Jan 23, 2015
Siskiyou Daily News
by David Smith
Posted Jan. 16, 2015 @ 11:18 am
Suction dredge mining has been dealt another legal victory after years of being under moratorium in the state of California.
This form of dredging utilizes a suction device to filter river or stream bottom material in order to extract valuable minerals. A permit must be acquired from the state before engaging in the activity.
Since 2009, the issuance of such permits has been under moratorium, pending the completion by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife of a number of actions.
Those include completing an environmental review of the agency’s suction dredge regulations. A fee structure must also be put in place that covers all of the costs of administering the suction dredge permit program.
CDFW has completed the environmental review and adopted updated regulations but has not completed any of the other steps required for the moratorium to be lifted.
The ongoing moratorium has resulted in several lawsuits, many of which were consolidated due to their reliance on similar principles.
On Jan. 12, San Bernardino Superior Court Judge Gilbert Ochoa issued a ruling answering a foundational question that could have a resounding effect on the suction dredging battle in California.
Much of Ochoa’s ruling deals with the case of the People v. Rinehart, in which the defendant, Brandon Rinehart, was convicted for using suction dredging equipment on his federal mining claim in violation of state dredging laws. Rinehart argued during the trial and in a subsequent appeal that the state’s ongoing moratorium acts on a ban on suction dredging, violating his mining rights under the federal Mining Act of 1872.
Last year, the third district court of appeals remanded Rinehart’s case to the trial court, telling that court to address whether the relevant state code operated as a practical manner to prohibit the issuance of suction dredge mining permits and if so, whether that ban on permits “had rendered commercially impracticable the exercise of [Rinehart’s] mining rights granted to him by the federal government.”
Central to those questions is the issue of federal preemption of state law, and Ochoa documents in his ruling how consideration of that concept lead him to answer both in the affirmative. The judge also affirms the federal preemption question in a number of the consolidated cases, including a suit filed by local mining group the New 49ers.
Ochoa states on those cases that “the State’s extraordinary scheme of requiring permits and then refusing to issue them whether and/or being unable to issue permits for years, stands ‘as an obstacle to the accomplishment of the full purposes and objectives of Congress’ under Granite Rock and a de facto ban.”
While Ochoa’s ruling is viewed as a win for suction dredge mining, it does not answer the question of how the state will end the moratorium on the practice.
Jan 23, 2015
Report from Friends of French Creek on the J-H Guest Ranch expansion discussion at the Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors on 1-20-15
FOFC spoke at the Board of Supervisors this morning to much good effect.
Jeffy Marx spoke eloquently and passionately about needing to ensure that JH, with their big money and lawyers, are held accountable to the rules like all the rest of Siskiyou County citizens and businesses. She warned of the danger of setting a bad precedent. She asked that, when their turn comes, the Board deny JH expansion and insist on enforcement of the 1993 permit levels.
Dan Deppen brought his technical expertise as a licensed surveyor to his comments saying that effective code enforcement is needed and also about JH’s long history of evasion of the law.
Michael Stapleton engaged the Supervisors with his review of the history of comments of Scott Valley residents in 1993 complaining about JH expanding and then trying to get permission afterwords: “Deja Vu”.
Betsy Stapleton spoke about Cal-Fire 4290 requirements and asked the Board to support application of those requirements to JH, as well as supporting the Planning Department’s effort to develop enforceable code provisions.
Additional FOFC members, Molly McGowan, Janeane Deppen, Marc Williams, and Bill Marx attend and showed their support.
Greg Plucker (Director of the Planning Dept.) attended and gave the Board an update on both the expansion application (waiting for all the agencies to weigh in) and enforcement of the 1993 permit. Plucker said that the Planning Department has sent a letter to JH saying that the 1993 permit will be enforced, unless/until the expansion is approved.
The Board meeting started with a prayer that spoke to the continued drought, and Cal-Fire representative Phil (?) was present to hear our comments. Both couldn’t have been more timely.
The code enforcement regulation that would make enforcement of code violations possible will be coming before the Board soon. It will be important to let the Supervisors know that we want an Enforceable Code Now! I’ll let you know when and where. It’ll be kinda fun to go speak in favor of something!
Jan 23, 2015
By David Smith
Posted Jan. 21, 2015 @ 8:22 am
Congress may have failed to reauthorize federal funding relied upon by rural counties, but state allies and other avenues may provide different outcomes in the ongoing budgetary battle.
Siskiyou County announced last week that it has joined the push for reinstatement of funding under the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act of 2000.
Until September of 2013, SRS funding was utilized to offset the impacts on county coffers from the reduction of allowable timber harvesting production on federal forest lands, according to a Siskiyou County press release.
Congress failed to extend SRS in 2013, marking the end of the funding in future years.
“SRS funding is critical to Siskiyou County’s ability to provide services for our residents, and its immediate reauthorization should be of the utmost priority for Congress,” District 3 Supervisor Michael Kobseff states in the release.
The county is not alone in its push, as it has joined the Rural County Representatives of California in the effort to reinstate SRS funding.
While those funds continue to be in jeopardy, RCRC noted last week that a century-old law will allow the federal government to offer payments to counties in the absence of SRS funds.
An RCRC release notes that the Secretary of the United States Department of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, announced recently that counties will receive payments for 2014 under the Twenty-Five Percent Fund Act of 1908.
That act requires the federal government to distribute to states 25 percent payments from timber sales and other enterprise activities on National Forest lands, according to the release.
That would mean California could receive $8.6 million to distribute to its counties, compared to the approximately $35 million that would have been provided under SRS.