SB 670 Would Place a Moratorium on Dredge Mining in California Rivers

Published on May 18th, 2009 | by

A modern day Gold Rush is happening in America! Membership in the Gold Prospectors of American Association has expanded by 20%, and 3000 new mining claims have been filed in California over the past two years.  Over half of these new claims were filed in the first quarter of 2009!  At over $900 an ounce, prospectors are looking to gold during the current economic recession, but what is it doing to our rivers?

Image by oregonSuction dredge mining harms salmon spawning habitat on the Klamath River.
Suction dredge mining harms salmon spawning habitat on the Klamath River.

The idyllic image of panning for gold is not an economic reality for miners. Suction dredges are the tools of modern day gold miners.  The dredges suck up river bottom, use a sluice to sort out the gold, then dump the remaining silt back in the river.  The negative effects of suction mining are disrupting spawning habitat, creating more turbid river conditions, spilling fuel into waterways, stirring up mercury leftover from the last Gold Rush, and killing aquatic organisms.

SB 670 would place a moratorium on dredge mining in California rivers.  The Sierra Fund explains:

This bill was introduced by Senator Pat Wiggins (D-Santa Rosa) to place a moratorium on motorized dredge mining pending a full scientific review and update of rules by the California Department of Fish and Game. The bill is scheduled to come before the California Senate’s Natural Resources and Water Committee on April 28, 2009.

As a result of a 2005 lawsuit filed by the Karuk tribe, the California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) must undergo a California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) review to study the effects of dredge mining on fisheries.  The DFG failed to complete the study by the July 2008 deadline.  SB 670 would create a temporary moratorium on dredge mining until this CEQA review and subsequent rule changes were complete.

California fisheries are in trouble, and hobby mining is contributing to the problem of poor river conditions. The states fisheries cannot sustain the negative impact of loosely regulated and unenforced suction dredging, especially on the Klamath River. SB 670 would stop new permits from being issued until a scientific review is completed.

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  • You state that dredging harms fish spawn. Do you have any factual data pertaining to this? So far all I have seen is conjectures. Leaf Hillman was unable to provide factual data when he had the opportunity to do so in the Courts. While the Court mandated a study, no funds were allocated for the study. Experts do not come cheap. With the State economy the way it is, where does the money come from. It is easy to find fault, but at least do so in a credible manor. I have spoken to members of Trout Unlimited and they have told me that fishing improved a year or so after dredging as opposed to what it was previously. The moratorium would shut down dredging in all waterways of the State whether they have ever seen salmon or steelhead or ever will. Please provide study data with your expose, not just conjecture. Thank you
    A dredger.

  • Frank, I have a friend that is both a dredger and a fisherman. The moratorium is not a ban on dredging, but it puts a stop to issuing new claims until a study can be completed. As you mention, a comprehensive study has not been completed (to my knowledge). That is the need, and I agree they are not cheap. The state of the fisheries in CA is sad. Salmon season has been banned for the second straight year. It is fragile right now. I believe dredging at its current level has a minor impact. The real issue for the fisheries is water diversion from the rivers, but until the problems are solved and the species rebound, all factors need to be considered.

  • I have never dredged but I have observed this activity over the years. I have never talked with anyone who does that has been in the area of this hobby. It seems that the Karuks are trying to clean others from their area. Have you ever observed gill netting? I have, talk about massive destruction of fish! While this bill doesn’t outright ban dredgeing it will stop all permits till this is resolved. It has nothing to do with claims that I can see.
    I want to understand your stance on law. Your bio is remarkable. Did you mill your own lumber? Was it graded so you could use it for the proper construction? Was this all done to code and inspected? I have experiance in these areas. Did you have to get an EPA report on the impacts of wild life and mother nature? How would you have liked to wait months or years to get your project started? boy I could go on…….

  • Dredging does not stir up the mercury as this bill contends. In fact, a study by DFG using a 4″ Keene dredge showed that the dredges remove up to 98% of the mercury from the river. It is unfortunate that “the old timers” used tons and tons of mercury, but it is a good thing dredges remove it. Dredges also create new spawning gravels for the fish, they break up concretized gravels and also stir up food for the fish.

    The real problem with the declining salmon and steelhead is stream diversions, dams and the voracious water usage by farmers. I know this first hand as a former steelhead guide.

    California will be faced with extensive legal bills if this passes from the class action suit that will follow.

  • we have yet to see one study to support your articles…ive seen fish swimming with dredgers on a dozen ocassions.there curious and feed off the tailngs..not to easy to see from the surface a…you should put a wet suit on and go dredgeing sometime before making such bogus accusations….

  • Dredge tailing discharge is heaven for fish…a feast…Dredgers don’t stir up mercury, they dredge it up and are glad to get it. It’s often loaded with gold and both are recoverable. If mercury on the bottom is a concern, open the area to dredgers, the problem will disappear. I love to dredge up mercury loaded with gold myself…i do it evey time i get a chance…You don’t need to thank me, just don’t put a ban on my doing you and the fish a favor…

  • It’s just like the old spotted owl campaign. A pile of nonsense. It is just the environmentalists excuse to get rid of another industry in this state. My family has dredged in the sierra’s for over thirty years and i have never seen a fish sucked through our dredge, I have however seen many at the back , enjoying the tailing’s. So please don’t pretend you care about any fish, it’s getting rid of dredging to protect your warped sense of stewardship of the land and your, I know whats best for everyone else attitude.

  • Jennifer,
    Some of this criticism is a bit harshly toned. I too graduated from Humboldt and an active environmentalist. I Scuba regularly and have joined a few dredgers doing their activities. It is very difficult for me to comprehend how anyone can say so convincingly that dredging harms Salmon or their habitat, as I have observed it generally enhances the pool structure and spawning type gravel while giving up loads of insect larvae for fish to feed upon. The pools are deeper and colder after the dredges leave which is a vast improvement over the silted up gummy state they were in prior to dredging. When 99.99% of the destruction lies in diversion, dams, logging, poor fishing practices/management then why look so fervently at the least common denominator. If no-one else is utilizing these lands then it will go back to pot-growers, poachers and squatters much more easily and that seems like a poor trade off. Either DFG gets a report done or leave it alone-as many of us suspect this report would not justify closing off dredge permits.

