SACRAMENTO, 11 August 2009 – Last Thursday, August 6, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger took a positive step on behalf of the people of California and the State’s environment when he signed Senate Bill 670 (Wiggins) into law, thereby placing an immediate moratorium on a form of recreational gold mining known as suction dredging.
In the suction dredging process, miners place large hoses powered by gas and diesel motors into California’s rivers and streams to vacuum up the river bed in search of gold, while affecting critical fish habitat and remobilizing toxic Gold Rush era mercury. Mercury has been listed as the #1 contaminant in California fish.
The moratorium on suction dredging created by SB 670 will remain in effect until a court mandated environmental study by the California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) is completed and new rules are put in place to protect fish habitat and human health from the deleterious effects of suction dredging.
Elizabeth “Izzy” Martin, CEO of the Sierra Fund commented on the Governor’s signing of SB 670, saying, “We’re happy that Governor Schwarzenegger has agreed that this form of mining needs to be halted until the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) study by DFG is done. DFG has stated publicly that their current rules do not deal with the problems posed by dredging in California’s mercury-impacted waterways, and this moratorium will give them a chance to review suction dredge mining practices and develop new policies and procedures to protect California’s water quality and fish habitat.”
“Thank you to Senator Wiggins for authoring this bill, and to a wide range of California native tribes, environmental organizations, commercial fishing representatives, sports fishing groups and many dedicated individuals who have worked hard and long on this issue, and also to the many State Legislators who worked to get this bill to the Governor so he could sign it,” Martin added.