Maine LD 1671 (SP646) “An Act To Prohibit Motorized Recreational Gold Prospecting in Certain Atlantic Salmon and Brook Trout Spawning Habitats”

Presented by Senator BOYLE of Cumberland.

Cosponsored by Representative McCABE of Skowhegan and

Senators: MAZUREK of Knox, PATRICK of Oxford, SAVIELLO of Franklin,

Representatives: FARNSWORTH of Portland, GATTINE of Westbrook, ROCHELO of

Biddeford, SANBORN of Gorham, THERIAULT of Madawaska.

This new legislation is not necessary due to the fact that last year legislation was introduced and passed to impose a dredging season from June 15 to September 15. With this law in effect the spawning period for trout and salmon are protected. This should be enough right? Wrong. Trout Unlimited seems to think otherwise, they are the driving force behind this legislation.

On January 27, 2014 there was a public hearing on LD 1671 before the Environment and Natural Resources Committee at the Cross building in Augusta Maine. John Clark (Hillbilly John) and I were in attendance along with members of Central Maine Gold Prospectors,  Prospectors from Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut and New York.

LD 1671 Public Hearing Jan. 27, 2014

LD 1671 Public Hearing Jan. 27, 2014

Testimonies started with those in support of LD 1671, each person was given 3 minutes to speak for a 30 minute period and then those in opposition had the floor for the same amount of time and back and forth until every ones testimony was heard. A lot of the testimony I heard from those that support this legislation was based on opinion and conjecture. Laws should be based on facts not on opinion and conjecture.

Over the past several decades there have been studies performed and reports written by professionals  on the effects of small scale recreational gold suction dredging. Many of which were presented to the Environment and Natural Resources Committee for their review.

Here are some excerpts from Fact Sheet June 9, 2013 Written and prepared by:

Claudia Wise, Physical Scientist (USEPA retired), Miner

Joseph Greene, Research Biologist (USEPA retired), Miner

Guy Michael, Miner

Tom Kitchar, President, Waldo Mining District

Scientific studies have identified both detrimental and beneficial effects from this level of mining.

Dozens of studies on the environmental effects from small scale mining, and in particular “in-stream suction dredge placer mining”, have been performed by various agencies since the 1980’s, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, U.S. Geological Survey, and other federal and state agencies and universities at the cost of millions of dollars. To date, other than a few short-term and highly localized detrimental effects that are already mitigated to the point of being “less than significant”; the only other effects studies identified were beneficial to fish, the aquatic habitat, and the economy.

ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACTS

Relevant Science showing miniscule effects:

There have been a number of studies on the effects of small scale gold suction dredge mining that have concluded that these operations have impacts on the environment that are temporary, highly localized, and less-than-significant:

  •  1994, The Alaska District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued Special Public Notice 94-10, which concluded that, the effects from small suction dredges and hand operations were de minimus and did not require Army Corp permitting;
  • 2004,The Alaska District of the Army Corps issued Special Public Notice 2004-06, which restated that these placer mining activities still have “de minimus impacts” on the aquatic environment:
  • 1994,In an Environmental Impact Report, the California Department of Fish and Game, reached the conclusion that suction dredge mining had a less than significant impact on the environment;
  • 2012,The California Department of Fish and Wildlife, under a court order, completed another Environmental Impact Report on small-scale gold suction dredging, at a cost to the state of $1.2 to $1.5 million dollars. The overall conclusion was that the environmental impact from operation of these small scale dredges was less-than-significant for 56 of the 60 factors reviewed;
  • 2001, The Siskiyou National Forest, Oregon Draft Environmental Impact Report, Suction Dredging Activities are less-than-significant;
  • 2004, The Clearwater National Forest, Idaho completed the draft Environ-mental Impact Statement for Small-Scale Suction Dredging in Lolo Creek and Moose Creek Clearwater and Idaho Counties. The report stated that “EPA generally supports the terms and conditions for dredging and we believe they are designed to protect fish habitat and seem to minimize the potential to damage stream channels and banks.”, which supports a less-than-significant outcome;
  • 2012, Wallowa-Whitman National Forest, Oregon FINAL Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement reached the conclusion that suction dredge mining had a less than significant impact on the environment; and,
  • 2013, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Biological Evaluation Small Suction Dredge Placer Mining in Idaho reached the conclusion that suction dredge mining would have a less than significant impact on the environment.

