sensitive archaeological areas, and so-forth wouldn’t you?
Question; Wouldn’t it be prudent to require inspection of all fishing gear; rods and reels, and lead weights to ensure that fishermen have good strong fishing line that is not been weakened by river/lake rock abrasion so that fish will not break the line with 50 feet of fishing line still attached?
How about regulating all the swimmers, tubers, kayakers, rafters, and folks on picnics. All these inconsiderate selfish people carelessly stomp all over the very things DFG is making illegal for a dredger to do. Oh! Correction, “illegal for suction dredge miners to do” because dredgers (reclamation dredgers) can do as they please.
Anyway, these poor misguided flatlanders with no proper guidance, instruction or regulations from DFG aimlessly trounce about our streams ignorantly causing catastrophic harm to species and species habitat, and yet there is no villain and no citation issued for the environmental harms. This must be stopped immediately. And these people come and go swiftly, fleeting day trips. But miners are in one place for a quite a while comparatively speaking. It is easy to blame the miners for harms caused by fleeting masses of unregulated flatlanders run-amok.
Question; Shouldn’t these people who evidently also pose a great threat to (endangered, threatened, and other sensitive species, or species of concern) be controlled as they freely and aimlessly use these waterways for fun and games in the same months divers would be suction dredging?
Question; Talk about disturbing fry, eggs, and aquatic habitat, OMG! These people, many of them don’t know where milk comes from, they often have no experience outside of a city, and it stands to reason these knuckleheads will drive up to the rivers for camping, swimming and parties. Is it any wonder species are threatened by these other forest users?
Re-Filling Dredge Holes
I strongly object to filling in our dredge holes. This is stupid. Dredge holes give fish a place to hang out (out of the current), to feed on whatever drops in the hole. And, as DFG doesn’t want to see turbidity, the fact is that the only way to re-fill the holes is to re-position the tail end of the dredge over the upstream end of the dredge hole and re-dredge the material. As we do, we are obviously downstream in the current so that we will be working in cloudy water where we can’t see, and we will have to wait for the river to clear us so we can see well enough to resume dredging. This is referred to a “Blind Dredging.” It is a waste of time, a waste of fuel, and certainly does not benefit the fish.
Question; For your purported “scientists” to freak out over the possible discharge of tiny little heavy metal specs, and mercury particles that might cause environmental harm or exceeds bureaucratic regulations, why would these scientists risk re-dredging which releases more of the toxins, sediments, and turbidity into the river that your “scientists” are sniveling about? Why?
Furthermore, a few months after dredging season ends, annual high water or minor/major flood events will erase all evidence that dredging ever occurred. Re-filling the dredge holes is a waste of time, a waste of fuel, and makes dredging more labor intensive, thus adversely affects profitability of such mining operations. Again, your making this task more labor intensive, and we have to dredge twice if we fill in our hole meaning more silt and sediments will flow downstream, we are at the site longer, burning extra gasoline, making more engine noise, and scaring little birdies to boot.
Damaging Streamside Vegetation
I strenuously object to the new proposed regulations concerning the “damage streamside vegetation” provision. I see that DFG has intentionally removed the words “Woody riparian” from the prior set of regulations, which used to read “No person shall remove or damage woody riparian streamside vegetation during suction dredging operations.”
I think “woody” is a key qualifier as to the type of vegetation damage DFG intended to protect. Now however, DFG has removed the term woody, thus as written, this provision is far to broad and will lead to abuse because any suction dredge miner working any stream can not possibly dredge without stepping on, or breaking some form of vegetation. Furthermore, there are times when the miner must place a dredge where there is concern for the potential of a fire for example where hot exhaust is brought close enough to the streams side vegetation. The reasonable solution is to allow the miner to cut or trim vegetation to ensure fire does not erupt when we are busy underwater mining.
Question; Does DFG have any concern about fire hazards?
I also will advise you that fishermen often cut or break tree branches and break branches off bushes that get in the way when they are trying to cast their lines into the rivers. They also break branches when the get their lures and hooks caught in trees and bushes, yanking at them till the lure comes free or until a limb snaps. I do not believe DFG fishing regulations specifically prohibit fishermen from cutting, trimming, or otherwise damaging or removing vegetation. If fishermen were held to the standard DFG is imposing upon suction dredge miners, then virtually any fisherman who walks on the riverbank could be cited into court for “Damage[ing] streamside vegetation.” All users of the rivers and streams generally will walk on the riverbanks and/or trudge through the streams and could not help but damage vegetation because a crushed blade of grass would be damaged if walked upon.
