Sunday, July 29, 2007

Gold Dredging

As much as private enterprise is to be honored, it may be time to restrict it in the delicately balanced rivers and creeks in the mountains to protect aquatic habitat.

Gold or fish? Battle brews on California rivers
Miners say bill that would limit dredging to protect native trout and other species goes overboard.
By Peter Hecht - Bee Capitol Bureau
Published 12:00 am PDT Sunday, July 29, 2007

In his 49th year of life, veteran miner Jeff Kilgore feels increased kinship with the original 49ers who long ago worked the same frigid river high in the Sierra Nevada.

It's different now. The Gold Rush is gone. Kilgore uses modern equipment -- a gas-powered gold dredger -- to vacuum precious flecks from the cobbled rock beneath the Yuba River. And the takings are slim.

On good days, thanks to high gold prices, Kilgore says he recovers enough gold to earn $100 selling minuscule pieces and dust to jewelry makers and tourist shops along historic Highway 49. He used to take in barely $40 a day, working two mining claims six days a week.

Now Kilgore says he fears his modest livelihood is in danger from state legislation that seeks to restrict gold dredging in order to protect fish populations.