Marijuana cultivation to face environmental regulation

For Immediate Release
September 12, 2015

Nina Erlich-Williams, 510-336-9566
C: 415-577-1153,

Marijuana cultivation to face environmental regulation thanks to AB 243

New law aims to reverse environmental damage, regulate water and pesticide use

Sacramento – Late last night, the California Legislature passed a package of ground-breaking legislation aimed at bringing the state’s $16 billion marijuana cultivation industry in line with other agricultural operations around the state. The move was prompted in part by significant environmental damage caused by the industry in California’s northernmost counties, where production is concentrated.

“California’s watersheds and wildlife have taken a serious hit from an unregulated cannabis production industry in recent years, with the ongoing drought making the situation even worse,” said Curtis Knight, executive director of watershed and fish advocacy group California Trout. “Thanks to the leadership of Assemblymember Wood, we will finally see significant resources dedicated to protecting and restoring lands and waters that have been decimated by bad actors in this industry.”

Marijuana production has spiked in California since the state legalized medical use of the substance in 1996. The state has provided virtually no oversight over marijuana farms despite a tremendous growth in the industry. The industry has boomed in recent years, with increasing numbers of producers overtaking remote areas and illegally diverting water out of North Coast rivers, creeks and streams that provide critical habitat for imperiled species like steelhead trout and salmon. Portions of the Eel River and other significant creeks and streams have run dry due to unregulated water diversions.

Assemblymember Wood’s efforts to ensure that environmental protection was included in the package of marijuana regulation bills have been lauded by a long list of conservation organizations. Supporters of AB 243 include California Trout, Pacific Forest Trust, Sierra Club California, The Nature Conservancy, the Trust for Public Land and Trout Unlimited.

AB 243 is one of a package of bills passed today by the Legislature aimed at providing increased oversight – and the necessary accompanying funding – to ensure that the marijuana industry complies with state standards and regulations with regard to water use, water discharge and pesticide and insecticide use. Governor Brown is expected to sign the bills into law.

“California Trout is grateful for the clear vision and quick action from the Senate and Assembly leadership as well as Governor Brown in addressing this critical issue,” added Knight.

In addition to increasing regulation over marijuana cultivation, AB 243 establishes the Marijuana Production and Environmental Mitigation Fund, which will provide dedicated resources to environmental cleanup to restore critical habitats. It also makes the multiagency task force pilot program that responds to cultivation damage a permanent and statewide program.


CalTrout Receives $922k Grant for Sierra Meadow Carbon Sequestration Project

May 5, 2015

Severn Williams,
O: 510-336-9566
C: 415-336-9623


Funded through California’s cap-and-traded program, project will establish protocol measuring greenhouse gas reductions associated with restoring meadows in the Sierra Nevada Mountains

Mammoth Lakes, Calif. – How does a robust Sierra meadows ecosystem help fight climate change? That is a question that non-profit group California Trout is preparing to answer. The organization received a grant for $922,000 from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife as part of a package of $21 million in funding aimed at reducing greenhouse gases statewide. The funding comes from California’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund, which is supported by the state’s cap-and-trade auction proceeds.

San Francisco-based California Trout will leverage the grant to develop a protocol for measuring carbon sequestration associated with restoring meadows in the Eastern Sierra. In addition to sequestering carbon, meadows play an important role in supporting healthy watershed systems throughout the Sierra Nevada that are so critical to California’s water supply. Sierra watersheds also provide essential habitat critical to the recovery and survival of native fish and other wildlife in the state.

“For more than forty years, California Trout has been working to protect and recover our state’s native trout, steelhead and salmon,” said executive director Curtis Knight. “With this project, our organization is taking its first step into the larger arena of addressing climate change, the most complex ecological problem of our time.”

The recent grant from CDFW will allow California Trout, with core partners Plumas Corporation and Stillwater Sciences, to lead a new multi-organizational effort to create a standard quantification protocol for measuring greenhouse gas dynamics in Sierra Nevada meadows. This effort evolved out of ongoing conversations among a broad coalition of groups, academic institutions and agencies working to support conservation in the Sierra. These groups include Sierra Foothill Conservancy; American Rivers; Sierra Streams Institute; Spatial Informatics Group – Natural Assets Laboratory; South Yuba River Citizens League; Truckee River Watershed Council; University of Nevada, Reno; University of California, Merced; University of California, Davis; California State University, Chico; Tahoe National Forest; and, Sequoia National Forest.

