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