  • I just can not believe how many people feel they need to stick their nose up, and try to dictate how others should live their lives. Instead of hiding from the population off the grid why don’t you rejoin the populus you seem to want to put your two cents in on a subject you have no clue how it impacts the fish. Do you really care or are you just to bored with your life, at least take the time to go dredging before you stick your nose into an issue your clueless about. If you really want to help improve the fish population why don’t you take a look at the real problem. We deveret millions of gallons of water a day salmon, trout, and steel head all need running cold water to thrive. Three thousand claims dosen’t mean that they are all out there dredging many people get a claim and use it as their own private campground we clean the area’s help to prevent wild fires, keep out the unwanted elements or would you prefer the mexacian cartels have a firm gripp on our federal lands. Let’s stop giving up our rights and letting people tell us how to live.

  • Lets get your facts straight –

    The moratorium on the issuance of dredge permits was passed by a Judge. SB 670 will outlaw the use of a suction dredges altogether.

    As others have stated there is no evidence that suction dgredging is impacting the fish population, but a wealth of information that shows the POSITIVE impact of suction dredging on aquatic wildlife.

    Mercury is REMOVED from the waterways by suction dredges. Mercury is a heavy metal and as such is retained in sluice boxes along with lead (also not good for the waterways)

    SB 670 refers to a CEQA study that is supposed to be done on the Klamath river while banning suction dredging in ALL California rivers.

    The amount of lies surrounding this bill is staggering and you are helping to perpetuate them. Do some research and get informed.

  • Jennifer,

    I am very concerned about the environment but I am also concerned about TRUTH. It is sad that so many environmentalists are so uninformed and speak as though they are. You do not even know the difference between a CLAIM and a PERMIT. The moritorium does not prevent the issuance of new mining CLAIMS. That is 1872 mining LAW. The moritorium prevents new dredging PERMITS from being issued. At least be informed about what it is you think you stand for.
    Secondly, you state and I quote your own words, “As you mention, a comprehensive study has not been completed (to my knowledge).” Yes, TO YOUR KNOWLEDGE. There were at least 4 or five studies already done on this subject to MY knowledge, if not more. Small scale recreational suction dredging has already been studied by several governmental agencies. Each and every one of them concluded suction dredging does not harm our waterways or aquatic life!

  • Some of the various agencies which have studied this issue over the years include the Environmental Protection Agency, the Washington State of Ecology, the United States Geological Survey, and the Army Corps of Engineers to name a few.

    Are we to fund yet ANOTHER study (this one by Fish and Game) with tax payer dollars and from a budget that is already on life support? Too bad all the other studies by other governmental departments are not sufficient! What a joke. The EPA did a study on recreational suction dredging and the environment in Alaska and concluded “In general, our results are in agreement with other studies that have found only localized reductions in macroinvertebrate abundance in relation to small-scale suction dredging.” This means, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, that dredging cannot be a cause for wide scale salmon population declines.

  • The Washington State Department of Ecology studied Effects of Small-Scale are not a significant toxicity concern for aquatic life.”

    The United States Geological Survey, part of the U.S. Department of the Interior issued a press release in 1998 about suction dredging and in the first line of that document stated boldly, “The water quality of the Fortymile River-a beautiful, wild and scenic river in the remote part of east-central Alaska-has not been adversely impacted by gold placer mining operations according to an integrated study underway by the U.S. Geological Survey and the Alaska Department of Natural Resources.”

  • The United States Army Corps of Engineers did a study and concluded, “Corps finding of de minimis (i.e., inconsequential) effects on aquatic resources for suction dredges with nozzle openings of 4 inches or less. This is an official recognition of what suction dredgers have long claimed; that below a certain size, the effects of suction dredging are so small and so short-term as to not warrant the regulations being imposed in many cases. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in particular, has ignored this concept, although numerous studies, including the EPA’s own 1999 study of suction dredging, repeatedly and consistently support the Corps finding de minimis effects. The reports consistently find no actual impact of consequence on the environment, and so almost always fall back to the position that “potential for impact exists”. However, showing potential for harm, and showing that actual harm exists are two different things, and the studies to date have not shown any actual effect on the environment by suction dredging except for those that are short-term and localized in nature. Current regulatory efforts are proceeding despite this lack of evidence showing that harm to the environment is taking place. The regulatory agencies should be consistently and continually challenged by the dredging community to produce sound, scientific evidence that support their proposed regulations. To regulate against a “potential for harm”, where none has been shown to exist, is unjustifiable and must be challenged.”

    Gleaned from:

  • How many studies are they going to have to do? It would save everyone a whole lot of time and money just by reading the reports already done!

    There is NO evidence, NO proof recreational suction dredging causes harm to the environment. The only evidence points to the fact that it is essentially harmless to the rivers. In fact, there is strong evidence to the contrary. Aeration of impacted gravels oxygenates salmon beds and has shown that salmon are attracted to and spawn abundantly in recently dredged gravel beds. Not only that, but gold dredgers extract lead, mercury, and trash from the waterways that normally would not be removed.

    SB670 is a waste of tax-payer money and a waste of everyone’s time. The studies and reports have already been done. Now if only people would READ them!

  • J. Lance,

    I must be doing something wrong. Because, just in the last 8 years I cant seen to dump the Mercury back into the streams. I have 5.65 Troy Lbs of pesky amalgam mercury that seemed to have been retained by my recreational dredging activities. Let alone the 64 lbs bucket of lead bullets, and fishing weights.
    Shame on you. Please get your facts straight ?!?

    An avid Fly Fisherman and Dredger.

  • do me a favor people and that includs you the karuk indian tribe.get a merucry test kit, there not that much money.go get a fish from your river in california and srape the gill for a smple test it your self. dont play the blame game get the real facts. if you are that concernd with eating the fish from the river you mite what to do this test.

  • I think that most people are missing the point I think that alot of it has to do with the economic problems that the state is having sure fish spawn in the river but they only do it at certain times of the year in certain areas I went to the New 49ers website and alot of the people on there are boasting about the loot they have recovered using a suction dredge so whats the fastest way to stop this practice say that it harms habitat and the environement I think that looking at the 49ers website probably pissed off a
    the wrong people and they should not have let the cat out of the bag on how well they were doing with the dredge now they can’t use the dredge. Theres got to be a differant way to recover get on it!

  • If my dredging has caused so much damage to the inviroment, what am I to do? put the 30 lbs of mercury that I took out of the streams back into the streams?