As a result of this project and the support of the California Department of Fish & Wildlife, the Sierra Meadow Restoration Research Partnership will be established and will develop a tool to measure and credit carbon sequestration associated with restoring meadows throughout the Sierra Nevada mountain range. The partnership will coordinate with groups working throughout the Sierra with the goal of increasing ecological resilience and recovering species and habitat associated with alpine meadow systems – all while capturing climate-disrupting emissions on a meaningful scale.

“The interconnection between healthy ecosystems and addressing the threat of climate change is becoming more and more clear,” noted Dr. Mark Drew, Director of the Sierra Headwaters Program with California Trout. “It’s exciting for us and we feel fortunate to be in a position to take a leadership role in this effort, working with key partners to improve watershed health in Sierra Nevada that is so critical to California’s water supply.”

The partnership’s work will, in part, respond to the needs identified in the California State Water Action Plan to restore Sierra Nevada meadow systems. It will work to restore multiple meadow systems across the Sierra, including Osa Meadow, a 90 acre meadow system supporting Kern River rainbow trout, Mountain Yellow Legged Frog and local communities downstream.

California Trout is a non-profit conservation organization that strives to solve complex resource issues while balancing the needs of wild fish and people through science-based advocacy. Some of its landmark achievements include legal victories that helped to restore the streams that feed the iconic Mono Lake and cutting-edge research aimed at recreating wetland habitat on off-season Central Valley farmland to support imperiled native salmon. With headquarters in San Francisco, the organization has six regional offices, including one in the Eastern Sierra Nevada.


CalTrout Supports Drought Legislation


March 19, 2015


Severn Williams,

510-336-9566, c: 415-336-9623

Statement from California Trout in support of drought legislation

california-drought-desalination-2Sacramento, Calif. – Watershed conservation and fish advocacy organization California Trout today announced its support of efforts by legislative leaders and Governor Brown to address California’s drought crisis by enacting emergency drought legislation. Among other actions, the proposed legislation would accelerate the allocation process for funds raised through Proposition 1E and Proposition 1.

In response to today’s announcement regarding the proposed legislation, Curtis Knight, executive director of California Trout, issued the following statement:

“In proposing this emergency drought legislation, Governor Brown, Assembly Speaker Atkins and Senate President pro Tempore de León have signaled that they understand the dire circumstances facing people and wildlife as this drought drags on.

“Climate models predict drought may be the new normal in our state. Many of California’s native trout, steelhead and salmon – all of which rely on cold, clean water for survival – are in danger of extinction within the next century. The right approach to water management has the potential to simultaneously meet the needs of people and fish, and we think much of what was proposed today could do just that. In particular, focusing investment on improvements in water management on the Yolo Bypass has the potential to dramatically increase flood protection for Central Valley residents while also supporting the recovery of imperiled native fish.

“Protecting water quality for fish means that water is also clean for human consumption. Past droughts have resulted in innovative water conservation measures. This drought provides that same urgency for the public and policymakers to become more aware of the inefficiencies of water use and look for creative ways to get the most benefit from limited water supplies.

“We are grateful for the vision of our leaders in Sacramento, and we hope that as this funding is allocated it focuses on the types of win-win solutions that benefit both people and wildlife. For example, investments in improving existing groundwater storage and maximizing the resilience of local water supplies through programs like water recycling and storm water capture all have the potential to improve outcomes for both people and native fish.”


Dead in the Ditch: Valley Drainage Canals are a Fatal Detour for Salmon

Proposed fix delayed by state and federal inaction

Woodland, CA — Hundreds of large salmon have taken a wrong turn into dead-end drainage ditches in the Yolo Bypass where they will perish if not rescued by the Department of Fish and Wildlife. Born in freshwater, salmon travel to the ocean to mature and then return, swimming upstream to their natal streams to reproduce. Canals, levees, dams and other water infrastructure built by people interrupt migrations and are a major factor in the dramatic decline of Central Valley salmon species, most of which are now imperiled.










“The Department of Fish and Wildlife is doing great work to help these stranded fish. But the bottom line is that this is an avoidable problem,” said Jacob Katz of California Trout, a non-profit organization that advocates for the recovery of the state’s threatened native fish. “With a small amount of focused engineering work, we could solve this problem and keep these salmon on course. Then state staff could focus their time and energy on other pressing projects.”

