Brown extends moratorium on suction dredging
Gov. Jerry Brown signed the bill Tuesday to extend a moratorium on suction dredge mining for gold, cheering environmental opponents of the practice.
"It's a significant victory for water quality and California taxpayers," said Jonathan Evans, of the Center for Biological Diversity in San Francisco.
The bill, AB 120, includes a five-year extension of an existing moratorium against the practice of suctioning river-bottom gravels in search of gold and other minerals.
That would stop dredging at least until June 30, 2016.
It also prohibits resumption of the practice until the Department of Fish and Game establishes new regulations to safeguard the environment and cover any costs of administering a dredging program.
Earlier in the month, Brown vetoed a measure that would've prevented Fish and Game from spending any money to develop the regulations.
Environmental critics claim the mining stirs up toxic mercury in the river beds and damages sensitive fish breeding habitats.
Miners have disputed those claims and counter that the regulations are an illegal hindrance to an economically important activity.
Although some environmentalists and fishing groups seek to ban the practice outright, AB 120 is "a sensible law to reduce toxic pollution, protect wildlife and save taxpayers' money," Evans said.
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