  • California politicians blunder

    It is absolutely established that a valid unpatented placer mining claim is in fact a Statutory Federal Grant of “private property” derived from 30 U.S.C. § 21-54. All unpatented placer mining claims situated in California are on federally owned lands, under jurisdiction of the USFS, or BLM. Otherwise none would exist, as federal land is the only place an unpatented mining claim can be initiated, and held.

    As long as the Federal government retains title, the federal interest in providing free access to its own land in order to promote mining is sufficient to preempt any state law that fundamentally bans such use. Thus under standard preemption analysis any state legislation, or regulation that conflicts with this overriding federal purpose, must fail.

    Under the Supremacy Clause, any state law that conflicts with a federal law is preempted. Gibbons v. Ogden, 22 U.S. 1 (1824). Any state legislation which frustrates the full effectiveness of federal law is rendered invalid by the Supremacy Clause” regardless of the underlying purpose of its enactors, Perez v. Campbell, 402 U.S. 637, 651-52, 91 S.Ct. 1704, 29 L.Ed.2d 233 (1971)

    A conflict exists if a party cannot comply with both state law and federal law. In addition, even in the absence of a direct conflict between state and federal law, a conflict exists if the state law is an obstacle to the accomplishment and execution of the full purposes and objectives of Congress. Crosby v. Nat’l Foreign Trade Council, 530 U.S. 363, 372-73 (2000).

    In determining whether a state law is a sufficient obstacle, the courts examine the federal statute as a whole and identify its purpose and intended effects and then determine the impact of the challenged law on congressional intent. State law can be pre-empted in either of two general ways. If Congress evidences an intent to occupy a given field, any state law falling within that field is pre-empted.

    If Congress has not entirely displaced state regulation over the matter in question, state law is still pre-empted to the extent it actually conflicts with federal law, that is, when it is impossible to comply with both state and federal law, or where the state law stands as an obstacle to the accomplishment of the full purposes and objectives of Congress. California Coastal Comm’n v. Granite Rock Co., 480 U.S. 572, 581 (1987)

    An 1998 8th Circuit Court of appeals case revolving around near identical prohibitions on unpatented mining claims, wherein holders brought suit claiming that federal mining laws preempted ordinance prohibiting issuance of any new or amended permits for surface metal mining within area which included federal lands. Private landowner intervened to defend the ordinance.

    The United States District Court for the District of South Dakota, Richard H. Battey, Chief Judge, 977 F.Supp. 1396, granted summary judgment for plaintiffs and enjoined the ordinance. Intervener appealed.

    The Court of Appeals, Hansen, Circuit Judge, held that: (1) preemption claim was ripe, and (2) Federal Mining Act preempted ordinance. Affirmed; South Dakota Mining Association Inc v. Lawrence County, 155 F.3d 1005

    The only locatable mineral on the majority of unpatented placer claims held under federal law is placer gold. Which is naturally concentrated in stream or river bed gravels, and no where else in worthwhile amounts. The only economically viable means to profitably recover that placer gold is by “suction dredging”.

    Accordingly, suction dredging is the “Highest & Best Use” of placer mining claims. As a matter of fact, it is only viable use, as no other mining method is practical, economical, or profitable.

    When the only viable use of an unpatented placer mining claim is by suction dredging, arbitrarily prohibiting that use (even temporarily) effects a complete “taking” of all economic benefit the owner could derive from it, for the duration of the ban.

    The Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution, made applicable to state and local governments by the Fourteenth Amendment, prohibits the government from taking private property for public use without just compensation.

    The California Constitution provides, “Private property may be taken or damaged for public use only when just compensation … has first been paid to, or into court for, the owner.” (Cal. Const., art. I, § 19.)

    It is well established that just compensation… is the full value of the property taken at the time of the taking, plus interest from the date of taking. United States v. Blankinship, 9 Cir., 1976, 543 F.2d 1272, 1275.

    Without doubt, S.B. 670 capriciously deprives thousands of families of their legitimate livelihood, and caused an immediate gross compensatory “taking” of valid existing rights, and compensable private property interests of considerable magnitude.

    Neither the USFS, or BLM will enforce this state law, given that that federal statutes, and regulations preempt this suction dredging ban on unpatented placer mining claims situated on federal lands under their control in California. That clearly should give public notice the federal courts will most certainly, and quickly take the same position the USFS/BLM has.

    The Treasury of the State of California will ultimately be held liable to pay compensable damages to all those effected, accruing from August 6th 2009 forward. Until at least the illegal ban on suction dredging unpatented placer mining claims is lifted, or if necessary overturned by appropriate federal court action.

    Plainly, Senator Wiggins who introduced this Bill, all the legislature that voted for it, and even the Governor failed to have S.B. 670 analyzed for critical federal preemption flaws, or significant “takings” liabilities it would create.

    It would seen astute on the part of the California legislature to limit state financial liabilities here by swiftly correcting this law, to effect only a suction dredging ban on fee simple lands in California, which federal law does not preempt.

    If not corrected quickly, state coffers will needlessly expend precious funds in paying attorney fees, and costs attempting to delay the inevitable overruling of S.B. 670 illegal provisions in federal court. Involved compensatory damages could well approach $20,000,000 annually. If ignored, those applicable damages will certainly compound over time with interest, costs and attorney fees applied.

    California politicians should ponder that the 3,200 other current California suction dredge permit holders, and approximately 21,000 other similarly situated owners of unpatented placer mining claims on federal lands in California will justifiably require compensation for their loss’s S.B 670 directly caused them.

    Once all affected are joined in a class action, which will most certainly prevail. Who do these politicians think will be billed for that compensation? Without question, it will most certainly be the treasury of the state of California.


    “Under the mining laws a person has a statutory right, consistent with Departmental regulations, to go upon the open (unappropriated and unreserved) Federal lands for the purpose of mineral prospecting, exploration, development, extraction and other uses reasonably incident thereto.” (See 30 U.S.C. § 21-54, 43 C.F.R. § 3809.3-3, 0-6).

    Federal mining claims are “private property” Freese v. United States, 639 F.2d 754, 757, 226 Ct.Cl. 252 cert. denied, 454 U.S. 827, 102 S.Ct. 119, 70 L.Ed.2d 103 (1981); Oil Shale Corp. v. Morton, 370 F.Supp. 108, 124 (D.Colo. 1973).

