Last week, Governor Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 120, which extends the current moratorium on suction dredging in California’s rivers and streams another five years. This bill effectively bans the controversial gold mining technique of suction-dredging which stirs up toxic mercury in the river beds and damages sensitive fish-breeding habitat.
Specifically this bill affects suction dredge regulations in four ways:
- It extends the current moratorium on suction dredge mining until June 30, 2016.
- It requires that any “new regulations fully mitigate all identified significant environmental impacts” – environmental impacts identified by Department of Fish and Game documents include mobilizing toxic metals like mercury, destroying cultural sites and hurting wildlife.
- It requires that “a fee structure is in place that will fully recover all costs to the department related to the administration of the program,” essentially that the program must pay for itself, including any enforcement needs
- Changes to fee structure for the program must be approved by the legislature and the Governor before suction dredge mining can resume.
This bill is hopefully the first of many pro-environment bills to be signed by the Governor this legislative session. October 9th is the last day for the Governor to sign or veto bills passed by the Legislature on or before September 9th.