Suction Dredge Info


Interested Parties

Today, July 26, 2011, Assembly Bill 120 was approved by Governor Brown.
This legislation amends seven different codes within California State
law including the Fish and Game Code. Two paragraphs in this bill refer
to suction dredge mining and have substantial impacts on the process to
conduct environmental review and adopt amended regulations guiding
suction dredge mining in California.

The Department of Fish and Game released draft regulations and a
related Draft Subsequent Environmental Impact Report (SEIR) for public
review on February 28, 2011. We held six public meetings and accepted
public comments through May 10, 2011. At that time we projected that we
would be adopting new regulations and certifying the Final SEIR by the
end of 2011. This would then have permitted the sale of suction dredge
permits under newly adopted regulations.

Assembly Bill 120 affects this effort in four important ways.

First, it establishes an end date for the current moratorium of June
30, 2016. The current moratorium was established by SB 670, and took
effect on August 9, 2009, without any specific end date. The new law
specifies that the moratorium will end on June 30, 2016, regardless of
whether DFG completes court-ordered environmental review of its existing
permitting program or adopts new regulations. Of course, further
legislation or action by the courts could modify that circumstance.

Second, AB 120 requires that any “new regulations fully mitigate all
identified significant environmental impacts.” As directed by the
Alameda County Superior Court and SB 670, DFG prepared the Draft SEIR to
meet requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). In
addition to CEQA, AB 120 now requires DFG to meet a “fully mitigate”
standard for any adopted suction dredge mining regulations in order for
the new moratorium to end any earlier than June 30, 2016. “Fully
mitigate” is not defined in statute or regulation, however, and
previously the term has only been used in the Fish and Game Code in
section 2081, subdivision (b), of the California Endangered Species Act.

Third, a new condition, required by AB 120 is “a fee structure is in
place that will fully recover all costs to the department related to the
administration of the program.” DFG takes the view that the current
fee structure is not sufficient to support the level of effort which
should be devoted to implementing our authority to regulate suction
dredge gold mining. In addition to the administrative costs of selling
permits, DFG believes we should have environmental scientists funded
through suction dredge permit fees to conduct on-site inspections as
needed prior to issuing permits and also to monitor suction dredge
mining to collect data on effects on aquatic and terrestrial organisms
and habitat. Further, suction dredge permit fees should provide funding
for game wardens to inspect, monitor and enforce compliance with any new
regulations. Under current law, however, the fee structure for DFG’s
permitting program is prescribed by statute.  Any change to that
structure is beyond the authority of DFG and any such change will
require action by the California Legislature and related approval by the
Governor.  Because of the legislative calendar for submittal of new
legislation and the legislative process itself, it is very unlikely that
any change to the existing fee structure will occur within the 2011
calendar year.

Finally, the previous moratorium established by SB 670 was clear that
DFG needed to take several actions (i.e. comply with CEQA and adopt
amended regulations) which would then allow suction dredge mining to
resume, under the new regulations. Said another way, DFG had the final
State approval to complete the process, subject only to the Alameda
County Superior Court’s concurrence. AB 120 adds a legislative step,
described in the previous paragraph. Simply put, the legislature will
need to affirmatively approve a new fee structure, before suction dredge
mining can resume under new regulations. The perspectives of legislators
about sufficiency of a fee structure and suction dredge mining generally
will affect the probability of such legislation being approved.

With this set of new facts in front of DFG, we are evaluating the
extent to which the work we have already done can be used under the
requirements of AB 120, and how we might proceed. We do not yet have a
revised workplan or schedule. However, our previous projection that this
process would be complete by the end of 2011 is no longer viable. It
will likely be several weeks from now before we have determined what we
will need to proceed and how we can do so. I will provide additional
information to the recipients of this message when there is something
new to report. 

Mark Stopher
Environmental Program Manager
California Department of Fish and Game
601 Locust Street
Redding, CA 96001


From: DFG
To: Interested parties


On May 10, 2011 the public review period for the draft regulations and Draft Subsequent EIR concluded. We received mail, email and fax comments from over 10,000 individuals and organizations. More than 90% were essentially form letters or emails containing variations of similar messages either opposing or supporting mining. Over 800 people attended the six public meetings and many of them spoke or hand delivered additional comments. We are currently reading, sorting and organizing the comments. As we do so we are evaluating what information is influential in reconsidering the impact assessment and draft regulations and preparing to respond in the Final SEIR to the comments. That work continues on a schedule which would complete the regulatory process in November 2011. I cannot imagine any scenario where suction dredge gold mining will lawfully resume before then. 


I have received many phone calls regarding recent actions by the State Assembly and Senate budget subcommittees last week. Both subcommittees last week adopted budget language recommended by legislative staff which proposes to extend the moratorium on suction dredge mining for five years unless all impacts (presumably those identified in the Draft SEIR) of suction dredging are fully mitigated and a new fee structure is in place to fully cover all program costs. The language would also prohibit the Department of Fish and Game from expending any funds for suction dredge permitting and regulations (except for enforcement of the moratorium and litigation). It appears this would terminate the regulation/EIR process currently underway. Since the subcommittee actions are part of the larger budget process, none of the above takes effect unless specified in the final budget bill signed by the Governor.   The Department of Fish and Game did not initiate or sponsor this legislative action and I first became aware that this was on the subcommittee agenda on the afternoon of May 10. I do not know what the prospects are for these actions to be modified, approved or rejected.