    This possessory interest entitles the claimant to “the right to extract all minerals from the claim without paying royalties to the United States.” Swanson v. Babbitt, 3 F.3d 1348, 1350 (9th Cir. 19930).

    16 U.S.C. § 481, Use of Waters: All waters within boundaries of national forests may be used for domestic, mining, milling, or irrigation purposes under the laws of the state wherein such national forests are situated or under the laws of the United States and the rules and regulations established thereunder.

    “Uncompensated divestment” of a valid unpatented mining claim would violate the Constitution. Freese v. United States, 639 F.2d 754, 757, 226 Ct.Cl. 252, cert. denied, 454 U.S. 827, 102 S.Ct. 119, 70 L.Ed. 2d 103 (1981).

    Even though title to the fee estate remains in the United States, these unpatented mining claims are themselves property protected by the Fifth Amendment against uncompensated takings. See Best v. Humboldt Placer Mining Co., 371 U.S. 334 (1963); cf. Forbes v. Gracey, 94 U.S. 762, 766 (1876); U.S.C.A.Const. Amend. 5; North American Transportation & Trading Co. v. U.S., 1918, 53 Ct.Cl. 424, affirmed 40 S.Ct. 518, 253 U.S. 330; United States v. Locke, 471 U.S. 84, 107, 105 S.Ct. 1785, 1799, 85 L.Ed. 2d 64 (1985); Freese v. United States, 639 F.2d 754, 757, 226 Ct.Cl. 252, cert. denied, 454 U.S. 827, 102 S.Ct. 119, 70 L.Ed. 2d 103 (1981); Rybachek v. United States, 23 Cl.Ct. 222 (1991).

    A valid location, though unpatented, is a grant in the nature of an estate in fee and if such an estate is taken by the United States, just compensation must be made. See U.S.C.A. Const. Amend. 5, North American Transportation & Trading Co. v. U.S., 1918, 53 Ct.Cl. 424, affirmed 40 S.Ct. 518, 253 U.S. 330

    Such an interest may be asserted against the United States as well as against third parties (see Best v. Humboldt Placer Mining Co., 371 U.S. 334, 336 (1963); Gwillim v. Donnellan, 115 U.S. 45, 50 (1885)) and may not be taken from the claimant by the United States without due compensation. See United States v. North American Transportation & Trading Co., 253 U.S. 330 (1920); cf. Best v. Humboldt Placer Mining Co.

    For further information on federal preemption law, the internet link below gives a basic explanation.

  • HI. I don’t feel special because Iam a 100% disabled combat Veteran, as it was my way of supporting mine and your way of life. Having someone steal my property that I own on the other hand does however brings out the fighter in me. Taking my way of life and my ability to make an extra dollar to help my family once again shows me that money back door deals lies, deceptions and funds being slid into the pockets of our hired legislators is still on going as it has been so long as there has been a pocket to pick a deal to made. If you think for even a second that the Bill makeing suction dredging the fall guy for less fish in the streams than than you have your head up your ass a bit to far. Your fish you love so much are in nets layed out by you buddies the Indians that trap and kill more fish in a day than all the dredger in Ca. could do in a lifetime. I do not believe anyone ask me what the efect of the loss of my 70.000 thousand investment would have on my family or my life . I live in Michigan and spend 5 month a year in Ca. on my Claim on the Trinity River this claim I payed hard cash for as well as another 15000 Dollars a year I spend at the local stores. So putting a cap on the comment you have stolen my property taken away my income,hurt the local business people. when all that was needed was to stop netting all the fish,than there would be tons of fish in the rivers. So let me be the one of those to tell the CA.Government to Kiss my Ass. I as well as many of my friends will take our money to another state that has common sence.

  • David A. Richard: Thank you for your service to “WE THE PEOPLE” You are not alone in your frustration. I too have a claim in Northern California. This is the enviromental nuts in the democratic party that needs to be voted out this next election. We need to vote all incumbents out of office that are enviromentalists. Othrwise they will continue to stand on the necks of the american workers.


    Almost all suction dredging for gold in California takes place on unpatented placer mining claims initiated under the general mining laws of the United States.

    “Under the mining laws a person has a statutory right, consistent with Departmental regulations, to go upon the open (unappropriated and unreserved) Federal lands for the purpose of mineral prospecting, exploration, development, extraction and other uses reasonably incident thereto.” (See 30 U.S.C. § 21-54, 43 C.F.R. § 3809.3-3, 0-6).

    In law, the word “claim” in connection with the phrase “mining claim” perfected with a valid mineral discovery, represents a federally recognized right in real property. The Supreme Court has established that a mining “claim” is not a claim in the ordinary sense of the word a mere assertion of a right, but rather, is a property interest, which is itself real property in every sense, and not merely an assertion of a right to a property.

    Once established, a valid unpatented placer mining claim gives the owner the right (not a mere privilege) to extract the valuable mineral therein, because plainly the valuable mineral there clearly belongs to him, as the owner. Certainly, that right is subject to reasonable regulation by applicable state law. But, not “unreasonable” state regulation that would abrogate everything the owner owns.

    To initiate a valid unpatented placer mining claim is not a quick, easy or inexpensive task. It requires considerable investment in research, time, travel expense, labor, exploration, staking & cost about $200 in initial county & BLM filing fees. That all under the prerequisite that the person can find federal land that contains valuable mineral, is not withdrawn from mineral entry, and is not covered by any prior placer claim. All in all, valid placer claims are a rare, and valuable. Simply because good ones to stake & file are very difficult to find.

    If a person cannot find one to stake & file themselves, they often buy one. The purchase price ranging from a few thousand dollars, to tens of thousands of dollars, sometimes even more. Once a person owns a valid placer claim, it is subject to state property tax, and annual BLM title maintenance fees usually amounting to around $225 a year. All this is based on reasonable investment based expectations, that the owner will recover his cost, and expenses by extracting valuable mineral, usually placer gold from his mining claim.

    The majority of placer gold found in this era is usually concentrated in active stream, or river bed alluvial gravels, most often on or near bedrock. Simply because almost all dry bench or higher elevation gravels from ancient stream or river gravels were mined out long ago. The most efficient economical means to recover placer gold in worthwhile amounts is plainly by suction type dredging.

