Report on suction dredging permits available online

The California Department of Fish and Game has completed the first round of environmental review documents related to the state’s currently suspended Suction Dredge Permitting Program. The draft subsequent environmental impact report (SEIR) is now available for public review and comment.

The draft SEIR addresses the potential environmental effects of the permitting program, which was suspended in 2009 pending completion of the review.

The suction dredge is used in gold mining. Most gold mining is done in small operations, with one or two people working at a time, often using suction dredges. The dredge works like a powerful underwater vacuum cleaner. It sucks up streambed material such as rocks, sand, gravel, silt and gold, passes it through a suction hose and runs it across a recovery system floating at the surface.Pieces of gold, which are very heavy, are separated from the other streambed materials and trapped, as the gravel and other material wash through the recovery system and back into the stream.

It has been illegal to use suction dredges in California since 2009.

Five public meetings will be held in late March. All interested people are encouraged to attend to present written or verbal comments.A meeting will be held in Fresno Thursday, March 24 at 5 p.m. at the California Retired Teachers Association, 3930 E. Saginaw Way.Tuesday, March 29, a meeting will be held in Sacramento at 5 p.m. at the Cal EPA Headquarters building, Byron Sher Auditorium, 1001 I St.

The draft SEIR and supporting documents can be viewed at the DFG website at www.dfg.ca.gov/suctiondredge, or can be provided upon request by calling (530) 225-2275.

-- Carol Reiter