 

There have also been a number of other more recent reports with the same conclusion, starting with:

  • Results from the 1992 Chugach National Forest, Alaska Report of Water Quality Cumulative Effects of Placer Mining which stated that, “The results from water quality sampling do not indicate any strong cumulative effects from multiple placer mining operations within the sampled drainage” (Huber and Blanchet).( NOTE: The operations studied here were large on-stream and off-stream commercial operations.)
  • In 1999 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reported the results of a cumulative field study evaluating the performance of 10, 8, and 4 inch gold dredges and concluded environmental impacts from these operations were less than significant (Royer et al., 1999).
  • Bayley (OSU), 2003, (for Siskiyou N.F., Oregon) Response of fish to cumulative effects of suction dredge and hydraulic mining in the Illinois subbasin concluded,”The statistical analyses did not indicate that suction dredge mining has no effect on the three responses measured, but rather any effect that may exist could not be detected at the commonly used Type I error rate of 0.05.”

All of these reports agree that the effect of small-scale gold suction dredging on the environment is less-than-significant, minimal, or immeasurable.

Net Environmental Benefits of Small-scale Suction Dredging: These important studies of small-scale suction dredge operations show impacts on the environment have a less-than-significant footprint. Furthermore, they make note of beneficial factors that create an overall net benefit to some areas. These factors need to be taken into consideration when interpreting suction dredge activities and further incorporated into best management practices agreements.

Experts agree that fish survival improves under moderate turbid conditions (25 NTU):

  • Results of the Gregory 1993 report notes that any reduction in feeding efficiency of fish may be offset by reduced risk of predation at moderate levels of suspended sediment.
  • CH2M HILL in 2000, added to that result showing that elevated total suspended solids (TSS) conditions, similar to turbidity plumes created from dredging activity, have been reported to enhance cover conditions, reduce piscivorous fish/bird predation rates, and improve survival.
  • Stern 1988, stated that, “Pools created by abandoned dredger sites can provide holding and resting areas for juvenile and adult salmonids”.
  • Harvey 1991, studied fish size and habitat depth relationships in headwater streams. During times of low flow in a river or stream, increased water depth can provide a refuge from predation by birds and mammals.
  • Nielsen 1994, examined excavations from dredging operations finding they can result in temporarily formed pools or deepen existing pools, which may improve fish habitat. Deep scour may intersect subsurface flow creating pockets of cool water during summer, which can provide important habitat for fish
  • 2001, Siskiyou National Forest, found if excavated pools reduce pool temperatures, they could provide important coldwater habitats for salmonids living in streams with elevated temperatures.
  • In1999, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reported the results of a cumulative field study evaluating the performance of 10, 8, and 4-inch gold dredges. The findings showed an increase in macroinvertibrate density and improved diversity in mined areas.
  • In 2010, The American River Spawning Gravel Supplemental Environmental Assessment (EA) points to the benefits of additions of spawning gravels even coming from an outside source. The addition of spawning gravels are to increase and improve Chinook salmon and steelhead spawning and rearing habitat.
  • Again in the 2011, American River Spawning Gravel EA; the supplemental Environmental Assessment Report supported the previous EA reporting benefits of supplementing spawning gravels

Tailings from small-scale suction dredge mining provide excellent spawning gravel. Suction dredging breaks up compacted steam beds; the gravels are dispersed by the high stream flows, making up suitable spawning gravels each year. If insufficient substrate is available Salmonids are left with the choice of spawning over and destroying previously built redds, or using cleaned dredge tailings.

Additional benefits of small-scale suction dredge mining include:Measureable improvement in water quality due to removal of wastes left by other users of the waters or that have eroded into the waterways. 100’s of pounds of lead fishing weights, bullets, water bottles, sunglasses, car debris, nails, broken glass, etc. are removed from our waterways and camping and recreational sites by miners every year.

Laws should be based on facts not on opinion and conjecture.

Here is a list of studies and reports that have been compiled over years of research that can be referenced available to all:

CDFG, 1997. draft Environmental Impact Report: Adoption of Amended Regulations for Suction Dredge Mining. State of California, The Resource Agency, Department of Fish and Game

Cooley, M.F. 1995. Forest Service yardage Estimate. U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Forest Service, Siskiyou National Forest, Grants Pass, Oregon.