    Small relatively portable suction dredges that one person, or two can operate range in cost from approximately $2,000 to $20,000 dollars each. A trailer is required to haul a suction dredge, as well as a suitable vehicle to pull that trailer. Additional gold recovery equipment is usually required, which adds considerable costs

    Access points to isolated dredging sites often require 4 wheel drive vehicles to get to. Which is usually not a normal family type vehicle used every day. Given the brushed in old unmaintained roads, and rugged terrain these vehicles usually have to traverse to get to worthwhile suction dredging sites could, or would damage a normal street vehicle, not strictly dedicated to mining purposes.

    Total investment by California suction dredge miners, to placer mine can range from a few thousand dollars, to near $100,000 each. Dependent on the cost of the mining claim, and equipment required to effectively & profitably mine it. By no means can an investment of that magnitude be considered recreational.

    The incentive to find, initiate or purchase a mining claim to suction dredge is to recover placer gold in profitable amounts. The same “for profit” motive as any business has. Those who do, also enjoy the outdoor setting, labor and comradely involved. It’s hard work that sometimes pays little, or with perseverance & dedication, can pay a lot.

    Teaching my children, and now my grandchildren to prospect, and pan for gold, is one of the great pleasures of my life. Unearthing placer gold that has been buried for millions of years, your eyes the first to see it, your hands to touch it, is a wonder by itself. It takes a certain type of man, to appreciate such rare things. Thank God, men of that quality & caliber still exist.

    The bottom line here is this.
    Unpatented placer mining claim owners;
    1. Own exclusive mining rights to mine their own property.
    2. The law allows those same owners the right to use the most efficient means to do that.
    3. Suction dredging is most often the means of choice, as being the most practical.
    4. Suction dredging has the most negligible effect on the environment.
    5. A total ban on suction dredging for any indefinite period is not lawful.
    6. CA DF&G is already in contempt to court, for not completing the EIS study.
    7. Once a challenge is filed in federal court, the ban will be overturned.
    8. The state of California almost certainly will be held liable for compensatory damages.

  • I will continue to dredge, Where we dredge we don’t see too many humans, let alone a ranger or fish & game officer. Where we dredge , there are 5 PG&E dams they would have to blow up, before any salmon can come back, but I doubt if salmon ever came up here anywise.

    There has been an awaking to old mining again this year, gold hit $1,000 an oz. the other day. They are trying to keep people out of the forests, and don’t want people to make a living. Why not stop dredging on the Klamoth and let other streams hundreds of miles away be normal. They also know that recrection gold dredgers are not lobbists and have no extra money to do play politics with.

  • Lady, it sounds as your just as misinformed as our representatives in Sacramento with their campaign of disinformation, covering up the lies, propaganda at the expense of their political careers. We can continue to stick our heads in the sand and pretend the problem doesn’t exist, but obvious for all to see are the environmental impact reports that don’t support your claims and assertions.

  • Been a small time gold miner most of my life, and done my share of dredging in N. Cal. For me the issue is water quality. How dare you muck up our pristine waters for your selfish purposes if our powers that be have decided to ban dredging in an effort to help our struggling fish populations. If you are a real gold miner this ban will not effect you in the least; there are plenty of other methods of getting the rocks through the box without dredging. I think that the loudest objections have been from people who make lots of money promoting recreational mining, most of which are scams, and lets not forget the dredge companies. That said, I really doubt that dredging effects fish all that much, but I would much rather have a clear swimming hole than a few ounces of gold—-

  • Looks like the dredgers have some really good points here…Perhaps those with legitimate environmental concerns would be better served focusing their energy on more pressing environmental issues that are in need of attention…

    I think anybody with a functioning brain can tell that small scale dredging(which appears to already be regulated in Oregon—IE. 4 in. maximum intake) is likely more beneficial to fish habitat than it is harmful…

    Let common sense prevail…

  • I haven’t read all the replys, so if what I’m saying matches someone elses, well then, great minds think alike…:)
    I am a “DREDGER, PROSPECTOR, MINER”/FISHERMAN, RAFTER, SCUBA” and everything else that goes along with the out doors. Now I don’t know if these nimrods and “Arnny Baby” are beleivers in the creator of this planet, but I”m pretty sure they are in “tune” with “MOTHER NATURE”..
    Long before man was even walking this place, Mother Nature was kicking the hell out these streams and rivers on a regular basis, turning both into raging, uncontrollable, destructive water, the most powerful force we live with today. Over all these millions of years, this cycle has repeated itself, and the fish live, flurish and reproduce.
    Now, if the fish were not “OVER-FISHED” on a daily, weekly, monthly, yearly basis, this issue wouldn’t even be talked about.
    This is just a simple math issue. Check it out….
    1) Dredging is from May 31, to Sept. 31 in most of California, at least it is in Sierra County where I dredge.
    2) That is a total of (4) FOUR months.
    3) A minor 3000 dredging permits were issued, and most were for private owned claims. (there is only one (1) MILE of un-claimed river in the whole state of California that I am aware of and its in Sierra County. This one mile is for public use dredging, sluicing, panning.
    I have a 5″ dredge. While I’m under water, the fish, by the by the numbers invade my hole and stake claim. Dredging is a natural evolution that takes place yearly, just with a little more help from man.
    For being fish lovers, these nimrods sure don’t pay much attention to what the fish are doing during spawniing season.. they would “fan” a bigger deeper hole if they could, but after burning all of that energy getting back up river, hell, I’d feel the same way.
    There always seems to be a group, gang, what ever you want to call them , putting “BLAME” on someone else.!!!
    Now lets do some more math. How many fishing permits were issued in California??? gads and gads more than dredging, and fishing is pretty much year around, where dredging is not. Lets see what kind of totals we are getting… 3000 vs lets say roung figure 30,000,000,000… 4 months vs 8 months.
    Regulate the fishing like hunting, or dredging season for that matter, and I’ll bet you dollar to dime that the fishing would prosper.
    KEEP ON DREDGING and FEED and FLURISH THE STREAMS and RIVERS. Cut back on the fishing liscences and set back on learn…
    No body has taken a servey I bet on how much dredging and recreational panning brings into the state each year, and it all goes to the FISH AND GAME, so they can have money to stock the lake, rivers and streams….
    If you add it up, 3000 x $300.00 = $900,000.00 to the FISH N GAME for 4 months… not bad wages, and this is not counting the money that is spent in the little towns that depend on those four months of summer. The water is too low and too warm during that time and thats when the bugg live is thirving… I’m tired, and thats all I have to say about that right now…. I’m writing that bucket head Arnny. I live in Nevada, so I know what kind of money comes to Cali… Say good night Jim, Good Night..