Time for DFG to review Fishing practices and regulatory scheme
The above provides all the more important reasons why DFG should immediately analyze fishing, fishing licenses and tags, and licensing regulations to ensure your profitable regulatory scheme will ensure our rivers are protected from excess lead accumulations, to breaking woody streamside vegetation, stepping on critical habitats, crushing vegetation and so forth.
Destabilize in-stream woody debris
The proposed regulations state, “ No person shall cut, move or destabilize in stream woody debris such as root wads, stumps, or logs.” I oppose this proposed regulation for several reasons. If a root wad, stump, or log is found in the river gravel, it is because river floods carried it there. When we dredge, we have no idea what lurks beneath the surface of the gravel. We may have spent days or weeks getting the dredge hole started with the toy dredge DFG might permit us to use. As we begin to progress forward, if we encounter some woody debris, DFG expects us to simply pull out and go to a new location.
You guys must be smoking crack in the back room!
Behind such obstructions to the river flow, one would expect to find gold, but instead of recovering gold, DFG insists we move. Furthermore, these terms are vague. What size stump are we talking about? What if I found a two-inch diameter stump? What size log are we talking about? A log can be 2” in diameter. And root wads tend to be washed downstream by Mother Nature.
Woody debris has close association with lead. Why? Because, having fished a few decades it is clear that if a fisherman snags up on something in a river, it is usually woody debris. And, as Fishermen must use lead to cast their lines and hold bait near river bottom, then the woody debris is a primary snag, and generally lead is lost almost every time a hook sets into wood. Rock snags often can be freed, not always, but highly likely.
So insisting on protecting woody debris, logs, root wads etc will ensure even more lead will be deposited into the rivers.
Question; What is the big deal?
Question; What is the harm of working around loose random debris submerged in gravel?
The fact is that generally it is rare to encounter an occasional stump/log/ or root wad in shallow streams, but all bets are off in deeper overburden, and even so, we generally work around it, or we may move it slightly if we are recovering gold. And, even if we do mine around such “woody debris” or move the debris slightly, we end up burying the debris with dredge tailings. If we are not recovering sufficient gold around woody debris we will move on of our own accord.
Further, as discussed in an earlier section above, DFG had the amazing forethought to list root wads, stumps, and logs, and even has a plan devised for us in the regulations as to how we should deal with these items if we run into them!
It fascinates me that these same scientists did not think about what dredgers must do if they ran into pools of mercury, or an automobile, a culvert, engines, massive machinery parts, cables, an old bridge, RR track and so forth. Must have slipped your minds, the fact miners might uncover massive garbage. DFG has no plan for avoiding these things, never has had a plan, and DFG has not clarified weather DFG should be summoned to remove the offensive garbage. Amazingly, none of this is addressed in the SDEIR.
Who knows, removing a few cars might lead to finding the remains of stolen or lost vehicles. If it is a crime to dump a car into a river, it should be just as unlawful for DFG to leave it in the river when it can and should be removed. I suggest you ask the State for vast amounts of money to start a new program specifically to excavate, power winch, and haul the massive metal garbage out of the rivers as the suction dredge miners encounter it. Hell we work for free and uncover the crap, you guys should have a plan to come and get it. You guys need a plan!
Disturb[ing] redds, actively spawning fish, amphibian egg masses or tadpoles.
I object to this regulation on various grounds. First, the proposed regulation is broad and vague. I presume it all depends upon the definition of “disturb.” Then, the proposed regulations instruct us to “cease operations and re-locate dredging operations.” Again, the regulations are vague. So assuming we have actively spawning fish,… first of all I have dredged for years and I have never actually witnessed spawning fish in person. Having been not just an avid fisherman, but an absolute fishing fool, I was a fish slayer. Yet I don’t know if I would recognize a spawning fish unless it happened right in front of me and I spent some time observing the fish behavior. And tadpoles move about at will, I simply can’t understand what the concern is, especially when you allow all other users to stomp about and trudge through the same rivers at will. And obviously, if we see amphibian egg masses, we generally avoid them anyway because dredgers are also very aware of our need to protect the environment. As discussed earlier, and for good reason, if you regulate us, you have to regulate all other river users to ensure they do not aimlessly and carelessly kill the very species we are required by regulation to protect.
