February 27, 2012
Suction Dredge Program
Revisions to Proposed Amendments
California Dept. of Fish and Game
601 Locust St.
Redding, CA 96001
Dear California Department of Fish and Game,
I would like to comment on the revisions to the proposed amendments to California suction dredging regulations. I found that the proposed regulations are biased against suction dredging, ignore available scientific data, and are based on flawed and biased opinions and information. I believe that the proposed regulations will cause financial harm to me and infringes on my right to pursue happiness. I therefore object to the proposed regulations in their entirety. I request that they be declared null and void. Dredging should be allowed to continue under the regulations that were put in effect after the 1994 changes. The 1994 regulations are more stringent than those that were established after the previous report dated June 1982.
Although I object to the proposed revisions in their entirety, I am listing a few of the individual items that I object to. For example, the proposed regulations arbitrarily limit the amount of permits to 1,500 annually. This is a reduction from the previously proposed 4,000 annual permits and is a departure from more than 50 years of suction dredging history in California when originally there were no permits required at all. Eventually a permit process was established, but until now, there has never been a restriction on the number of permits issued. A report issued in June of 1982 by the CDFG stated there were more than 13,000 permits issued in 1980, yet the report did not find that there was a need to limit the amount of permits being issued at that time. In fact, the 1982 study found that there were no additive effects detected on streams where a number of dredges were being operated. A 1994 report by the CDFG states “the cumulative effects of suction dredging would appear to be less than significant and not deleterious to fish.” These findings support my contention that the number of permits should not be limited as currently proposed and would also indicate that there is no basis for dredges to have to operate at least 500 feet apart as would be required under the proposed amendments.
Another new regulation that is unwarranted is a restriction to operate dredges only between the hours of 10 am and 4 pm. There is no study that indicates operating dredges outside of these hours will be deleterious to fish. Again, the 1982 study was conducted when dredges could operate at any time, day or night, and did not find this to be an issue. The 1994 changes also did not see fit to limit the time for suction dredging either.
Another example is the reduction in nozzle size allowed for dredging. Again, this is a change from the previous regulations that is being made even though there is no evidence that dredging with nozzle sizes allowed under the 1994 regulations was deleterious to fish or the environment.
Another requirement that has been added without justification is for dredgers to level their tailing piles. The 1982 CDFG study found that after the winter season, no trace of dredging activity in the study sites was evident. The 1994 study states that “Flushing flows, which redistribute tailing piles and fill in dredger holes, can greatly reduce the long-term impact of dredging.” Because both studies found that there was no lasting effect from leaving dredge tailing piles, it is not reasonable to create a solution for a problem that does not exist.
The new regulations also ask for fuel containment systems to be installed on dredges. This requirement singles out dredgers. I am not aware of fuel containment systems being required under outboard engines or fuel systems on fishing boats, motorized rafts, jet skis, or other watercraft. Why then are they being required on dredges? Dredges were not designed to have such containment systems and it could be difficult to install even though there is no evidence that I am aware of that indicates any fuel systems have ruptured spilling the full amount of the system. In fact, the 1994 study states “There have not been any reported cases of harm to plant or wildlife as a result of oil or gas spills associated with suction dredging.” In addition, the new regulations would require fuel to be stored 100 feet away from the water level. Is this same requirement being enforced for operators of all watercraft? I have personally witnessed fishermen storing extra fuel in containers in their boats on the water let alone 100 feet away.
Another new regulation is a prohibition against dredging within 3’-0” of a bank or mid stream gravel bar. This will have the effect of closing any stream or portion of a river less than about 10 or 12 feet wide, since six feet of the stream would be off limits and the dredge would need a reasonable amount of stream bottom to operate. The 1994 regulations prohibit dredging into the bank of any stream, lake or river. I am not aware of any in-water study done that would justify changing the regulations as enforced since 1994.
I also believe that a report card should not be required. It could potentially be used by others to find out where dredgers are operating. This could lead to security concerns for dredgers, especially those working in remote locations. I also believe that this shows prejudice against dredgers since anglers can fish in many locations without having to fill out a report card.
The new regulations have also made changes from the 1994 listing of river classifications without sufficient justification. In addition, the new regulations do not mention the proposed cost of a dredging permit. For the above stated reasons along with many others, I would like to reiterate that I most strongly object to the proposed amended dredge regulations in their entirety.