  • Even just sluicing, I pick up a boat-load of lead & amalgamated gold flakes in my box. The same thing when I dredged, only much more. I take it all home with me. There is just no sense in such a bogus bill as 670!

    The gates of all this stimulus money are wide open to ???? I think they have sufficient funding to complete their study. This bill reeks of corruption!

  • What has gone wrong with salmon farming in the Broughton Archipelago

    When salmon farming first appeared in the Broughton Archipelago it seemed a good idea. The local micro-community of Echo Bay was promised jobs, new families to help keep the one-room school open and relief from fishing pressure on wild fish. The community was advised they could decide where farms would not be allowed. The future looked rosy.


    Under the Coastal Resource Interest Study, the provincial ministries of Environment and Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, toured the archipelago in 1988. Public meetings were held for fishermen, tourism operators and other local interest groups to mark where they would NOT like to see fish farms. Raincoast was asked what were essential to humpback whales, orca and other species of whales and dolphins. In 1989, the province produced a map dividing the archipelago waters into green (go for fish farming), yellow (go with caution) and red (where no applications for finfish farming would be accepted). These red zones highlighted where wild salmon schooled, prawns were most abundant, where whales summered and rock cod lived. However, within a year there were more salmon farms in red zones than in any other colour. In a breach of public trust, fishermen’s hard-won knowledge had been used by the salmon farmers to find the places their fish would survive the best.

    When queried the government gave three different answers as to why this had happened. First they said all interest groups had been contacted and differences settled sufficiently to allow the farms into the red zones. But none, including Raincoast, had been contacted. Next they said the red zones had been painted with such a “broad brush” that the little farms could be squeezed in without causing impact. But the farms were so large they covered entire red zones such as Sargeuant’s Pass and spilled out into the surrounding waters. Finally the Province admitted wherever fish farm applications pre-dated the red zones, they had been permitted. As a result, tax-dollars were wasted on meaningless “consultation” with local communities, and the archipelago harmed by the study because the richest waters had been highlighted in red for exploitation. During this process a memorandum of understanding passed down from Ottawa prohibited leases for residents to live on the coast in their floating houses.



    Harbour seals learned quickly how to eat farm salmon. The large fatty fish could be spooked into diving to the bottom the net pens in a typical Atlantic salmon response to predation. The tons of fish pressed so heavily against the net floor, seals found they could bite and suck the soft farmed flesh through the net without even making a hole. Despite the fact that gunfire over water is prohibited in B.C., Fisheries and Oceans Canada handed out permits and thousands of seals were shot. Soon the farmers discovered seals are smart – they were only killing naïve seals. The masters at farm fish predation learned to stay out of gunfire range.

    In 1993, a new anti-seal measure was introduced – acoustic harassment devices (AHDs). These devices, dubbed acoustic brooms by whale researcher Dr. Jon Lien, work by broadcasting 198 db (the level of a jet engine at take-off) to cause pain in the seal’s ears. Manufacturers warned local farmers not to turn the devices on when the seals were close, because the seal would be instantly deafened and the AHD no longer be effective against that seal.

    The moment the devices were turned on harbour porpoise evacuated the archipelago and tried to move into Dall porpoise territory in the deeper waters of Blackfish Sound and Queen Charlotte Strait. The orca left, displaced from over 150 square kilometers of their traditional territory. It was as if a door had been slammed in their faces. Fisheries and Oceans Canada was contacted by Raincoast. In 1995, Fisheries did an experiment in the archipelago. Using top researchers, whale scientist Dr. John Ford and their own seal expert Dr. Peter Olesiuk they alternately played and silenced an AHD in the heart of harbour porpoise territory. The study produced dramatic results. When the AHD was on harbour porpoise abundance declined “precipitously,” when they were off the diminutive porpoise returned. Section 78 of the Fisheries Act prohibits disturbance and displacement of cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises). But Fisheries Canada and Oceans shelved the study for 7 years and granted more licenses to the salmon farmers for acoustic harassment.

    Sadly, there was great debate over whether the devices were even effective. The study used an AHD in the absence of any farm salmon and found seals were actually attracted to the noise in a “dinner bell” effect. Many farmers agreed and told Raincoast they only used them because they were required by insurance companies.

    Raincoast co-published a study on the impact of these devices on orca. The farmers turned the devices off in 1999 and while orca occurrence is up, whale use of the area is highly sporadic and disrupted.


    Disease transfer

    Salmon farms differ fundamentally from terrestrial farms because their effluent flows directly, untreated into contact with wild species. While scientist have dubbed salmon farms pathogen culturing facilities (Bakke and Harris 1998), both provincial and federal governments in British Columbia refuse to examine the fate of bacteria, parasites and viruses emanating from salmon farms. Salmon are designed to move. Epidemics in wild fish are extremely rare, because, when pathogens strike – the sick drop out of the school and are eaten by predators.

    Intensive farming, however, breaks natural laws of density, distribution bio-diversity and survival of the fittest. Disease is nature’s relentless response to over-crowding and so the farmers have to resort to drugs. Small bays which might support a few hundred salmon in intermittent bursts throughout the year, are now filled with up to 1,000,000 – 2,000,000 stationary salmon. This is the best thing to happen to fish pathogens on this coast since the glaciers receded. In such close proximity, the feces of the crowded fish pass over each other’s gills. Because the fish are confined and unable to migrate, pathogens accumulate into a rich broth. Antibiotics can keep most farm salmon alive long enough to reach market size, but leave the fish contagious, shedding pathogens into marine currents.

    In 1991, IBEC brought Atlantic salmon eggs into Canada from the Landcatch hatchery in Scotland. This hatchery had experienced trouble with furunculosis, shipping stock to Norway that triggered an outbreak of the disease which spread into 70 Norwegian Rivers (Johnsen and Jensen 1994). When IBEC put their Atlantic salmon into the Broughton Archipelago – the wild coho returned to a local enhancement hatchery with furnuculosis. Over 28% of the adult coho died in this hatchery disease-free for the previous ten years.

