ACTION ALERT: SB 670 Suction Dredging Bill Heading to Senate Floor

SB 670 by Senator Pat Wiggins (D-Santa Rosa),  requiring the California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) to temporarily halt issuing all suction dredge mining permits, has passed out of Senate Appropriations Committee and is heading to the Senate floor.  It may be taken up for a vote by the full Senate as soon as Thursday May 21, 2009.  

SB 670 is an urgency bill, meaning it would take effect immediately upon the Governor’s signature.  Urgency bills require a 2/3 affirmative vote by the Senate, or 27 yes votes (out of a total of 40).  If SB 670 passes the floor it will move to the Assembly where it will be scheduled for hearings before appropriate policy and fiscal committees.

If SB 670 passes, the moratorium on issuing permits would last until DFG completes its court-ordered environmental review and resulting overhaul of regulations governing the practice.  It is estimated that this will save the Department nearly $1 million in costs to administer a program that does not pay for itself, and allow it to dedicate saved funding toward paying for the EIR necessary to complete regulatory review.

DFG was ordered by the California courts to conduct an environmental review and rule change as a result of a Karuk Tribe lawsuit filed in 2005. The courts ordered DFG to complete the review and make appropriate rule changes by July 2008, but they have not met this deadline.

Suction dredging disturbs fish habitat, putting endangered species such as Coho salmon and green sturgeon at risk.  In addition, repeated government studies have shown that suction dredge activities disturb and mobilize the mercury left behind from gold mining operations. There is little credible scientific doubt about the impact of suction dredging in “flouring” mercury, nor the increased potential for methylation that can result.  Methylmercury has been a regulatory concern of the State for years due its known serious effect on human health. 

The bill is supported by Karuk Tribe, California Tribal Business Alliance, CalTrout, Planning and Conservation League, Sierra Club California, Sierra Nevada Alliance, Clean Water Action and The Sierra Fund. It is opposed by the New 49’ers and Siskiyou County. A full listing of organizations that support or oppose the bill plus the analysis of the bill can be found at this link:

Fax a letter to your Senator today about SB 670!

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