Griffith, J.S. and D.A. Andrews. 1981. Effects of a small suction dredge on fishes and aquatic invertebrates in Idaho streams. North American Journal of Fisheries Management 1:21- 28.

Harvey, B.C., K. McCleneghan, J.D. Linn, and C.L. Langley, 1982. Some physical and biological effects of suction dredge mining. Lab Report No. 82-3. California Department of Fish and Game. Sacramento, CA.

Harvey, B.C. 1986. Effects of suction gold dredging on fish and invertebrates in two California streams. North American Journal of Fisheries Management 6:401-409.

Hassler, T.J., W.L. Somer and G.R. Stern. 1986. Impacts of suction dredge mining on anadromous fish, invertebrates and habitat in Canyon Creek, California. California Cooperative Research Unit, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Humbolt State University. Cooperative Agreement No 14-16-0009-1547.

Huber and Blanchet, 1992. Water quality cumulative effects of placer mining on the Chugach National Forest, Kenai Peninsula, 1988-1990. Chugach National Forest, U.S. Forest Service, Alaska Region, U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Lewis, 1962. Results of Gold Suction Dredge Investigation. Memorandum of September 17, 1962. California Department of Fish and Game, Sacramento, CA.

North, P.A., 1993. A review of the regulations and literature regarding the environmental impacts of suction gold dredging. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 10, Alaska Operations Office. EP 1.2: G 55/993.

Prussian, A.M., T.V. Royer and G.W. Minshall, 1999. Impact of suction dredging on water quality, benthic habitat, and biota in the Fortymile River, Resurrection Creek, and Chatanika River, Alaska, FINAL REPORT. US Environmental Protection Agency, Region 10, Seattle, Washington.

SNF, 2001. Siskiyou National Forest, Draft Environmental Impact Statement: Suction Dredging Activities. U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Forest Service, Siskiyou National Forest, Medford, OR.

Somer, W.L. and T.J. Hassler. 1992. Effects of suction-dredge gold mining on benthic invertebrates in a northern California stream. North American Journal of Fisheries Management 12:244-252

Stern, 1988. Effects of suction dredge mining on anadromous salmonid habitat in Canyon Creek, Trinity County, California. M.S. Thesis, Humbolt State University, Arcata, CA.

Thomas, V.G. 1985. Experimentally determined impacts of a small, suction gold dredge on a Montana stream. North American Journal of Fisheries Management 5:480-488.

US EPA, 2001. Mercury Recovery from Recreational Gold Miners.

Wanty, R.B., B. Wang, and J. Vohden. 1997. Studies of suction dredge gold-placer mining operations along the Fortymile River, eastern Alaska. U.S. Geological Survey Fact Sheet FS-154-97.

Attention prospectors Maine Legislation has proposed a ban on gold dredging. Legislative Document No. 1671, S.P. 646 An Act To Prohibit Motorized Recreational Gold Prospecting In Certain Atlantic Salmon and Brook Trout Spawning Habitats. Emergency.

Presented by: Senator Boyle of Cumberland, cosponsored by Representative McCabe of Skohegan and Senators: Mazurek of Knox, Patrick of Oxford, Saviello of Franklin. Representatives: Farnsworth of Portland, Gattine of Westbrook, Rochelo of Biddeford, Sanborn of Gorham, Theriault of Madawaska. Emergency means that this proposal will become effective immediately if passed.

This legislation has been introduced under the guise that gold dredging harms Atlantic salmon and brook trout spawning habitats. This is far from the truth, in reality we gold dredgers help fish habitat, we create beds for the fish to spawn in. The fish come into our pools to get out of the currents to feed. We also clean their habitat by removing trash and toxic metals  such as lead and mercury. Mercury is very harmful to fish and humans that consume them. Most of the lead is sinkers from fishermen and bullets and birdshot from hunters, believe me when I say that there is a lot of lead.

Lead from the Swift River from one afternoon.

Lead from the Swift River from one afternoon.

Close up view, notice the lead sinkers, some are even attached to fishing line, notice the bullets and bird shot

Close up view, notice the lead sinkers, some are even attached to fishing line, notice the bullets and bird shot

This is my lead count for the whole day Swift River.

