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 by Klamath River miner Jim Foley

Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors Meeting


On the board agenda, the miner’s letter for The Board to send to CDFG in opposition to the Karuk petition to CDFG to close suction dredging by emergency order was item number 10. This came up for presentation and debate at 10:30am.

Ric Costales, County Natural Resources Policy Specialist presented the letter that Jim Foley had written for the Supervisors and made a very good argument for voting on a resolution for the board to send it to CDFG.

Ric was a lot of help to me (Jim Foley) by editing and working on this letter with me. He also walked the letter through the process of getting it and me on the board meeting agenda.

Marcie Armstrong, Siskiyou County Supervisor for District 5 spoke very favorably in regard to suction dredging and presented comments about the many studies that show “no significant deleterious impact” in relation to the activity. She also commented on studies she had seen that actually showed a beneficial impact on both rivers and fish by breaking up compacted river gravels and providing cold water refugia in the form of deep pools for fish to rest in.

Marcia also presented testimony about the county’s long standing support of the mining industry and the fact that suction dredge mining has been under attack for quite some time.

There was no one at the meeting to speak in opposition to our request. In attendance were about 20 miners, some of whom I did not know. Those I did know were;

Harry Lipke- Yreka, CA.  

Jim Yerby - Medford, Ore.

Mike Higbee - Grants Pass, Ore.

Ken Oliver – Horse Creek, CA.

Anthony Intiso – Yreka, CA.

Rich Kelly – Happy Camp, CA.

Rusty Blevins – Happy Camp, CA.

Linda Foley – Klamath River, CA.

Presenting public comments in favor of this agenda item were:

James Foley – Klamath River, CA.

Ken Oliver – Horse Creek, CA.

Mike Higbee – Grants Pass, Ore.

Ken Oliver spoke about the incessant attacks on suction dredging from special interest groups; He also spoke about the fact that these groups never present any science or law in support of their unfounded allegations and that miner’s have a statutory right to their mining activities, as well as a mandate by congress to protect that right.

Ken also spoke about the special interest group’s tactics of alleging certain untruths like suction dredges turning the rivers brown with sediment, dredges scaring fish because of their activity and miners killing fish by their activity. His testimony was simply that they say these things without a shred of proof. He offered his own observations based on 30 years of mining in the Klamath basin. He talked about reports that Kayakers and rafters actually scared fish more than anything else. His experience was that he saw fish around him all the time while actively dredging.

His testimony about dredges muddying up the river was that in his experience, the cloudy water only persists for a short distance below the dredge.

He also accurately stated that there is no proof that a suction dredge has ever killed a fish.

Mike Higbee testified about the hypocrisy of fishermen signing on to a petition to close suction dredging by emergency order when no emergency existed. He pointed out that it was hypocritical for special interests to say that fish need protection from 3,000 suction dredge miners who they allege are killing fish, while at the same time they admit that there are 2.4 million fishermen whose sole reason for fishing is to kill fish. He noted that CDFG even sells permits for fishermen to kill fish. All of this without a single shred of proof that a suction dredge has ever killed a fish.

Jim Foley testified to the history of the Karuk Tribe allied with other special interest groups constantly attacking suction dredge mining for the last four years. First they sued CDFG saying that CDFG was illegally permitting suction dredge miners because the department had done no new revisions to the suction dredge mining regulations since 1994.

Then they offered to settle this suit if CDFG would just shut down suction dredge mining until such time as new regulations were published. The only thing that stopped this settlement was the intervention in the suit by miners lead by The New 49’ers prospecting organization. The judge in this case ruled that CDFG could not close suction dredge mining or promulgate new regulations without first doing an EIR as required by law.

Having failed in their attempt to close suction dredge mining down in 2006, in 2007 they then enlisted the aid of a California State Assembly member and were successful in getting her to write a bill that would close mining on rivers to suction dredgers by legislation. (AB 1032) This bill was vetoed by governor Schwarzenegger. In his letter to the assembly he said that the current regulations were sufficient to protect fish and there was no need for this legislation.

Jim said that this latest petition to CDFG was yet another attempt by these special interest groups to get around a valid court order. Just before they submitted their petition, they attempted to coerce the California State Water Boards to withhold monies ( $500,00.00 ) that the water board had allocated for Fish and Game to perform their EIR. Miners lobbyists found out about this and were able to convince the water board to go ahead with the allocation, since the EIR was mandated by court order.

Grace Bennett, Supervisor for District 4 commented that mining was a large part of the history of this county and generally spoke favorably of both mining and its positive impact on the economy of the county.

Jim Cook, Supervisor for District 1 also spoke favorable concerning both mining and the counties responsibility to promote it.

The board then voted to accept the miner’s letter and also voted on a resolution to send the letter to CDFG. Both passed unanimously. Marcia Armstrong offered to hand carry the resolution and letter to the Director of CDFG, since she was going to Sacramento the next day. The board approved.

The board then went on to other business and most of the miners left the room.

James Foley
Property and Mining Rights Advocate
Klamath River, California

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