DFG may close any water to suction dredging
The proposed regulations state that DFG can close any water to suction dredging. I strongly object to this rule if such a closure adversely affects mining claims on federal lands open to location and entry under the US mining laws. If it is open to mining it should be open to dredging under Federal Law.
Furthermore, all of the areas proposed to be closed to suction dredging; and all the rivers and streams DFG has previously closed, in addition to all other Federal and State closures represent a vast amount of miles of streams that are grossly polluted with no means to clean them up.
The fact that all these various rivers are closed to suction dredge mining does mean that no heavy metals reclamation dredging will occur. Because of all these closures, all the hazardous materials, toxins, and heavy metals will continue to; corrode, dissolve, oxidize, rust, and pollute the aquatic environment and will, already has, and currently is adversely affect the water quality. Therefore, since suction dredge miners are prohibited from performing reclamation work, I expect that DFG must and will need to analyze the impact of closing all these rivers to beneficial heavy metals mining. Without such closures, these rivers and streams would have a great chance of being cleaned up voluntarily by suction dredge miners. Seems to me that it is better to allow reclamation than it is to maintain the status quo by pretending there is no toxic contamination problem in our rivers and streams that are closed to suction dredge miners.
So all rivers in California; especially in gold bearing rivers, wherever located, if they are closed to suction dredge mining, are highly likely to be transporting toxins down river in flood events and the toxins are oxidizing, corroding, rusting, abrading oxides and so forth. All closed riversneed to be sampled for toxic heavy metals, and studied carefully to avoid the unnecessary and relentless spread of hazardous waste and materials. Simply closing a river to dredging does not mean it is healthy and clean even if it is declared a wilderness. Closed rivers may be the death of us all, and may be causing serious degradation to water quality, and may be contributing to the toxic sediments DFG science in the SDEIR refers to.
You might want to look into this before the environmentalists discover DFG dirty little secret, explained in the conclusion. DFG has made decisions years ago to simply pretend the rivers are clean, because if they admit they are full of heavy metals and pollution, California’s environmental laws are so strict that it would be impossible for DFG to do. reclamation dredging.
DFG cannot possibly comply with these toxins under California Law and regulatory scheme. And all of the laws regarding hazardous materials would have to be significantly amended to even dream of beginning to clean the rivers up and dispose of the hazardous mess.
DFG has elected to ignore the garbage and hazardous materials, to hell with Mother Nature. DFG has vast power under the guise of environmental protection, when in fact, DFG is eliminating the thousands of witnesses to the environmental disaster, the suction dredge miners who know all to well that many of our rivers are toxic waste dumps.
Turbidity and Sediments
As a general comment to the SDEIR concerning sediments and turbidity, actual dredging experience once again sheds light upon this issue. It must be fully understood that each and every river and stream is unique. As I pointed out earlier, the aggregate mix that is the streambed load is generally local and native. By aggregate mix I am referring to the analysis of the various sizes of the aggregate expressed in percentages for each size contained in the aggregate mix. My first hand experience reminds me of dredging on the upper reaches of a small creek that was draining a granitic-pluton. In that stream, because the material had not been transported far enough to round off and smooth the rock, the rock was rounded a bit, slightly angular and rough. Granite does weather easily and it is common to see granite in this type of area that one might assume traveled enough to be rounded, but really, it is simply the nature of weathered granite outcrops that feed rock to streams. In that particular stream I noted the sand was really coarser than river sand. Turns out that really isn’t sand as we know it, it is simply coarse granite granules along with impurities.
Now if we go downstream several miles, we discover that the streambed materials have changed. The change occurs because several other feeder creeks deposit their “native” gravel load into the main stream. Now, if a feeder stream originates in another type of country rock (for example slate) and deposits into the aforementioned granite stream described above, then you will observe that the main stem of the streams contains a mix of granite and slates of variable percentages. The local native slates generally break down and become thin, flat, somewhat rounded aggregate of every size. Wherever these streams cut through tertiary channel, you will find the main streams now contain some percentage of the ancient gravel in the mix. Therefore you will find well-worn quartz aggregate in the stream, and walking upstream no more worn quarts. Hike up hill and you will find some evidence of the source (exposed ancient channel).