DFG  follows direction provided by the legislature and Governor. Our current direction (via SB 670 and a Court Order) is to develop new regulations and comply with the California Environmental Quality Act. I anticipate we will continue on that course until and unless the legislature and Governor direct us otherwise.



Mark Stopher

Environmental Program Manager

California Department of Fish and Game



Update from DFG to Interested Parties

Quite a few of you attended one or more of the five public meetings held to date. Please be aware that a sixth meeting is scheduled for May 10, 2011 from 9:00 to noon in the California Natural Resources Agency auditorium at 1416 Ninth Street in Sacramento. This additional meeting was scheduled to assure compliance with requirements of the Administrative Procedures Act. This meeting will not include a preliminary workshop. There will be a very brief set of opening remarks by the Department of Fish and Game and we will then go into receiving public comment. The public review period will conclude on May 10, 2011.

The public meetings were attended by more than 700 interested individuals and the speakers supporting restoration of suction dredge mining were clearly in the majority. We have received comments through regular mail, email, fax and hand-delivery; and these represent a wide diversity of perspectives. Usually, the bulk of comments in a public review period arrive just before the period closes. If that holds for this project, I am expecting a significant influx. What we already have is substantial.

In addition to the DSEIR, you may be interested in reviewing additional documents related to the Administrative Procedures Act which are posted on our website

Thanks to Don Bruechle for forwarding this.


{{{{{ Section 228 }}}}}

Suction Dredging

(c) Permit Applicationshall contain all of the following information:

(2) A list of up to six locations where the permit applicant plans to suction dredge. Location information shall include either:

(A) County, river or stream or lake name, township, range, section, quarter section, base, and meridian; or
(B) Approximate centerpoint of the location using latitude and longitude.

For each location the California Active Mining Claim number, if applicable, and approximate dates of proposed dredging shall be listed.

(3) A list of all suction dredge equipment that will be used under the permit, including nozzle size, constrictor ring size (if needed), engine manufacturer and model number, and horsepower.

(g) Number of Permits.

The Department shall issue a maximum of 4,000 permits annually, on a first-come, first-serve basis.

(j) Equipment Requirements

(1) Nozzle Restriction.

No suction dredge having an intake nozzle with an inside diameter larger than four inches may be used unless:

(A) The Department has conducted an on-site inspection and approved a larger nozzle size in writing; the maximum inside diameter of the intake nozzle is no larger than six inches, or eight inches where allowable under Section 228, subdivision (j)(1)(E); and

(B) The permittee has a valid suction dredge permit; and

(C) The permittee has in their possession documentation of compliance with Fish and Game Code section 1602, subdivision (a), for the proposed suction dredging
operation, including a copy of his/her notification to the Department; any response to the notification by the Department pursuant to Fish and Game Code Section 1602, subdivision(a)(4)(A)(i); and specific authorization from the Department for a vacuum nozzle greater than 4” in diameter if a Streambed Alteration Agreement is required;


(D) A constricting ring with an inside diameter not larger than four inches has been attached to the intake nozzle. This constricting ring must be of solid, one-piece construction with no openings other than the intake and openings not greater than one inch between the constricting ring and nozzle. It must be welded or otherwise permanently attached over the end of the intake nozzle. No quick
release devices are permitted.

(E) Suction dredge intake nozzles up to eight inches in diameter may be permitted at the Department’s discretion in accordance with Section 228 subdivision(j)(1)(A) only on the following rivers:

(1) American (Placer, Nevada, and EI Dorado counties)
(2) Cosumnes (Sacramento, Amador and EI Dorado counties)
(3) Feather (Butte, Plumas, and Yuba counties)
(4) Klamath (Del Norte, Humboldt and Siskiyou counties)
(5) Merced (Mariposa and Merced counties)
(6) Mokelumne (Amador, Calaveras and San Joaquin counties)
(7) Scott (Siskiyou County)
(8) Trinity (Trinity and Humboldt counties); and
(9) Yuba (Sierra and Yuba counties)

(3) Pump Intake Screening.

The intake for the suction dredge 29 pump shall be covered with screening mesh. Screen mesh openings shall not exceed 3/32 inch (2.38 mm) for woven wire or perforated plate screens, or 0.0689 inch (1.75 mm) for profile wire screens, with a minimum 27% open area.

(4) Only the nozzle size(s), constrictor ring(s) and engine model numbers identified in the permit may be used.

(5) The suction dredge permit number must be affixed to all permitted dredges at all times, in a manner such that it is clearly visible from the streambank or shoreline. The number must be displayed in lettering at least three inches in height and maintained in such a condition as to be clearly visible and legible.

