As gold hits $1,700/oz. dredgers lament lost income
Mountain Democrat
January 31, 2012 | Posted by Dawn Hodson 

Rick Eddy and Steve Tyler are gold bugs who think they are being robbed.

Their problem is that they are suction dredgers. They ply the rivers in their raft-sized crafts in search of gold. Until recently they were able to make a good living at it. Department of Fish and Game regulations allowed any California resident or non-resident to obtain a suction dredge mining permit after paying a nominal fee. On average 3,650 of these permits were issued every year.

However in July of 2009, in response to a lawsuit brought against the DFG by the Karuk Tribe of California, the DFG stopped issuing suction dredge permits. The lawsuit contended that DFG’s administration of the suction dredging program violated the California Environmental Quality Act and various provisions of the Fish and Game Code.

Then in August of 2009, all California in-stream suction dredge mining was suspended when Gov. Schwarzenegger signed SB 670. The bill prohibited the use of vacuum or suction dredge equipment in any California river, stream or lake regardless if someone had an existing permit.

This law was followed by Assembly Bill 120, which was signed by Gov. Brown on July 26, 2011. The bill established a moratorium on all suction dredging until June 30, 2016.

These different measures have drawn an angry response from miners and local leaders. The El Dorado County Board of Supervisors has sent multiple resolutions to the governor and state Legislature asking them to rescind or amend SB 670 and AB 120. Supervisor Ray Nutting has taken the lead in sponsoring many of these resolutions.

“Nine out of 10 people using this method (of dredging) are doing so for recreational purposes only,” Nutting said. “These are good people and the impact of what they do is minimal. In fact suction dredging can actually improve the environment by removing mercury or other debris in the stream bed. Politics is dealing yet another death-blow to our economy.”

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