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» Karuk’s Challenge to California Dredging Regulations 1
Dave Mack

“Here is an explaination of the Karuk Tribe Lawsuit against the California DFG to change dredging regulations…”

Hello Everyone,

We will be firming up details better as we move forward with this, but here are the facts as we know them:

1) At just about the same time that the Karuks lost their lawsuit in Federal Court (suit to stop in-stream mining within the Klamath National Forest) last spring, they quietly filed another lawsuit against the California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) to stop in-stream mining within the Klamath National Forest.

2) The reason we never heard about the pending litigation in California, is that the Karuk’s chose to file their lawsuit down in the bay area, far distant from the specific areas of mining they are attempting to shut down. According to DFG, it is not their policy to inform the communities which could be negatively impacted by ongoing litigation, even when settlement agreements might affect those communities.

3) More recently, DFG and the Karuks came to a settlement agreement within the litigation. We have not yet been able to obtain a copy of that agreement, because the Karuk’s refuse to give us a copy, and DFG has not responded to our request for a copy.

4) But we do have some idea of how the proposed settlement will affect us, because DFG has already begun to implement modified dredge regulations as they apply to the waterways within the Klamath National Forest.

5) According to the modified regulations which are now being sent out by DFG, the Klamath, Scott and upper Salmon rivers have been reduced to a dredging season between 1 July through 15 September – and all dredging has been eliminated along the lower Salmon River, Indian Creek, Elk Creek, and other waterways. You can read the notice in the beginning of the DFG regulations.

6) All of this without a single notice to the thousands of people that will be negatively impacted by these changes!

The existing DFG dredging regulations are supported by a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that was completed during the mid-1990’s. That entire process played out over the course of several years, with representatives from the mining community, environmentalists, organized rafting groups and many others taking an active roll in the process. The California Administrative Procedures Act (APA) requires State agencies to follow a very structured public process before it may adopt or change any regulations that could have a negative consequence upon communities within the State.

Through the course of this litigation, we are now going to find out if California law allows a State Agency to set aside all of the work that has been accomplished through a public process like this, and just give it all away to radical environmentalists in a (behind closed doors) court settlement – without so much as a single word to the thousands of people who will lose property rights. My best guess is that they do not have the authority to do that!

As this negative situation directly impacts upon the rights of our members, and we are already in litigation with the Karuk Tribe, we have agreed with other leaders within the greater mining community that The New 49’ers will take the lead in fighting these modified dredge regulations that have just been issued by DFG.

We have already retained James Buchal and some of his associates to represent us. James was the lead attorney who helped us defeat the Karuks earlier this year in the federal litigation. He also helped small-scale miners in southern Oregon defeat similar litigation by the very same radical environmentalists just within the past few months.

The good news is that our attorneys have already contacted the Court where this State litigation is pending, and the settlement agreement (which DFG is already implementing) has not yet been signed by the judge! Our attorneys have already alerted the judge in this case that miners will be negatively impacted and wish to be heard before any judgment or settlement is made final. While I have not seen anything in writing, I gather that the judge is going to allow us to make a presentation in a hearing scheduled for 20 December.

While we are still studying this case, and we will need to listen closely to the advice of the experts we have hired to help us, we will be pushing to have the settlement agreement withdrawn, and DFG’s modified dredge regulations withdrawn until conclusive proof is presented that:

1) Dredging activity under the pre-existing regulations is creating some meaningful amount of harm to the COHO Salmon.

2) That modified regulations will protect those specific concerns in such a way as to create the least amount of cost or damage to the user groups and communities which will be affected by the modified regulations.

3) That all persons who will be affected by regulatory changes are given a reasonable opportunity to become involved.

I could be wrong about this, but I believe DFG does not have the authority to impose further restrictions upon suction dredgers without going through the full APA process, unless they can demonstrate that emergency changes to the regulations are justified – by presenting conclusive evidence of harm to a protected species.

All the Karuks ever presented in the federal litigation were generalities. No specifics.

Generalities won’t do!

As long as the judge in the existing litigation will hear us, we will be pushing to set aside any changes to the pre-existing dredge regulations until DFG can demonstrate that an actual emergency does exist and can support the concern with specific information.

If it s too late in the existing litigation to be heard, we will need to file a lawsuit of our own against DFG for violating the Administrative Procedures Act and the California Environmental Quality Act. Both of these important laws require DFG to include us in any process that will affect our business. We have not been included!

If it is not already on the books (and it ought to be), it is time to get some clear case law published that State agencies have no authority to write off the whole public trust by selling out the rights of others to radical extremists in a court settlement! What good does it do to go through the whole public process, if attorneys can later go behind closed doors and decide to give it all away in a court settlement?

I hope you guys agree with me in this plan, because it is going to cost money that we do not have in the bank, yet.

Fortunately, we all stepped up to the plate and we were able to pay off all our earlier legal expenses within a short period of time. I am very thankful for that, because now we have earned some credibility with the specialists who give us support when we need it. It was because of that credit that we have been able to react so quickly in this case. We have our foot in the door because the settlement agreement between DFG and the Karuks has not been signed off by the judge yet.

By the way, we also have found out that the Karuks have no federally-recognized fishing rights. Yet DFG has a policy of allowing them to net salmon out of the river all they want, without any kind of fishing license. The Karuk’s are netting Salmon out of the river and killing them at the very same time the COHO salmon they wish to protect is migrating upstream to lay its eggs. So while DFG has made a settlement behind closed doors to curtail the suction dredging activity (not a single recorded case of a dredger ever harming a COHO salmon), they continue a policy of allowing Karuks to net out as many salmon as the want — even though it is directly against the law!

Does this make you guys as mad as it makes me? I agree with several of the forum posts that it is time for the miners to take an offensive stand against our adversaries. This looks like a good place to start!

For our part, winning this battle is mostly going to be about raising money to pay the specialists on our side. So, once again, I am putting out the call for you guys to please raise at least several thousand dollars as quickly as possible. We need to get ahead of the curve on this one!

I especially want to thank Harry Lipca who always seems to be one of the first in our industry to detect potential problems coming our way.

Also, 49’er Mike who has worked tirelessly on our behalf since this problem has surfaced. Mike is one of the best critical managers that I know. We are really lucky to have him on our team!

More soon, as the news develops.

Dave Mack

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