    When Raincoast became aware that the nearby salmon farms were experiencing an epidemic of the same disease after introducing diseased stock (pers comm. Dale Blackburn farm manager). Fisheries and Oceans refused to identify the farm strain so no comparison could be made with the coho. Fisheries and Oceans permitted the farmers to leave the infected farm salmon in the water where they were treated with large amounts of the antibiotic Oxytetracycline.

    In 1993, Scanmar put furunculosis infected Atlantic salmon into the archipelago again. But this time it was a highly antibiotic resistant strain. It spread in days to infect the B.C. Packer fish farms (Needham 1995). In response; B.C. Packers bought Scanmar out, Fisheries and Oceans released the drug Erythromycin previous banned for use in food fish (DFO Streamtips 1992) and permitted the farmers to leave the fish in the water. Raincoast urged Fisheries and Oceans to test the wild fish between the two companies. They did test a wild pink salmon and found furunculosis, but claimed to have lost the culture before they could test for antibiotic resistance, preventing identification of the strain once again (pers com. Dorothee Keiser). Raincoast volunteered to provide them with another wild fish for testing, but Fisheries and Oceans declined. The next spring all age classes of wild chinook in the area crashed (Kingcome Inlet).

    Over-fishing kills successively older fish, poor logging practices kill successive juvenile generations, but disease kills all age-classes. The fishing lodges closed and the legendary spring run of chinook vanished without effort by Fisheries and Oceans to find out why.

    The disease legacy continues with the 2002 extermination of 1.5 million Atlantic smolts approximately 9 weeks after they entered the archipelago. The fish reportedly were infected with infectious hematopoietic necrosis (IHN). Dubbed the sockeye disease, there are no sockeye runs in the area of this farm, so the source of the disease remains a mystery. The farmers would not use their own boats to remove the fish, local wild fish packers would not take the fish, finally three or four boats were commissioned from Vancouver. IHN is highly contagious. When it was learned that bloodwater from the infected fish would enter the Fraser River (a major sockeye river), during off-loading the David Suzuki Foundation won an injunction to prevent unloading of the fish. The fish were finally taken ashore, with spillage, on eastern Vancouver Island at French Creek and composted. The fish farmers posted guards around the composting pile, to prevent the public from taking samples of these fish for independent testing but were not successful in this.

    Over the next few weeks IHN broke out in two additional, widely separated locations – the Central coast and Clayoquot Sound. All the infected fish were the same size suggesting they had perhaps come from the same hatchery. Raincoast received samples and will be examining whether or not these strains of IHN may be identical. Several weeks after the IHN broke out in the Broughton Archipelago, the disease appeared in a another nearby farm. Instead of destroying these fish Heritage salmon farm is attempting to grow them to market size. Research by Fisheries and Oceans Canada has found 25% of herring exposed to IHN in water die. As well wild salmonids have been found susceptible. The entire juvenile population of some runs of herring and salmon are passing the infected pens. Fisheries and Oceans requires enhancement hatcheries to kill IHN infected stocks, but champions the rearing of IHN infected farm fish with the argument that IHN is endemic and therefore harmless. This denies the lethal amplification of the virus by salmon farms. If you stand on a football field with someone with a cold your risk of infection is less than if you stand in an elevator for 6 hours with ten people with colds.



    Wherever there are salmon farms, there have been epidemic outbreaks of the salmon-specific salmon louse Lepeophtheirus salmonis. Entire runs of salmonids, (Atlantic salmon, sea trout and Arctic charr) have been impacted by sea lice proliferation near salmon farms in Ireland, Scotland and Norway. While the second greatest economic loss to salmon farmers, sea lice have historically been considered harmless to wild fish. Wild Pacific salmon become infected with sea lice in the open ocean. When they return to spawn, the lice die as the salmon enters freshwater. In spring, juvenile salmon pass through marine coastal water free of lice until they mix with older schools in the open Pacific.

    But salmon farms have dramatically altered sea louse ecology giving them access to an entirely new environment – inshore over-wintering habitat. As adult river-bound wild salmon pass fish farms, their lice shed larvae. Some of these attach to the farm salmon. Over the winter months these lice reproduce exponentially, finding hosts easily in the unnaturally crowded pens, with new generations hatching monthly. By spring the farm salmon are covered with lice and shedding billions of lice larvae just as the tender young wild salmon pass through the farm nets migrating out to sea.

    Raincoast documented the first epidemic of this lice species on juvenile wild Pacific salmon. Over 850 juvenile pink salmon, as well as chum, coho, and chinook salmon and adult local sea run cutthroat trout were examined in the summer of 2001. 77% of these fish were infected at or above the lethal level as defined by Norwegian scientists to be 1.6 lice/gram of fish. The epidemic was epicentered around active salmon farms, with very few to no lice where there were no farms.

    In response, Fisheries and Oceans did a survey of seven pink salmon, none near active salmon farms and declared there was no sea louse problem in the Broughton Archipelago (FOCS anon 2001), even as the combined use of delousing medications Slice and Ivermectin have risen 3.5 fold in recent years.

    Raincoast presented this research in June 2002 at the meeting of the American Society of Limnology and Oceanography. View the Abstract on our Publications page.

    Other parasitic copepods are also proliferating near salmon farms included a rare eyeball afixing species in sole.

    Rex sole parasite (c) Alexandra Morton
    Rex sole parasite (© Alexandra Morton)


    Human Health

    Anti-foulant paint Many of the net pens in the Broughton Archipelago are red. They have been painted with Flexgard XI active ingredient 26.5% Cuprous Oxide, to prevent growth of seaweeds, barnacles and mussels. The label for this paint sports a skull and cross bones . “Notice to user: Product to be used only in accordance with the directions.” “Toxic to aquatic organisms. Do not contaminate water. Do not allow chips or dust generated during paint removal to enter water.”

    However, it is painted onto the nets submerged in water, and has to be re-applied periodically because it all flakes off while they are in the ocean. As densely crowded farm salmon competitively gulp pellets they will ingest this toxic paint drifting from all sides of the pen.

    Ivermectin Ivermectin is coveted by salmon farmers to rid their crowded fish stocks of sea lice. While, B.C. salmon farmers are not allowed to put Ivermectin directly into the water as a “pesticide”, they may soak it into a food pellet, which many wild marine organisms will find attractive, and throw it into the water as a “pharmaceutical.”