This is my lead count for the whole day Swift River.

We also remove broken glass from the rivers and streams of Maine, we also remove trash that has been left behind by others from the banks of the rivers, this includes items such as bottles, cans, monofilament (fishing  line) and those six-pack rings, which these last two items are very harmful to birds and ducks. Birds will pick up fishing lines and use it for nesting material which later trap their young when they hatch and they die, ducks and other small mammals get those six-pack rings caught over their heads eventually strangling them.

If you are a prospector and a resident of Maine or if you own a business in Maine that is supported by prospectors I would like to encourage you to contact your elected officials by phone, email or letter and ask them to vote against S.P.646. All concerned prospectors could send letters to the editors of newspapers in the areas that you prospect in and voice your concerns.

Personally I spend all of my vacation time in Maine doing what I love to do and that is prospecting and gold dredging. I have spent up to six weeks a year there doing so. While I am there doing what I love I am spending money on things such as lodging, supplies from local businesses, gas from local gas stations. We eat in local restaurants, I buy firewood from local sellers and so on. I usually spend a week to two weeks at a time in Maine spending $800 to $1500 a trip. I know I am not the only prospector doing so when I am there I see many others doing the same. If this ban on dredging goes into effect I will be forced to gold dredge in another state that is prospector friendly, the money that is currently being spent in Maine will now be spent in another state.

The clock is ticking, and time is running out fast, if you want to help preserve your right to dredge in Maine the time is right now. Please act even if all you do is share this post at least we together can get the word out in time.

If you have any information to add that supports this post please post it and if you have any more ideas on what to do to help please post them, Thank you.

Maine has an abundance of minerals, we have heard of some great tourmaline finds of gem quality valued at several thousand dollars. While we were prospecting for gold in September in Maine we were met with an abundance of rain and we were tired of being wet and cold so two days before our adventure was over we decided to try our hand at mineral prospecting. We got our gear out of the river and got it all back to the camp site, and went and asked a friend who lives locally where they would go to look for tourmaline. We had been directed to a quarry about 25 miles away. The nice thing was the quarry was warm and there were a lot of piles to dig through.

Appalachian Prospectors Prospecting for minerals

Appalachian Prospectors
Prospecting for minerals

We were on the lookout for tourmaline, quartz crystals, beryl, apatite or anything else that looked interesting.

Hillbilly John Looking for that gem.

Hillbilly John Looking for that gem.

Rock Hound Heaven

Prospector Mike's Hole

Prospector Melissa checking out some gems.

Prospector Melissa checking out some gems.

Melissa inspecting another gem stone.

Melissa inspecting another gem stone.

Hillbilly John preparing to do some screening.

Hillbilly John preparing to do some screening.

Ross was very helpful, thanks for all your insightful information.

Ross was very helpful, thanks for all your insightful information.

We met Ross while we were there and he helped us identify minerals that we were not familiar with.

Muscovite, Montmorillonite in Pegmatite Matrix

Muscovite, Montmorillonite in Pegmatite Matrix

Here is a fine specimen that Hillbilly John found that he gave to me so I could show it at the mineral club I belong to. This is one of the minerals that Ross had helped us to identify. We had never seen Montmorillonite before.

Quartz Crystals in Matrix

Crystals in the crevice

Found this one on top of the ground.

Found this one on top of the ground.

Smokey Quartz

We found some tourmaline that would make some great micro mounts. Found some interesting specimens for my collection, met some very nice people and had a great adventure, priceless.

Image  —  Posted: January 12, 2014 in Mineral prospecting, Rock collecting, Uncategorized
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2013 in review

Posted: December 31, 2013 in Uncategorized

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 11,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Here is something for you to think about during those long cold winter nights while you are waiting for gold season to start. Who’s up for a good treasure hunt? I think that I first read about this treasure in March of 2013. Forrest Fenn, an art dealer in Santa Fe New Mexico and a self made multi millionaire has put together a treasure of gold nuggets, gold coins, gems and some ancient artifacts with a value of over a million dollars and has hidden it somewhere north of Santa Fe New Mexico. The treasure map is a poem penned by Forrest Fenn :

As I have gone alone in there And with my treasures bold, I can keep my secret where, And hint of riches new and old.