So now I hope DFG understands that the example above we have a native high elevation stream, a brisk stream that started out as a granite aggregate mix with granite granules for sand and upon digging it contained precious little sand or sediment. And finally, as the stream flows down the mountain other streams, feeder creeks add their own streambed load into the mix. In my example stream above, the stream aggregate visually evolved, it became a new mix of varying percentages of slates, granite, some ancient channel, and some misc. stray rocks that likely weathered and rolled into the stream. And so it goes all the way down the entire watershed. Streambeds joining and mixing with other streambeds, and each time the new aggregate mix will pass through a certain size dredge and a different rate, perhaps faster, perhaps slower.
The above is crucial to understanding the amount of material a certain dredge can move per hour, and in determining the amount of sedimentation that is released from any given size dredge. Also, the amount of aggregate that can move through a given dredge per hour is completely dependant upon the nature of the aggregate, its shape, the percentages of oversized cobs in the way. Often dredgers find aggregates that contain sharp jagged slate slivers, and thin, flat, round slate discs, that often get hung up in the hose. And of all the clogs known to man, flat round rocks are absolutely the worst in terms of the time it takes to clear the hose. The flat rocks often lay in the hose in such a way that if the lighting isn’t just right, you can’t see the obstruction. Perhaps I beat on the hose, vary the throttle, jam a stick down the venturi jet, and I see some rock coming out with the water so I dive down and start to dredge but immediately it plugs up again.
Thus, estimating how much volume a dredge can move per hour in the real world is far more complex than DFG appears to understand after reading your SDEIR.
For example, in high elevation streams where native materials are the general run of a streambed, the other issue becomes the type and physical shape of the rocks. Generally these streams contain a much higher percentage of sharp rocks, angular rocks, jagged and not well rounded because they are not well traveled. The problem is that there is no way to rush dredging these materials because the hose will clog, over, and over. The only way one can overcome this is to use a larger dredge and where possible, use a dredge hose one or two inches larger than the restrictor ring.
On the other extreme we can look to the Sacramento valley, perhaps rivers like the Consumnes. Rivers like this, far removed from the raging powerful waters of the Sierras also have a unique composition. Absent any discouraging quantity of large boulders, deposits like this can often be mined with an 8-inch dredge. Basically 95% of the rock goes through the nozzle at a fast pace. Also, in such conditions the rocks are well rounded and smooth. Therefore an 8 or larger dredge will efficiently mine this type of gravel bed due to its unique composition of conveniently sized aggregate. I dredged the Ma Mong River in Cambodia, it was the size of the Yuba or MF Feather river. I found that every rock in the streambed aggregate passed through my precision 5-inch dredge. Admittedly, the gravel in Cambodia, and perhaps certain rivers located in the valley represent ideal dredging conditions and the dredge processed close to what the MFG documents for each dredge they build. Close is less than perhaps by 10 or 20 percent.
With respect to sediments, the amount of sediment available in the streambed material is what dictates how much sediment will flow out of a dredge. Therefore the DEIS should expand the discussion and analysis concerning the alleged quantities of sedimentation released from various sized dredges. I believe that the DFG analysis concerning how many cubic yards a particular dredge can move per day and how much sediment each size dredge produces must also consider and document the type of materials in the gravel, the percentages of the various particle/pebble sizes contained in the aggregate, and must document the swiftness of the water expressed in the rate of flow.
For example, in swift water, there is precious little sediment contained in the streambed aggregate because the water is swift enough that sediments simply cannot settle into the gravel. This swift water does not have to be very swift, I don’t have the formula for sediment deposition, however swift does not mean whitewater. Whitewater gravel contains very little sediment.
On the other hand, where the river has long quiet sections with precious little movement, they generally get an extra dose of sediment as the spring runoff recedes. The dirty and sediment laden water entering a long slow area will eventually drop a fair quantity of the sediments. The sediments tend to accumulate in these slower areas. Also, vast amounts of organics like leaves and pine needles also accumulate in the same locations. Thus if one is dredging samples to determine measurable sediment dispersal in the slower areas of rivers will likely produce the most sediment.