Ensuring that these late-arriving salmon are saved and successfully spawn is particularly important this year due to the extended drought. Elevated river temperatures caused by drought are believed to have killed many of the salmon eggs laid earlier in the fall. Only now are temperatures in upriver spawning beds near Redding cooling enough to successfully hatch salmon eggs.

“Because of the drought, saving these fish is very important. They may represent our best chance at a future generation three years from now, when this year’s salmon hatchlings will reach maturity,” said Katz.

Salmon navigate largely by smell. Because the drainage water flowing out of the canals originates in the Sacramento River basin, it can confuse salmon, luring them into drainage ditches where they become stranded and die. The number of salmon lost each year is unknown because high muddy water in winter usually makes it hard to observe fish in the canals. This year, however, low water conditions are allowing the California Dept. of Fish and Wildlife to trap the salmon and move them back to the Sacramento River to continue their spawning journey.

Fishing organizations, environmental advocates and agricultural interests have been urging state and federal agencies to make improvements that would help keep salmon in the main stem. Working together, local farmers, drainage districts and salmon advocates, including Cal Marsh and Farm, California Trout and the Golden Gate Salmon Association, have proposed a relatively easy fix to the canal system that would redirect the salmon to back to the river and safety, averting this kind of expensive rescue effort in the future.

“Salmon straying into the Yolo Bypass and the Colusa Drain is clearly a large problem and it is in everybody’s interest to fix it, plus it is not a very complicated,” said local rice farmer and land owner John Brennan.  “There are only two ways into the Colusa drainage system.  Both can be engineered relatively quickly and economically to prevent fish straying.”

The California Dept. of Water Resources and US Bureau of Reclamation are the two agencies with primary responsibility to fix the Valley Water infrastructure to make it better for salmon. Both agencies are working on a long term plan to restore more salmon-friendly habitat to the Yolo Bypass, where the canal and lost fish are located. These planning efforts are likely to take a decade or more. In the meantime, efforts to upgrade the canal infrastructure which was built one hundred years ago before fish were considered in project design, and solve the immediate problem of salmon being falsely attracted into the drainage canals have suffered repeated delays.

“The state and federal agencies need to address this problem now,” said John McManus of the Golden Gate Salmon Association (GGSA), a coalition representing sport and commercial salmon fishermen.

The salmon being intercepted now are believed to be fall run, but federally endangered winter and spring run salmon also swim up the canals, often to their death. In 2013 an estimated 600 winter run salmon, the most endangered of the Central Valley salmon runs, swam into the canal. About half were captured by DFW and relocated to the river but none successfully reproduced.

“If that many adult winter run salmon were caught at sea, the National Marine Fisheries Service could have shut down the $1.4 billion dollar ocean salmon fishery,” said McManus of GGSA. “If 20 percent of the offspring from these adult fish were sucked into the Delta pumps, the National Marine Fisheries Service could be forced to shut down the Central Valley and State Water Projects which provide water to millions of Californians. There is simply no excuse for allowing this problem to persist as long as it has.”

You can read the Sacramento Bee story here .

Frequently Asked Questions:

Why does it matter if a few fish don’t manage to reproduce this year?
Salmon need cold water in order to successfully reproduce. California is in its fourth year of drought. Water levels are down and water temperatures are up. Most of the fall run has already spawned. The fish at the trap now are relatively late arrivals. Ensuring that they are saved and successfully spawn is particularly important because elevated river temperatures caused by drought are believed to have killed many of the salmon eggs laid earlier in the fall. Only now are temperatures in upriver spawning beds cooling enough to successfully hatch salmon eggs.

What effect has the drought had on overall salmon populations in the Central Valley?Central Valley salmon runs are adapted to drought, and under natural conditions salmon would adapt by using the cold-water habitats where they are available. But human alteration of the valley, especially construction of dams which cut salmon off from cold water habitats and levees which limit food production on floodplains, has so degraded the river habitats on which salmon depend that most runs are now endangered. A drought of this magnitude, therefore has the potential to drive already endangered salmon runs over the brink to extinction.

How many fish have been caught and transported out of this canal to date this fall?
Over 500, mostly fall run Chinook salmon, have been captured at this one location alone in the last month. Many more are showing up each day. Endangered winter run Chinook salmon are expected to begin arriving in the coming months.