    On February 7, 2000 – 7,000 farm salmon died from an over-dose of Ivermectin, in a pen in Wells Passage in the Broughton Archipelago, illustrating the narrow margin between efficacy and toxicity for this drug. The problem is not so much that a vet made a mistake, but that this lethal chemical is being used at all in a fish farm sited on commercial and sport fishing grounds. Nearby this farm the exclusive fishing lodge at Sullivan Bay attracts luxury yachts with helicopters on the upper decks and these people go out and trap prawns near the salmon farms using Ivermectin. In addition, a commercial fishing fleet works in that area harvesting prawns and other species and ships them to Japan, the U.S. and places in Canada.

    Prawns are bottom feeders, inhabiting places where currents slacken and particulate matter settles. Ivermectin-laced pellets have likely now collected in some of those locations as well. If the prawns don’t die outright, they will carry this persistent pesticide for a long time. Four nanograms of Ivermectin per liter of water kills shrimp (that’s one ounce per 10,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools) and 1000 degree days are required to withdraw salmon from Ivermectin. It is so toxic its manufacturer, Merck, has not approved or even tested the drug for use in water. It was found to kill all life in the sediments underneath salmon farms, preventing decomposition thus creating seriously toxic dumpsites.

    In Scotland, 11% of farm fish tested positive for Ivermectin in 1994, but who is testing the wild food chain adjacent to the farms in B.C., particularly for sport fishermen? There are not even warnings posted during Ivermectin treatment.



    Tens of thousands of Atlantic salmon have escaped into the Pacific waters of the Broughton Archipelago. Thousands of Scamar’s furunculosis infected fish escaped into Wells Pass in 1993 when the tide twisted a pen set just as the Fraser River sockeye were migrating past in adjacent Queen Charlotte Strait. 30,000 thousand escaped on a calm September day in 1997 when a Stolt farm in Fife Sound failed – just as the coho were migrating past. And unknown tens of thousands were discovered escaping from Stolt’s Sargeaunt Pass during the pink salmon run by commercial fishermen who caught many of them in their nets in August 2000. These are the known escapes, persistent, chronic escapes are considered – business as usual.

    Three escaped Atlantics were caught in the Scott Cove Creek – days after the Fife Sound escape, by coho hatchery workers catching broodstock. Red-rimmed, pus encrusted sores were on these fish. Raincoast rushed one to a provincial vet, and sent another out of province for independent analysis. The province report the sores were due to sticks, but this was improbable as some were under the fish’s pectoral fins – the most protected area of the fish’s body. The other lab reported Serratia. Raincoast further tested another fish in the stream, but found it clean. A query on the Internet regarding Serratia in fish brought a response from Scotland that this bacteria, common to human sewage had been found in farmed Atlantic salmon there when the crew sewers leak. A provincial report released in April 2000 on compliance in B.C.’s salmon farms found 75% of salmon farms were not disposing of their human sewage at a safe distance from the farms. Raincoast received an anonymous call (one of many from people inside the industry and government) saying when they flushed dye down their toilets, it came up inside the pens!

    Raincoast took three Atlantic salmon out of the Wakeman River with the help of sportfishermen. One of these had a swollen and gray mottled kidney – a classic symptom of some fish diseases. After this sample was sent to the lab for analysis – the lab refused to further communicate with Raincoast again – ever. This is a common reaction. When a local lab was contacted for testing, arrangements went smoothly until the species of fish was identified as Atlantic salmon. At that point the lab refused to accept the samples saying they would never work for industry or government again if they tested for disease in escaped farm salmon.

    In the summer of 2000 Raincoast conducted a study to count the number of Atlantic salmon caught in the Archipelago and adjacent waters. In a 30 day period 10,826 Atlantic salmon were recorded by this study. 774 whole or partial Atlantic salmon were examined and 2.1% were found to have consumed wild food, even though several thousand had only been free for a matter of days. Report under review.


    Feed the world?

    Farming fish has been practiced for thousands of years, but not in the manner now underway on many temperate coasts worldwide today. Traditionally, fish that eat vegetable matter were used, such as carp or tilapia. For thousands of years Chinese fish farms have cycled waste from vegetable crops through their fish and then used the waste from the fish to fertilize the next vegetable crop. This sustainable, closed loop system created protein. In the late 1970’s however, a Norwegain hydro company, Norsk Hydro initiated the first corporate effort to farm salmon.

    Salmon are carnivores. No one has successfully farmed a carnivore. A terrestrial equivalent would feed chickens to dogs and eat the dog. The underlying equation in farming carnivores is a net loss in protein, and would not be profitable if full price is paid for the feed. Salmon farming takes two – five pounds of wild fish to produce one pound of farm salmon. This represents a net global protein loss as most of the fish used to make pellets are high quality food fit for human consumption. In 1999, 189,000 tons of Chilean whiting was sold to the make fish farm pellets for $12.9 million, when it could have produced $102.9 million if sold for human consumption.

    Salmon farming is not sustainable. It starves one ocean of fish, and pollutes another with the same fish. Its profit margin is so slight it can not afford to deal with its own waste. Its product is of questionable food quality being high in PCBs, low in omega oils and dyed pink. It is favoured politically because it produces salmon without a river, leaving the resource rich watersheds of British Columbia open for exploitation. It is a classic example of destruction of the commons to promote the privately owned.


    Facilitating Research

    Raincoast Research can provide field support for a small number of scientists and students interested in researching the impact of salmon farms. Contact us.



    Anon. 2001. Studies of early marine survival of Pacific salmon and sea lice occurrence in Queen Charlotte Strait in 2001. Fisheries and Oceans Canada. Pacific Biological Station. Nanaimo.

    Anon, Friends of Clayoquot Sound. Pers. comm.

    Bakke, T.A. and P.D. Harris. 1998. Diseases and parasites in wild Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) populations. Can. J. Fish. Aquat. Sci. 55(Suppl.1):247-266.

    Blackburn, D. Pers. comm.

    Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada. 1992. Streamtips. Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

    Johnsen, B.O. and A. J. Jensen 1994. The spread of Furunculosis in Salmonids in Norwegian Rivers. J. of Fish Bio. 45:47-55.

    Keiser, D. Pers. comm.

    Needham, T. 1995. Management of furunculosis in sea cages. Bull. Aquacul. Assoc. Canada 3.


    General Delivery, Simoom Sound, BC, Canada V0P 1S0


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