Therefore there is no way your science in the SDEIR can average the amount of gravel any one size nozzle can move without testing in a broad range of test conditions. Every stream has its own unique blend of aggregate, and holds its own volume of sediments, and will accordingly affect the volume a suction dredge can run per hour and affect how much sediment is discharged, and how far these sediments will travel before they settle out. Even then, if rotten slates, angular rocks, oblong rocks, and slivers of broken rock are in the mix, expect delays with clogged dredge hoses and re-calculate dredge efficiency.
Every mining engineer in the country will tell you that every placer mine has its own unique problems and requires equipment designed specifically for the gravel we are working. Dredging is no different, without DFG regulatory interference, we would choose a header box if clays or fused materials were a problem. If we were in clean well-rounded aggregate with minimal clays, we would choose a flair jet. If odd, sharp, irregular rock was a problem we might need a dredge hose 2 inches larger than the nozzle restriction ring. Depending on access, we might want to bring in a dredge that is large but easy to assemble. If we can back a trailer to the water we would launch a fully functional commercial dredge ready to start dredging. There are many more variables, such as selections of sluices and recovery systems when dealing with inordinate amounts of black sands. On, and on it goes, there are lots of variables. Lots of choices, but DFG has eliminated most of these choices with their unreasonable regulations since 1994, and now DFG is back at it with another draconian set of proposed rules.
The bottom line is that DFG is proposing more one size fits all regulations that make no genuine sense on multiple levels.
DFG – dirty little secret
Finally, with respect to the DFG dirty little secret, I finally had my “eureka” moment.
After all the DFG meetings on suction dredging over 16 years, I have always been astounded that when ever suction dredge miners go to a DFG meeting and bring in pounds of river heavy metals (all kinds of them) and bring this issue to the attention of DFG officers, they always shine us on. DFG simply moves on to another topic. This got me scratching my head wondering why an agency charged with the responsibility of protecting fish and wildlife (DFG) within our rivers would shine us on and ignore our input on such an environmentally important issue such as hazardous materials, asphalt, mercury and heavy metals.
Then, I dug through the SDEIR. And despite all the talk and analysis concerning our dredge tailings and possible contaminates that we might release in our water discharge may cause adverse impacts to the water quality. This is some cherry picked gnats ass analysis of microscopic proportions of this and that, followed by the infamous chapter 4.2 Water Quality and Toxicology section which is a laundry list of laws governing hazardous materials and water discharge and so forth. And this section if lawfully applicable to suction dredging appears deadly for miners in that it makes suction dredging nearly impossible to conduct, just as DFG, RWQCB and other cronies haves planned.
Then, I realized that DFG has found a clever way to get rid of suction dredge miners by analyzing sediment and hazardous waste discharge in minute quantities to demonstrate that suction dredge miners are the people who are responsible for polluting the streams and that the pollution must be controlled and minimized. DFG is essentially blaming suction dredge miners for releasing tiny amounts of microscopic heavy metals while ignoring the 600 pound gorilla in the room, namely the gross background pollution levels of the very rivers they claim we are polluting.
It is convoluted, it is like if I went to the countryside and found a pile of garbage and I decided, what the heck, I’ll throw it in my truck and haul it off to the dump, but on the way, a single piece of paper blew out of the back of my truck, and a cop sees it and promptly gives me a ticket for littering even though I had informed him I was doing a good deed cleaning up an eyesore.
What is happening in our rivers is precisely the same thing. We are dredging out toxic waste sites and being slapped with a ticket for releasing a few specks of this or that toxic material, when we have successfully removed thousands of times that much pollution from under the river gravel at the same exact point in the river.
OK, so, suction dredge miners are accused of polluting our water and allegedly killing fish. I started wondering, it didn’t make sense that despite all the trash and heavy metals we recover, DFG still has a hard on for miners and they are trying every trick in the book to get rid of us. Wonder why, Hum???
Then I started thinking about the recent instructions the EPA created for cleaning up a broken compact florescent light bulb containing mercury. It was a multi step, 3-hour ordeal to clean up after one broken light bulb. Only Government could create such instructions including cutting several square feet of wall-to-wall carpet out of my brand spanking new living room carpet!
Then too, I remembered that DFG tried a mercury collection system years ago and it abruptly stopped accepting mercury the same year. I always pondered why?
