By David Smith
Siskiyou Daily News
Posted Jun 30, 2010 Sacramento, Calif. —
A Senate Bill aimed at refunding suction dredge miners for
permits that were invalidated last year has died in committee
through a procedural mistake, according to William Bird,
communications director for Sen. Sam Aanestad (R-District 4).
Senate Bill 889 was introduced by Aanestad in January in
response to Sen. Patricia Wiggins’ (D-District 2) Senate Bill
670, which suspends the issuance of suction dredge mining
permits and suction dredge mining under previously-granted
permits until the California Department of Fish and Game
completes an environmental review of the state’s dredge mining
Suction dredge mining involves the vacuuming of materials from
the beds of streams and rivers into a filtered container in
order to separate gold or other valuable minerals from debris.
Suction dredgers are required by law to obtain a permit each
year before engaging in the practice at a cost of $47 for
residents and $185.25 for out-of-state miners. Aanestad’s
bill, as introduced, would have allowed those who obtained
permits in 2009 to receive a full refund of the fee upon
request due to the suspension of suction dredging.
While the bill passed to the Assembly Committee on Water,
Parks and Wildlife with the refund amount unaltered, it is
noted on http://www.leginfo.ca.gov
that opponents to the bill were supportive of issuing a refund
pro-rated for the portion of the year until SB 670 went into
effect on July 9, 2009.
According to comments in the bill analysis, 40 percent of 2009
was still remaining when the moratorium on dredging went into
effect, although it is noted that most mining takes place in
August and September, both of which fall in the final 40
percent of the year.
“The committee may wish to consider whether authorizing a
standard pro-rated amount, such as [two-thirds] of the amount
paid, to be refunded makes more sense, in recognition of the
fact that permit holders were authorized to make use of the
permits for a portion of the year. This would also minimize
the revenue loss to DFG, which incurred administrative and
enforcement costs,” read the comments in the bill analysis.
The estimated cost of making the full refund, according to the
analysis, would be $270,000, which would include $253,000 in
permit refunds and the remainder in administrative costs.
Also included, in the “arguments in opposition,” is the
suggestion that new legislation is not needed if the governor
directs the DFG to provide refunds in the same manner as was
done in 2008 and 2009 for the commercial fishing industry.
Bird stated in an interview Tuesday that members of the
Assembly Committee on Water, Parks and Wildlife had wanted to
follow the earlier suggestion and amend the bill with a
pro-rated refund amount, an amendment Aanestad had declared
“hostile,” as the committee intended to pass the amendment
without his consent.
Bird explained that rather than vote to amend the bill and
then take a vote on its passage, the committee cast votes on
the passage first, where it failed six to four. While the
committee then voted to amend the bill, he said, it was later
informed that the procedure, as followed, killed the bill,
disallowing further amendment by the committee.
Bird stated that the bill can be revived if the group lobbying
for its passage, the New 49ers, is willing to pursue it
further. The office of Conate and Associates, the lobbyist
group employed by the New 49ers, was contacted Tuesday and a
representative indicated that it may be too late in the
current legislative session to introduce a new bill.
Registered supporters of the bill were the New 49ers and
Siskiyou County, while registered opponents were the Friends
of the River, the Klamath Tribe of California, the Klamath
Riverkeeper and the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s
In a press release issued soon after the committee’s decision,
Aanestad cites a Los Angeles small claims court ruling in
favor of the issuance of a refund, adding that he believes
further lawsuits will be “almost guaranteed” in light of the