Where is the drainage canal in question located?
Beginning near Red Bluff and ending in the Delta, the network of flood protection and ag drainage canals stretches for over 100 miles down the west side of the Sacramento Valley. Attracted by the water flow coming down the canals, fish leave the Sacramento river and swim into the drainage system in the southern Yolo Bypass near Liberty Island. The trapping location, at Wallace Weir on Knaggs Ranch is 30 miles north near the town of Woodland. If the trap is not in place the salmon can continue upstream into the Colusa Drain, a maze of ditches which extend approximately 80 miles north.

What fixes have been proposed to state and federal agencies that would prevent these types of wrong turns in the future?
Local stakeholders including drainage districts, environmental conservation organizations and farmers have long advocated for a upgrading the obsolete Wallace Weir with operable gates that would block salmon and sturgeon from swimming up the canals and be good for farming.

Why haven’t these improvements been made?
The improvement projects are relatively cheap and have no detractors or opponents, there has been a lack of political will to align the local, state and federal agencies needed to actually get something done and improve the situation on the ground. DWR and the BoR, as lead state and federal agencies need to step up and build a permanent fix, rather than continue a cycle of perpetual planning.

CalTrout Sues Bureau of Reclamation Over Endangered Steelhead Deaths

California Trout, represented by the Environmental Defense Center (EDC), filed a lawsuit on October 6th in federal district court in Los Angeles against the United States Bureau of Reclamation (Bureau). The lawsuit alleges that the Bureau violated the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) by causing the deaths of hundreds of endangered Southern California steelhead trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) at Hilton Creek, below the Bradbury Dam and Cachuma Reservoir in Santa Barbara County.

Hilton Creek, which is located directly downstream from Bradbury Dam, is designated by the National Marine Fisheries Service as critical habitat for the endangered steelhead. The Bureau is required, pursuant to the ESA and a Biological Opinion issued by the National Marine Fisheries Service in 2000, to release water into Hilton Creek to ensure adequate flows for the species to migrate, spawn and mature and to ensure that the fish does not fall further into jeopardy of extinction. Water released into Hilton Creek flows directly into the main stem of the Santa Ynez River, providing water for downstream agricultural and other users.

Between March 2013 and June 2014 the Bureau’s water pumps continually failed, causing Hilton Creek to run dry, and leading to the death of at least 393 steelhead.

“The Hilton Creek fish kills are a good illustration of the problems that plague the entire Santa Ynez River watershed,” said Kurt Zimmerman, California Trout’s Southern California Program Manager. “Before the construction of Bradbury Dam, the Santa Ynez River supported the largest single run of steelhead south of San Francisco. The number of adult fish in this watershed will remain negligible or even decline until the Bureau manages the operation of the dam in a manner consistent with the protection and recovery of this important species.”

Download (PDF, Unknown)

CalTrout, EDC Plan to Sue Federal Government Over Deaths of Endangered Steelhead Trout

CalTrout and Environmental Defense Center yesterday issued a 60-day Notice of Violations and Intent to Sue to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation alleging violations of the Endangered Species Act.

The letter puts the Bureau on notice for its actions causing deaths of endangered Southern California steelhead trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) at Hilton Creek, below the Bradbury Dam and Cachuma Reservoir.

Between March 2013 and March 2014, the Bureau’s pumps failed to properly function and release water, causing Hilton Creek to run dry, and leading to the death of roughly 176 federally-endangered Southern California steelhead.  This past week, the pumps failed yet again – an outage which has killed over 200 steelhead.

Download (PDF, Unknown)

For coverage of the pump failures and action taken by CalTrout and EDC read the Independent article and the Noozhawk story.


Historic Mono Basin Agreement To Settle Decades Of Fighting Over Mono Lake Water

August 27, 2013

Historic Mono Basin Agreement approved by LA Dept. of Water & Power; CalTrout and Other Groups Sign Off on Water-Sharing Plan

Eastern Sierras, CA – Decades of strife over how much water could be diverted out of four key Mono Lake tributaries to the benefit of Los Angeles water users came to an end today when the Board of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) voted to approve a historic settlement agreement among LADWP, non-profit fisheries and water resources conservation organization California Trout (CalTrout), the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) and the Mono Lake Committee.

