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El Dorado County supervisors target suction dredge mining ban

By: Art Garcia, Telegraph Correspondent
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Opposition to the State of California’s ban on suction dredge mining was reaffirmed by the El Dorado County Board of Supervisors in a letter drafted by District 2 Supervisor Ray Nutting.

The letter to the lead attorney in litigation to overturn the prohibition said the supervisors estimated an annual $6.3 million loss to the county because of the state’s action.

Nutting said the projected loss “doesn’t come from the county’s coffers. It’s trade and commerce in El Dorado County.”

Banning suction dredging is important to El Dorado Hills because the town promotes the rural, historic and cultural aspects of the county. “The wide-open spaces and the rivers for recreational opportunities, to have fun and play gold seeker,” the supervisor said.

“There are gold seekers who live all over the county who gold pan and suction dredge,” he added. “It’s a really fun thing to do and it’s not environmentally damaging. For many, it’s one of the reasons they moved up here.”

Nutting also said that if such historic values are taken out of the county’s history, “it would make this a pretty boring place to live.”

In the letter he authored, Nutting charged the legislature “has killed an historic and environmentally friendly way to earn a living with little regard for the consequences.”

Besides removing river-bottom trash, studies have concluded that suction dredging removes at least 98 percent of the mercury contamination processed through the dredge.

The state banned suction dredging in 2009 with passage of Senate Bill 670 over concerns about the effect of sedimentation on aquatic life.

Suction dredging in El Dorado County primarily occurs on its two main rivers, the Cosumnes and the south and middle forks of the American River.

“The environmental community got to the legislature,” asserted Nutting. “It was pretty much a party line vote on the state budget to just take out the issuance of permits because they said it was too expensive to issue them, which is absolutely untrue.

“So it was a shuffle game in the budget because they didn’t get what they wanted in the environmental document so they took it out of the state budget. Now there’s no mechanism to issue the permits,” he said.

The lawsuit by the Pacific Legal Foundation is working its way through the courts. Attorney David Young and the plaintiffs argue the state’s ban is unconstitutional and preempted by federal mining laws that allow suction dredge mining on federal lands.

“Hopefully, the judge in this case will agree that the state overstepped its bounds,” Nutting said.

Nutting’s district includes the southern part of El Dorado Hills, south of Highway 50, except the Four Seasons retirement community, Clarksville and up to Pollock Pines.