Begin it where warm waters halt And take it in the canyon down, Not far, but too far to walk. Put in below the home of Brown.

From there it’s no place for the meek, The end is ever drawing nigh; There’ll be no paddle up your creek, Just heavy loads and water high.

If you’ve been wise and found the blaze, Look quickly down, your quest to cease, But tarry scant with marvel gaze, Just take the chest and go in peace.

So why is it that I must go And leave my trove for all to seek? The answer I already know, I’ve done it tired, and now I’m weak.

So hear me all and listen good, Your effort will be worth the cold. If you are brave and in the wood I give you title to the gold.

Poem By Forrest Fenn

There are 9 clues in this poem, Forrest Fenn has given a number of interviews on tv and given a few more hints. For more information on the Forrest Fenn Treasure go to http://www.oldsantafetradingco.com/

If you dare to seek this treasure I bid you well, good luck and happy hunting.

After panning my concentrates down or running them through a spiral wheel I have always tossed out the concentrates, knowing that there was fine gold still in them. I knew that this fine gold can be separated from the material. One method I had heard of was with the use of mercury, but we know the dangers of mercury. I didn’t want my hair and teeth to fall out, lose my mind or my life. Nor do I want to take a chance at damaging the environment. I knew that there is a safe method to use mercury with a retort but I still didn’t want to chance it. I did some research and found some other methods that did not use mercury or chemicals such as the shaker table but that piece of equipment was much more than I wanted to spend, these were more for commercial operations.  I found an article on miller tables, these are not some new technology I found that these date back to the 1800’s. A miller table works on a similar principle as a sluice box in that water flows through the box washing away the lighter material. The miller table does not have riffles like a sluice box but it has a slate bottom. You run the water very slowly so that it looks as smooth as glass and you have a mild pitch.  I found some that sell on the market for around $150.00 which I think is very affordable but I thought that one would be easy enough to build myself. So with that in mind I had been saving some of my black sand concentrates over the past couple of years. I finally found the time to build one, it is nothing fancy, I used some scrap wood that was lying around the house, a piece of plywood and a couple of pressure treated spindles from deck railings. I used chalk board paint for the bottom. I bought a Pacifichydrostar submersible fountain pump from Harbor Freight Tools with a rate of 264 gallons per hour for around $12. I used 1 inch pvc for the plumbing with a ball valve to control the flow of water. I drilled holes in the pvc pipe for the spray bar. I used a 3/4″ hose from the pump to the plumbing. I sanded the plywood as smooth as possible then painted and then sanded and painted, I repeated this about 7 times. I assembled the plywood with the deck rails and sealed the joints with silicon. I assembled the plumbing and hooked up the pump with the 3/4 hose. I was ready to try it out. I plugged it in and I adjusted the water flow, I had the table sitting at a very mild slope I would have to say around 5 degrees. I had some black sand concentrates that I had been saving, I dumped them into the flow and it worked like a charm. It washed away the magnetite and the gold was left behind and I picked it up with my snuffer bottle.

It's not pretty but it is functional.

It’s not pretty but it is functional.

It’s length is 3 feet by 8 inches wide, I have found that I could have made it shorter, 2 feet long would have been plenty. I find that it catches the gold in the first 6 inches.

You want the flow to be very slow so that the water looks like a sheet of glass.

You want the flow to be very slow so that the water looks like a sheet of glass.

The concentrates that I am running have already been processed through a spiral wheel and then classified through a fine mesh strainer. I have run the concentrates both wet and dry, either way works but I prefer running them dry just because of the way it lays down on the miller table as I feed the material.

Running concentratesNotice not much of a pitch, I have it sitting on two buckets that are different heights, the valve I have almost closed, I could have used a smaller cheaper pump if I wanted to. I feed the material slowly like I am sprinkling sugar on cereal.

Getting the fine gold.I am very pleased with the performance of the miller table, I will no longer be tossing out my fine gold. The next one I build will be made of aluminum, this one is my prototype. I would prefer to use real slate but the chalkboard paint works fine. Very easy to build anyone can do it.

This is video that Melissa shot the day after all the rain. It was hard to get video and pics because the cameras were all wet. Even the waterproof video camera was ruined by all the water. All in all it was a great time.

Video  —  Posted: December 6, 2013 in Uncategorized
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