“It has taken years of challenging and complex negotiations to identify feasible options for implementing this important agreement, and we are eager to see the terms of the agreement put in to action,” noted Mark Drew, Eastern Sierra Manager for CalTrout. “Scientific rigor and analyses played an important role in helping us to figure out what kind of flows are needed, as well as how they are to be delivered, to support healthy fisheries and further restore the Mono Lake ecosystem. We are grateful to LADWP, CA Department of Fish & Wildlife and the Mono Lake Committee for working with us to come to an agreement on these complex issues.”

The settlement agreement lays out the details of a plan to implement several actions, including a significant investment in upgrading Grant Dam and the subsequent delivery of long-term flows, an extensive monitoring program, oversight and bringing to closure earlier requirements stemming from the 1994 decision and subsequent Restoration Orders from the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB).

After the landmark decision in 1994 set the stage for the restoration of the streams, in 1998, the SWRCB appointed a group of stream scientists to analyze conditions and define recommendations for restoring flows to four Mono Lake tributary creeks. After a decade of research and monitoring, in 2010 the scientists presented their long-term flow recommendations.

Once provided, LADWP had the right to contest implementation of the recommended flows. Based on an analysis of how feasible it was to implement the recommendations the LADWP objected to agreeing to implement the recommended flows. In order to resolve disagreements over this issue, CalTrout joined LADWP in making a formal request to the SWRCB to grant the parties time to engage in a facilitated negotiation process. Today’s decision by LADWP Board of Commissioners, settles the end of ongoing litigation and negotiations around Mono Basin water distributions since the early 1980s.

“Lee Vining and Rush Creeks once supported some of the finest rainbow and brown trout fisheries in California, but ongoing diversions to support urban growth in Los Angeles devastated these fish populations,” said California Trout Executive Director Jeff Thompson. “Although the conditions of these Mono Lake tributaries have improved since their low point in the early 1980s, more work needs to be done to create lasting improvements. With the settlement finally in place, Mono Lake and four of its most important tributaries will receive flows that will improve the Mono Basin fisheries and LADWP will be in compliance with important state regulations.”

LADWP’s diversions out of the Mono Basin supported an exploding urban population at the expense of the health of a unique and ancient ecosystem. The resulting dramatic environmental degradation led to a series of landmark lawsuits challenging LADWP’s water export license under Public Trust doctrine, the California Environmental Quality Act, and State Fish & Wildlife (formerly Fish & Game) regulations. California Trout was a lead plaintiff in two of the most important lawsuits leading up to the settlement now under consideration by LADWP.

“California Trout, Audubon Society, and the Mono Lake Committee were some of the earliest groups to recognize the importance of restoring and protecting the entire Mono Basin watershed. The litigation that led up to these successful negotiations played an important role not just for Mono Lake and its tributaries, but also for protecting riparian habitat throughout California,” added attorney Richard Roos-Collins, legal counsel for CalTrout.

The settlement agreement was approved by the LADWP Board at its August 27, 2013 meeting. The agreement will now be presented to the State Water Resources Control for final approval and implementation.


Mammoth Creek Settlement Ensures Water Flows For Fish, People

For Immediate Release – July 12, 2013

Contact – Mark Drew, California Trout


Collaborative Approach Secures Water for Residents, Adequate flows for Fish

Mammoth Lakes, Calif. – Today the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) and the Mammoth Community Water District (MCWD) announced settlement agreements in two lawsuits over water allocation in Mammoth Creek. These settlements both herald a hopeful future for fair water allocation locally, in the Eastern Sierras, as well as for urban users in the Los Angeles area.

The settlement of these lawsuits also enables a 2010 settlement agreement regarding bypass flows in Mammoth Creek to take effect. This earlier settlement agreement, among MCWD, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (formerly Fish and Game), and non-profit watershed advocacy group California Trout, ensured adequate flows in Mammoth Creek to support fisheries while also providing sufficient water supplies for area residents and businesses.

“The recent turn of events around Mammoth Creek speaks to the power of collaboration and science-based negotiations when it comes to tackling California’s complex water challenges,” said Mark Drew, California Trout’s Eastern Sierra Manager. “With these settlement agreements in place, local residents will have their water needs met and essential flows for fisheries will remain intact.”

Drew continued, “We have seen that when all parties come to the table with respect for one-another, an open mind, and an eye on the science it is possible to find a way forward that everyone can support. These settlements give us every reason to be hopeful that we might also see a similarly positive resolution around water rights challenges in the nearby Mono Basin.”