(k) Restrictions on Methods of Operation

(1) Motorized winching or the use of other motorized equipment to move boulders, logs, or other objects is prohibited, unless:

(A) The Department has conducted an on-site inspection and approved the proposed suction dredging operations in writing; and

(B) The permittee has a valid suction dredge permit; and

(C) The permittee has in their possession documentation of compliance with Fish and Game Code section 1602, subdivision (a), for the proposed suction dredging
operations, including a copy of their notification to the Department; any response to the notification by the Department pursuant to Fish and Game Code Section 1602, subdivision(a)(4)(A)(i); and specific authorization from the Department for motorized winching if a Streambed Alteration Agreement is required.

(2) Winching, whether motorized or hand powered, must be conducted under the following provisions:

(A) Boulders and other material may only be moved within the current water level. No boulders or other material shall be moved outside the current water level.

(B) Winching of any material embedded on banks of streams or rivers is prohibited.

(C) Winching of any material into a location which deflects water into the bank is prohibited.

(D) Nets and other devices may be used to collect cobbles and boulders by hand for removal from dredge holes providing the materials are not removed from within the current water level.

(3) No person may suction dredge within three feet of the lateral edge of the current water level, including at the edge of instream gravel bars or under any overhanging banks.

(4) No person shall remove or damage streamside vegetation during suction
dredge operations.

(5) No person shall cut, move or destabilize instream woody debris such as root wads, stumps or logs.

(6) No person shall divert the flow of river or stream into the bank.

(7) For the purpose of suction dredge mining subject to this section, no person shall construct a dam or weir, concentrate flow in a way that reduces the total wetted area of a river or stream, or obstruct fish passage; unless:

(A) The Department has conducted an on-site inspection and approved the

proposed suction dredging operations in writing; and

(B)The permittee has a valid suction dredge permit; and

(C)The permittee has in their possession, documentation of compliance with Fish and Game Code section 1602, subdivision (a), for the proposed suction dredging
operations, including a copy of their notification to the Department; any response by the Department to the notification pursuant to Fish and Game Code Section 1602, subdivision (a)(4)(A)(i); and specific authorization for the proposed activity if a Streambed Alteration Agreement is required.

(8) No person shall import any earthen material into a stream, river or lake.

(9) All fueling and servicing of dredging equipment must be done in a manner such that petroleum products and other substances are not leaked, spilled or placed where they may pass into the waters of the state.

(10) No fuel, lubricants or chemicals may be stored within 100 feet of the current
water level. Where this is not feasible, a containment system must be in place beneath the fuel, lubricants or chemicals.

(11) Stream substrate, including gravel, cobble, boulders and other material may
only be moved within the current water level.

(12) No person shall displace any material embedded on banks of rivers or streams.

(13) No person shall disturb any mussel beds. A mussel bed is defined as an area of any size where the density of mussels is 40 or more/square yard. Suction dredging activities, including deposition of tailings, shall not occur within 30 yards upstream of a mussel bed, nor within 10 yards laterally or downstream.

(14) Reasonable care shall be used to avoid dredging silt and clay materials that would result in a significant increase in turbidity.

(15) The permittee shall level all tailing piles, returning the site to the pre-mining grade to the greatest extent possible, prior to finishing use of the excavation site for the suction dredging season, or working another excavation site.

(16) No person shall disturb any redds, actively spawning fish, amphibian egg masses or tadpoles. If encountered while operating a suction dredge, the permittee must cease operations and relocate dredging activities.

(17) The willful entrainment of finfish, mollusks or amphibians is prohibited.

(18) No person shall use wheeled or tracked equipment instream as part of suction dredging.

(19) All suction dredge equipment shall be cleaned of mud, oil, grease, debris, and plant and animal material before use in a river, stream or lake.

(l) State Wildlife Areas and Ecological Reserves

Consistent with Title 14, Sections 550, subdivision (b)(10), and 630, subdivision (a)(1), of the California Code of Regulations, suction dredging is prohibited in State Wildlife Areas and Ecological Reserves.

(o) Location of Suction Dredge Operations

No person shall suction dredge in locations other than those identified in the permit application pursuant to subdivision (c).

(p) Timing of Activity

Active suction dredging operations may only be conducted between one half hour after sunrise to sunset.

{{{{{ Section 228.5 }}}}}
Suction Dredge Use Classifications and Special Regulations

(a) Suction Dredge Use Classifications

For purposes of these regulations, the following classes of suction dredge use restrictions apply in California's lakes, reservoirs, streams and rivers as specified:
(1) Class A: No dredging permitted at anytime.
(2) Class B: Open to dredging from July 1 through August 31.
(3) Class C: Open to dredging from June 1 through September 30.
(4) Class D: Open to dredging from July 1 through January 31.
(5) Class E: Open to dredging from September 1 through January 31.
(6) Class F: Open to dredging from July 1 through September 30.
(7) Class G: Open to dredging from September 1 through September 30.
(8) Class H: Open to dredging throughout the year.

(b) Suction Dredge Special Regulations.

The Suction Dredge Use Classifications (Section (a), above) apply for each of the rivers or streams in each of the counties listed below. Lakes and reservoirs statewide are Class H.

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