Then I also noted that the SDEIR is silentas to the actual biological health of our rivers. Really, there is next to nothing in the SDEIR that; documents, analyzes, studies, or diagnoses the health of each river and stream they are regulating under the SDEIR and proposed regulations. Again, it would seem to me that if we are going to be concerned about all the microscopic and minute quantities of pollution released from a suction dredge operation, then the river’s health and the level of background pollution that exists should be well documented in these public records and in the SDEIR.
Each and every river should be evaluated carefully. It would be wise to know the quantity and types of pollution that already exists, such as; Hazardous Materials; Asphalt, mercury, lead, copper, cast iron, steel, galvanized pipe, brass, bronze, silver solder, welding rod, and a bunch of other toxic metals DFG specifically listed in their SDEIR.
Next, I realized that in the SDEIR, DFG has avoided any discussion of pollution unless that discussion was directed specifically at the suction dredge miners and such discussions and conclusions would help DFG shut down the miners.
More head scratching ensued and I realized that as long as DFG denies gross pollution in our rivers, they will not be required to do the proper land planning; research, analysis, and they will not need to devise a reclamation plan, and invite the public to help them select alternatives to clean it up, and DFG will not need to put themselves in a position of having to deal with environmental laws, that right now, at this point in time, clearly demonstrates that DFG cannot lawfully do any river reclamation because all the environmental laws used against the suction dredge miners as provided in the SDEIR, would also apply to DFG and all contracted “reclamation dredging.”.
And, the only way that DFG could dream of beginning to clean up these super-fund sites (our rivers) is if all Federal, State, County laws are reviewed and amended. That means all environmental laws concerning water quality, Hazardous Materials, water quality, so that that the pollution (heavy metals +) that reclamation dredgers remove can be disposed of efficiently without the Haz-Mat team, white jump suits and clipboards.
Basically, the environmental Laws are so stringent and the regulators have been so convoluted as to make it so DFG cannot possibly comply with the very regulatory scheme these agencies have been cooking up and foisting upon the public for decades.
So what, what does it all mean? It means that finally the insane laws they helped foist upon all American Citizens are so ridiculous that DFG cannot accomplish its mission to protect fish and water quality. DFG is screwed itself.
It means that the environmental laws as they stand prohibit DFG from cleaning up our rivers. And, suction dredge miners are the only group of river users to observe and report these gross pollutants. Suction dredge miners are the only witness to this environmental crime of enormous magnitude. If DFG gets rid of suction dredge miners, there will be no one left to cry foul, and no one to report hazardous materials we routinely discover. It means DFG can play this game forever.
An old Latin phrase comes to mind, “Who’s watching the watchers?” Plato
It appears to be good advice, for now; there will indeed be high pressure on DFG regarding many of these closely related issues. I guarantee it.
So, DFG has had a plan for years and years, perhaps not documented, but a plan nonetheless. The plan has been for 20 or more years to remain mute on the pollution topic unless it benefits DFG. The plan is to leave all the haz-mat toxic waste, heavy metals and asphalt in place, out of site and out of mind. Do not study it, do not acknowledge it, simply do nothing and screw anybody that so much as breaks a twig or pans a little dirt at the creek.
This plan works great for DFG. As long as they do not publicly acknowledge the obvious pollution problems, they can wield power over the people under the guise of environmentally protecting species, fish and water quality. And DFG does not have to worry about cleaning anything up.
But if DFG publicly recognized or admittedthe rivers were full of the pollution I have identified and detailed throughout these comments, all hell would break loose. DFG would be compelled to immediately go about a thorough investigation of the background pollution levels in every river and stream. Samples would need to be taken with a suction dredge, and samples taken at bedrock throughout each stream would lead to a determination as to the quantities and nature of the pollution in each stream or river. Then the data would be compiled for a state wide EIS to determine how best certain rivers should be cleaned up first; and what equipment would be needed for a clean up, and would require DFG to work with State and Federal Legislators to make significant changes to a broad spectrum of environmental laws and regulations so that reclamation work could be planned and carried out without undue delay and regulatory nightmares.
This IS a very big deal. As this unfolds, heads are going to roll. There will be committee and subcommittee investigations to determine how and why it took a mere suction dredge miner to expose the biggest fraud upon the citizens of California that has been exposed in recent years. Wait till they start verifying the arithmetic, and the insane levels of lead contamination compliments of DFG!
Our Current Status
So, in the final analysis;
DFG has simply turned a blind eye to proven and known river pollution for their exclusive benefit at the expense of the fish, water quality, humans, and environment.