Establishing appropriate bypass flows on Mammoth Creek has been a contentious issue for decades. The Mammoth Community Water District (District) drafted an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) in 2009 to study the options for balancing the needs of people who rely on the creek’s water, recreational offerings, and the fish that depend on it for survival. Out of concern for the health of fisheries in the creek, California Trout and the Department of Fish and Wildlife engaged in litigation to secure improved flows on behalf of fish in Mammoth Creek as well as Hot Creek and the Upper Owens River, into which the creek flows.

The litigation eventually led to a science-based settlement agreement that secures sufficient flows for fisheries, initiated a Mammoth Lakes Basin fisheries enhancement fund, provides for the ongoing monitoring of groundwater extraction to ensure that in-stream flows are not negatively impacted by the practice, and requires implementation and monitoring of a comprehensive water conservation plan in the basin. The State Water Resources Control Board approved by the Final EIR and the Settlement Agreement in 2012.

Although the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power initially objected to the plan and engaged in litigation over its provisions, the recent settlement of that litigation will now allow the plan to move forward.

For more information about water allocation in the Mammoth Basin, or to learn more about the settlement process, call Mark Drew at 760-924-1008 or

Emergency Regulations Close Suction Dredge Mining “Loophole” In CA Law

Suction dredge mining was effectively banned in the state of California since 2009, but a few miners tried to exploit a “loophole” in the law, eliminating their suction dredge’s sluice box (part of the overly specific legal definition of a suction dredge) and mining anyway.

California’s Department of Fish and Wildlife passed emergency rules which disallowed the use of any suction dredge mining equipment, protecting our waterways from toxic levels of mercury and habitat disruption.

Those rules just took affect, and CalTrout wants to commend Fish and Wildlife’s quick reaction to the resurgence in suction dredge mining. Below is a press release from several organizations involved in the fight to protect our rivers.


For Immediate Release, July 1, 2013

Craig Tucker, Karuk Tribe, (916) 207-8294
Jonathan Evans, Center for Biological Diversity, (415) 436-9682 x 318
Glen Spain, PCFFA, (541) 689-2000

Suction Dredge Mining Loophole Officially Closed

Many Recreational Miners Will Need to Pack up Mining Gear Immediately

SACRAMENTO, Calif.— On Friday, June 28th the Office of Administrative Law formally approved emergency rules proposed by California Department of Fish and Wildlife that close a so-called “loophole” in California’s suction dredge ban.

The proposed rules stemmed from an emergency request from a coalition of tribal, environmental and fisheries groups. California Department of Fish and Wildlife proposed the emergency rules on June 7, 2013 to crack down on an upsurge of unregulated suction dredge mining in the state. The environmentally harmful mining process has been banned in California since 2009, but since early this spring miners have been making equipment modifications to suction dredges to exploit what they perceived as a “loophole” in the ban.

“We are very pleased with California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s decision to act quickly. This decision ensures that California’s water quality, fisheries, and cultural sites will be protected from suction dredges and similar forms of mechanized recreational mining,” said Leaf Hillman, Director of Natural Resources for the Karuk Tribe.

Suction dredge mining uses machines to vacuum up gravel and sand from streams and river bottoms in search of gold. California law currently prohibits “any vacuum or suction dredge equipment” from being used in California waterways. But because narrow state rules previously defined a suction dredge as a hose, motor and sluice box, miners are simply removing the sluice box — an alteration that leaves dredge spoils containing highly toxic mercury piling up along waterways. The sluice box is one of several methods to separate gold from dredge spoils. Under the new regulation, the use of any vacuum or suction dredge equipment (i.e., suction dredging) is defined as the use of a suction system to vacuum material from a river, stream or lake for the extraction of minerals. (Cal. Code Regs., tit. 14, § 228, subd. (a).

“Suction dredge mining in any form pollutes our waterways with toxic mercury and destroys sensitive wildlife habitat,” said Jonathan Evans with the Center for Biological Diversity. “California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s decision will make our rivers safer for wildlife, fisheries and our families.”

Unregulated suction dredge mining harms important cultural resources and state water supplies. It also destroys sensitive habitat for important and imperiled wildlife, including salmon and steelhead trout, California red-legged frogs and sensitive migratory songbirds. The Environmental Protection Agency and State Water Resources Control Board urged a complete ban on suction dredge mining because of its significant impacts to water quality and wildlife from mercury pollution; the California Native American Heritage Commission has condemned suction dredge mining’s impacts on priceless tribal and archeological resources.

