Time to Take Action
Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
Upholding rural Americans' rights to grow food,
own property, and caretake our wildlife and natural resources.

July 10, 2007
Chairman Steinberg and Members of the Committee, thank you for the opportunity to testify today on A.B. 1032 - a bill regarding waters closed to dredging. My name is Marcia Armstrong, fifth District Supervisor of Siskiyou County. I have served on the federal Klamath River Fisheries Task Force and the Five Counties Salmonid Conservation Program. I have been involved with salmon issues on the Klamath since 1992. I also serve on First Five Siskiyou Children and Families Commission, the Siskiyou County Community Services Council and the Economic Development Council.

I would like to go on record as stating that Siskiyou County strongly opposes this bill. It is our opinion that various studies have shown that suction dredge mining has a negligible effect on fisheries and can have a positive rehabilitative effect in the restoration of spawning gravels. The Board of Supervisors would also like to bring to your attention the importance of suction dredge mining to micro-economies such as the Klamath River corridor and the certain devastating impacts that A.B. 1032 could have on a very economically fragile and depressed area of California

The 1997 California Department of Fish and Gameís Draft Environmental Impact Report, Adoption of Amended Regulations for Suction Dredge Mining (Page V27) observed that suction dredge mining is an activity that requires a substantial investment. The report cited a survey which established that dredgers spend an average of 35 days a year suction dredging. During this time, they spent about $6,250 each on expenses, including groceries, restaurants, motels, camp fees and other living expenses. In addition, they reported spending about $3,000 dollars on gas, oil, equipment maintenance and repairs to suction dredge equipment. In total, the survey results indicated that, in California, more than $20 million may be spent by suction dredgers on living expenses related to suction dredge operations.

According to the new 2007 California County Data Book, Siskiyou County is now dead last among all California Counties in family economic well-being, having the lowest median income at $30,356, compared to $112,155 for San Mateo County and $56,332 for California as a whole.  65% of households with children ages 0-17 are low income, compared with a California average of 43%. The report notes that 27% of Siskiyou Countyís children live in official poverty, compared to 19% for the state. In January 2007, unemployment in the county was 10.8% overall, compared to a statewide level of 5.3%. Using July 2006 periodic figures, 4% of the population of Siskiyou County receive CalWORKs benefits, (formerly Aid to Dependent Children,) compared to 2.8% of the population on a statewide average
According to a 2005 Affordable Housing Study for Siskiyou County, in the area of the Klamath River corridor where mining commonly occurs, the median household income is $22,453, with 54.6% of the population living below the $25,000 mark. The Northwest Forest Plan Socioeconomic Monitoring Module: Klamath National Forest and Three Local Communities Case Study Review Draft - September 3, 2004, determined that in the year 2000, unemployment on the Klamath River corridor was 19.6%, impacted largely by the closure of the lumber mill in Happy Camp.

These indicators of increasing social and economic distress occurred in the aftermath of a series of regulatory events. The Klamath National Forest, the primary National Forest in my district, has a standing inventory of 13.5 billion board feet of timber and grows an additional 654 million board feet of timber each year. Following the implementation of the federal Northwest Forest Plan for northern spotted owl and salmon, the Klamath annual sales volume fell from a 1990-1994 yearly average of 66 million board feet to five million board feet in 2000. Similar restrictions on harvest on private lands have been imposed by the Board of Forestry.
As a result, the county has lost more than 80% of our logging jobs since 1989, (from 951 jobs in 1989, to 331 in 1995, to 186 in 2004.) We have seen the closure of several large sawmills mills such as High Ridge and, most recently, the Cal. Cedar Products mill. Our two remaining mills are plywood veneer using only small diameter trees.
Timber hasnít been the only industry impacted by regulation. Most can remember the closure of the irrigation headgates at the Klamath Project, a portion of which is located in Siskiyou County. Similarly, agricultural prohibitions for federal and state threatened coho salmon and restrictions on activities to meet state water quality objectives have heavily impacted farmlands of the Scott and Shasta River Valleys. According to Cal. D.O.T. Siskiyou County Economic Forecast, since 1995, Siskiyou County's agriculture industries have experienced substantial job loss at about 586 jobs, declining almost 45%. For instance, since 1996, county vegetable crops have declined in their contribution to the economy by 38% - from $18. 9 million to $11.8 million.
Agriculture remains our most productive economic backbone at $147.6 million per year. (2005 Annual Crop Report.)  Tourism is second at around $60 million. Timber, once a large part of the economy, ($78.9 million in 1990,) has now fallen to $47.5 million. There is little manufacturing other than our two remaining mills. The development of our Natural Resources is, and appears likely in the future to remain, our primary economic asset. Yet, the use of these resources is constantly under regulatory onslaught.
The Western settlement of Siskiyou County began with the Gold Rush. There were numerous mines from which tens of millions of dollars in gold were extracted by historic methods. There can be no doubt that gold mining has been a significant factor in Siskiyou Countyís economy and that there are valuable deposits yet to be discovered.
We were always told by federal officials that the impact of the new environmental regulations was only temporary and that tourism on the Klamath would take up the slack. Suction dredge mining can provide a living income for some year-round residents. In addition, burgeoning new enterprises that provide group membership activities associated with small-scale dredge mining also make a significant contribution to the Klamath River corridor economy. Small local grocery stores, RV facilities and shops are greatly dependent upon the outside income brought to the area by suction dredge miners.
Thank you for this opportunity to comment.
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