DFG has done every thing in their power including using the SDEIR biased science to stop, hamper, impede and materially interfere with any and all suction dredge heavy metals and hazardous materials clean up of our rivers since 1994.
DFG has elected to allow major flood events to continue to push – mercury, heavy metals pollutants, asphalt, and other Hazardous Materials – further down “entire watersheds” into deeper waters and deeper gravels throughout the State of California.
DFG has and will continue to deliberately allow mercury to be blown downstream throughout our watersheds to “flour” with each and every flood event and to spread mercury far and wide so that it will become impossible to clean up at some point in the near future.
DFG is insuring water quality will degrade by ignoring the mercury, heavy metals, asphalt, and hazardous materials problems – (while at the same time blaming suction dredge miners for the release of minute quantities pollution we dare let escape our dredges).
Wrapping it up
The proposed regulations do not provide an alternative method of retrieving gold (our property) from a river or stream.
The proposed regulations plainly prohibit and/or unreasonably restrict miners from extracting their property (gold) and DFG has failed to provide other lawful alternative methods for miners to economically recover their gold from their mineral deposits.
DFG freely admits that 4” and 6” dredges are considered recreational in nature, and 8 – 10 inch and larger dredges are commercial. Mining under the mining law is a commercial activity and DFG proposed regulations will prohibit bona fide suction dredge miners from using the proper size commercial dredge for the safe and economic extraction of the valuable minerals and the toxic heavy metals.
DFG proposed regulations are suitable for recreational activities on lands not subject to the mining laws. The dredge size restrictions and winching restrictions are a significant safety concern and will lead to cave-ins, injury and death.
It is my understanding that a number of other forest and river user groups and environmentalists groups are diligently working very hard with DFG to ensure DFG imposes the regulations from hell in their gambit to stop all mining in what they view as their private playground.
Frankly, DFG has not defended the dredging community for decades, in fact DFG has made us the “Fall Guys.” Worse, as far as I can tell, DFG has done every thing imaginable in the SDEIR to embarrass, belittle, diminish, and punish suction dredge miners.
DFG simply has not educated the public as to the significant benefits suction dredge miners provide at NO cost to the taxpayers or the government. We remove these heavy metals in the course of extracting minerals. And we are happy to do so. We don’t do it for DFG, we do it because it is the right thing to do.
And something else important, there are those people out there that are just plain environmental junkies with no genuine or honest knowledge of what we are doing in the rivers, namely volunteer reclamation work.
They complain of the noise of our engines. I say you tell them to either; go to the river and help clean it up, or, shut up.
They have been fed propaganda that mining is stealing from the people, and the US Citizens aren’t getting their fair cut. I say tell them to go on line and properly educate themselves before badgering the only group of people cleaning up your freaking toxic playground.
There are folks jealous because we do get gold and perhaps they can’t. I say tell them to go home and quit whining.
Dredgers have removed all manner of garbage and heavy metals for decades, something that no other user group can do or wants to do, and something DFG cannot do or cannot afford to do, but we are still under relentless attack and we get no credit for our invaluable service.
Take Permits and incidental Take Permits
I am extremely baffled about the idea that suction dredging has been going on for 40 years, and in all those years, and in this DSEIR there is precious little hard evidence of any discernable harm. Sure, there is bound to be some turbidity and silt, but at the same time we create new clean gravel beds and we remove heavy metals in the process.
So, apparently DFG’s position is that dredging allegedly may cause minimal harm to certain aquatic species. BFD – OMG
But here’s the kicker! Hunters get a hunting license to go kill a deer, or perhaps the hunter also buys an elk tag, and a duck stamp and so forth. And fishermen do the same thing, they can buy a license for trout, tags for a certain number salmon and steelhead and so forth. All these licenses and tags are is a “take permit.”
DFG is selling citizens permission to go kill lots of critters and fish. In fact, I am surprised that DFG sells fishing licenses to citizens who are taunting, harassing, and injuring fish simply because they enjoy doing it. Fishermen call it catch and release. DFG should call it harassing a species by definition. Look, if a man wants to catch and eat a fish, go for it. If a man wants to burn gasoline, and harass fish for the hell of it, he shouldn’t be permitted to do so, especially since the introduction of the lead issue alone screams STOP.
