||New 49'ers Discover Loop
Hole in California Suction Dredge Ban
In a recent article entitled "Suction mining underwater without a “dredge!”", Dave McCracken of the New 49ers out of Happy Camp, California discusses his recent investigation into California's ban on suction dredging. In particular, he discusses the recent discovery of a legal loophole in California's already illegal anti-mining legislation.
Says, McCracken, "Let
me begin this by informing you that I am not a licensed attorney. Therefore,
I am prohibited by law from providing legal advice. So the material here
should just be taken as my own opinion based upon the factual material
which I will present to you. You guys are free to form your own opinions
and take responsibility for your own actions. Having said that, I
will also inform you that our attorney has reviewed the following explanation
and agrees that government officials are bound by the very language that
they enforce upon us – and that my reasoning here is sound.
In response to my question,
one of our more informed members sent me a copy of the California Department
of Fish & Game’s (DFG) current suction dredge regulations which clearly
state that “A person is suction dredging as defined when all of the following
components are working together: (A) a hose which vacuums sediment from
a river stream or lake; and (B) A motorized pump; and (C) A sluice box.”
The regulations further state, “Every person who operates the suction nozzle
of any suction dredge shall have a suction dredge permit in his or her
immediate possession.” These regulations are current now, having been formally
adopted in California on April 27, 2012.
But looking closer at
the California regulations, there does remain a way for us to go down on
the bottom of California’s waterways and suction up the shallower, higher-grade
gravels. This is because, as defined by DFG’s own formal regulations,
as long as we remove the sluice box from our motorized suction system,
we are not operating a “suction dredge.” Said another way, there
is an opportunity to use a motorized suction system to transfer high-grade
gravel from one place in the river or creek to another location where the
gravel can be more-easily processed in a separate system.
I am in possession of written communication from a high ranking DFG official, the very person who was in charge of developing the current regulations, which acknowledges that underwater suction-powered gravel transfer would not be considered “suction dredging” as long as the sluice box is removed from the system. He also cautioned that there are water quality concerns and also streambed alteration considerations. So there would be some limits involved."
Reproduced for educational
purposes under the Fair Use Doctrine, ref. 17 USC 107