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In 2011 the California Legislature passed California Senate Bill (SB 657) which changed the State Fish and Game Regulations pertaining to the usage of vacuum or suction dredge equipment in California streams and rivers. Existing law prohibits the use of any vacuum or suction dredge equipment by any person in any river, stream, or lake of this state without a permit issued by the Department of Fish and Game. Existing law designates the issuance of permits to operate vacuum or suction dredge equipment to be a project under the California Environmental Quality Act, and suspends the issuance of permits, and mining pursuant to a permit, until the department has completed an environmental impact report for the project as ordered by the court in a specified court action.
Existing law prohibits the use of any vacuum or suction dredge equipment in any river, stream, or lake, for instream mining purposes, until the director of the department certifies to the Secretary of State that (1) the department has completed the environmental review of its existing vacuum or suction dredge equipment regulations as ordered by the court, (2) the department has transmitted for filing with the Secretary of State a certified copy of new regulations, as necessary, and (3) the new regulations are operative.    Several law suits, including a criminal suit, involving the use of dredging equipment in California waters in violation of the provisions of SB 657 as enacted and amended.  What follows below is the results of one of the law suits.   

Below is a letter from Dave McCracken, The New 49’ers Legal Fund Dave to Kirk McKenzie of DRA

  • Dear Kirk MacKenzie,

    I am very happy to inform you that the Third Appellate Court of
    California issued a unanimous Decision today confirming our
    arguments that a State agency does not have the authority to
    materially interfere with commercial mining programs on the public
    lands. The Decision reversed Brandon Rinehart's conviction for
    suction dredging without a permit. In case you are interested,
    the Decision is right here: Court Decision

    Here is an explanation from our attorney: MEMORANDUM

    This is a huge win for our side, which I believe, will go a long
    way towards getting us a reasonable set of dredging regulations
    in California for the 2015 season and beyond.  I also predict
    this will, in a roundabout way, help eliminate Oregon's moratorium
    which is set to begin in 2016.  

    I'll follow with more in the October newsletter.  For now, I want
    to thank you guys for all your important support, and congratulate
    you on the biggest legal win for our side since the beginning of
    all the legal battles about 10 years ago!!

    Dave McCracken, The New 49’ers Legal Fund

Legal Brief in support of the Third Appellate Court Decision filed by Pacific Legal Foundation and Western Mining Alliance

Although the case is remanded for more evidence, it's a big win for the miners. As was requested in the AC, the court expressly adopts the 8th Circuit's South Dakota Mining decision. The CA ban is preempted for miners who can't work their claims except by using a suction dredge.

FInal Decision from the COURT OF APPEAL OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA - THIRD APPELLATE DISTRICT on Suction Dredging in California. Read it here....

A Letter of support for the Decision of the Appellate Court from the COUNTY OF SISKIYOU Board of Supervisors

More on Gold Mining and the dredging issues see ALAA Archives


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