On the other hand, suction dredge miners are required to purchase a dredge permit. Miners go out into the forest with a mission to find gold.Note: Unlike hunters and fishermen, miners are not out in the forests on a specific mission to go kill critters or fish.
What is bothersome is that assuming that dredging might cause some harm to certain species here and there, then why doesn’t our dredge permit come with a take permit or incidental take permit to offset the alleged loss???
Also, worthy of note is that when a person driving runs over a deer, a skunk or whatever, the drivers license comes with an incidental take permit built in for the incidental take of a species. Dredge permits should be no different.
It is just plain weird that dredgers pay good money for a dredging permit and we are not entitled to inadvertently kill anything including vegetation!
Yet, many of the other forest users go purchase “take permits” from DFG and go up to our rivers and go on a premeditated killing spree. Even I could purchase hunting and fishing licenses and tags and I could have a grand old time slaying various species on purpose! Hell I’ll go out and get me a license so I can go taunt, terrorize, and kill trout for the pure fun of it. Why not, all the other sportsmen are licensed to kill, why not me? And you guys at DFG would happily sell me permission so that I too could go kill stuff – including on my mining claims – on purpose and just for jollies.
So it appears to me that DFG should simply issue a general dredge permit, dump the provisions I have already discussed at length, and DFG should incorporate a take permit into a suction dredge permit so that suction dredge miners can lawfully go out and kill stuff too. Meaning that in the rare event dredging inadvertently harms some species or habitat, the take permit acts as a license to occasionally and inadvertently kill or harm some species or fish.
On one hand DFG suggests that silt might harm some fish eggs, but if we pay DFG for a fishing license we can catch and eat our daily limit, no problem…I imagine we could also trap crawdads if that has not been outlawed. It makes no sense for DFG to castrate the very hard working men (suction dredge miners) who have been the greatest benefit to our river environments, greater than all other user groups and all State and Federal agencies combined.
The proposed regulations as published appear to be “use prejudice” against a minority group and a less favored group namely suction dredge miners. Therefore it is bizarre that DFG insists upon destroying suction dredging by imposing unwarranted restrictions in the proposed regulations, that is, until one realizes the dirty little secrets DFG and the other agencies have been hiding behind for decades.
I remember an old TV advertisement from the 1970’s depicting a Native American with a tear in his eye as he observed gross surface pollution and trash in the environment. Does anybody recall any actual comprehensive cleanup campaign dealing with our rivers and streams? I certainly do not. The garbage is still there, and it got at least two more doses of pollution with the last two major floods alone.
And finally, it is a crying shame I had to go through all this trouble commenting on the proposed regulations and the SDEIR. I would have not had to do all this if DFG had truly analyzed the condition of our rivers and took responsibility for the garbage issues years ago, and established a plan, and goals for the immediate cleanup of our rivers. I could not be more disgusted with the Biased science in the SDEIR, the ridiculous proposed regulations, and the vast pollution DFG has hidden from the people of this state for decades.
I forwarded my comments to my mining contacts and they are forwarding to fellow miners as per my instructions. I will be using these comments as notes for a concise report covering the most profound parts of these comments. I will be forwarding these to the appropriate Committees and Subcommittees for review with more concise calculations and estimates as needed.
The interest in the pollution problem with heavy metals we find routinely has gained significant traction. The miners are all eager to bring in buckets of heavy metals, a testament to the obvious disaster going on in many of these rivers. And a whole lot of them are eager to testify and provide evidence of; garbage, evidence of notifying DFG about those concerns over many years and where the pollution was found. It simply illustrates DFG turning a blind eye to the problem.
I am confused about the public comment period. I understood the period was extended for another public hearing and would be accepting comments. The Horizon coversheet says to keep available until April 29th the date the 60 day review concludes. Even if I screwed this up and these comments are rejected, they are in active circulation and the nature of your problems will escalate. Truth is truth, and we are getting steam rolled, so understand that from our perspective and seeing what all of us have seen starts to make sense when you start doing a little math.
I am sorry that I lacked time to assemble all the input I got in a more streamlined document. No secretary, no staff, and no time. Cutting. Pasting and editing input as I did it confused the organization a bit, but the thrust of the comments will suffice for now.
Please advise me ASAP if these comments are rejected or not considered. Use my e-mail address to contact me.
Thank you for your attention in these important matters,
Donald E. Eno