The coalition that submitted the formal rulemaking petition includes the Center for Biological Diversity, the Karuk tribe, Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, Institute for Fisheries Resources, Friends of the River, California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, Foothills Anglers Association, North Fork American River Alliance, Upper American River Foundation, Central Sierra Environmental Resource Center, Environmental Law Foundation and Klamath Riverkeeper. The coalition is represented by Lynne Saxton of Saxton & Associates, a water-quality and toxics-enforcement law firm.


Suction dredge mining has a history of controversy. California courts have repeatedly confirmed that it violates state laws and poses threats to wildlife, and the state government has placed a moratorium on the destructive practice. Last year California Gov. Jerry Brown continued a moratorium initiated by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on suction dredge mining until the state develops regulations that pay for the program and protect water quality, wildlife and cultural resources. Regulations adopted by state wildlife officials earlier in 2012 failed to meet these legislative requirements.

In March 2013 a coalition including environmental organizations, fishermen and the Karuk tribe submitted a formal petition to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife asking the agency to close a loophole that allows recreational miners to return to suction dredging by making equipment modifications that sidestep state law and worsen impacts to the environment. When state wildlife officials denied the March request the coalition filed an emergency request on May 28, 2013 to close the loophole, which prompted the current regulatory reform.

The harm done by suction dredging is well documented by scientists and government agencies: It damages habitat for sensitive, threatened and endangered fish and frogs, and releases toxic mercury plumes left over from the Gold Rush into waterways.

Environmental analysis by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife identified several of the impacts:

  • Mobilizes and discharges toxic levels of mercury, harming drinking-water quality and potentially poisoning fish and wildlife
  • Harms fish, amphibians and songbirds by disrupting habitat
  • Causes substantial adverse changes statewide in American Indian cultural and historical resources

To watch video of recent illegal suction dredge mining click here.

The Karuk Tribe is the second largest federally recognized Indian Tribe in California. The Karuk have been in conflict with gold miners since 1850. Karuk territory is along the middle Klamath and Salmon Rivers.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 500,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations is trade association of commercial fishermen on the west coast dedicated to assuring the rights of individual fishermen and fighting for the long-term survival of commercial fishing as a productive livelihood and way of life.

S. Craig Tucker, Ph.D.
Klamath Coordinator
Karuk Tribe

Sizable Snowfall Loss Predicted in Southern California Mountains

LA-area mountains may lose 30-40% of annual snowfall by mid-century according to new UCLA climate study

LA snow loss

The mountains surrounding Los Angeles will lose up to 42% of their snow by mid-century.

Southern California has long been known as the place where you could ski the nearby mountains in the morning and surf in afternoon.

By mid-century, those days may be gone. This “Climate Change In L.A.” press release was published by Climate Resolve — a Southern California group aimed at “Inspiring Los Angeles to meet the challenge of climate change.”

You can find more on their Climate Change LA website, but those who fish Southern California’s mountain streams for trout will want to pay attention.

Press Release

Today, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and UCLA Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences released Mid- and End-of-Century Snowfall in the Los Angeles Region, the second in a series of studies commissioned by the City of Los Angeles, funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy. The snowfall study provides detailed forecasts of diminishing snowfall in Southern California Mountains between 2041-2060 and between 2081-2100.

The full study is available here.

This study predicts that, by mid-century, Los Angeles area mountains – including the San Bernardinos, San Gabriels, San Jacintos, and the Tehachapis – will lose upwards of 42% of their annual snowfall, given greenhouse gas emissions continue in a “business as usual” scenario. By the end of the century, the loss of snow will be closer to 70%.

Fortunately, if immediate substantive efforts are made to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, mid-century and end-of-century loss of snow could be limited to 31%.

Despite the threats of climate change, Los Angeles’ future is not yet decided. The City of Los Angeles has already taken big steps to reduce our carbon impact – including the decision to move off of coal by 2025 and investing in public transportation throughout the region.

While we will have to adapt to a changing climate with less snowfall and increased temperatures, Los Angeles has the opportunity to lead cities across the globe to a better future, ensuring that we will not only survive climate change, but thrive.

The full study is available here.