Talking points in opposition to AB 1032:

Assembly Bill 1032 has been amended to allow the California Department of Fish & Game (DFG) to arbitrarily close nearly all of California’s waterways to suction dredging. It would be bad policy for California to prevent Americans from making beneficial use of resources which attract visitors to the State, when such activity is not causing any harm!

DFG is clearly attempting to circumvent due process laws regarding the right of the public to notice and hearing which are required by the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and the California Administrative Procedures Act.

This past year, when DFG attempted to change suction dredge regulations through a court settlement with the Karuk Tribe, Judge Bonnie Sabraw of Alameda Superior Court stated: “The initial Stipulated Judgment would enjoin suction dredge mining altogether in certain areas and during certain periods in others. The closures of the rivers would be generally applicable to all suction dredging while in effect. The injunction would essentially act as promulgation of new regulations on suction dredging, without such regulations being subjected, as required by law, to the public notice and hearing requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act and the California Administrative Procedures Act.” She further stated that, “The intervener Miners had sought discovery of the expert witnesses of Plaintiffs and of the facts on which the experts based their opinion. Plaintiffs and Department sought Protective Orders enjoining the discovery“. 

Miners are not unreasonable people. We have only asked for proof that small scale suction dredging is causing any problems to fishery resources. None were forthcoming from DFG, and they continue to refuse disclosure of any evidence that suction dredging under existing regulations is harmful to fish!

Results from scientific investigations, presented within the Environmental Impact Reports, prepared by the State of California, Clearwater National Forest and Siskiyou National Forest, provide substantial evidence to support the determination that small-scale suction dredging is de minimis and impacts from these dredges are less than significant.” These documents are the culmination of literature searches for scientific evidence regarding the impacts of small-scale suction dredging on the environment and consultations with stakeholders and concerned citizens.

The Siskiyou National Forest engaged Dr. Peter B. Bayley, Dept. Fisheries & Wildlife, Oregon State University, to conduct a “Cumulative Effects Analysis” on the effects of suction dredging forest-wide. Dr. Bayley concluded: “The statistical analyses did not indicate that suction dredge mining has no effect on the three responses measured, but rather any effect that may exist could not be detected at the commonly used Type I error rate of 0.05.” (In other words, if there is an effect, it’s so small they can’t measure it.) He further stated that “The reader is reminded of the effect of scale. Localized, short-term effects of suction dredge mining have been documented in a qualitative sense. However, on the scales occupied by fish populations such local disturbances would need a strong cumulative intensity of many operations to have a measurable effect.” He summarized his study by stating that, “Given that this analysis could not detect an effect averaged over good and bad miners and that a more powerful study would be very expensive, it would seem that public money would be better spent on encouraging compliance with current guidelines than on further study.”

The small-scale mining community is entirely prepared to meet our adversaries in a fair public process of debate concerning the impacts from our activity. That is the forum which is provided by CEQA under the existing laws. But we strongly object to what is being attempted through AB 1032, which is to allow DFG the authority to shut us down with no due process whatsoever!