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Responsible dredging does no harm

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The mercury study that was used to extrapolate the theories about suction dredging was seriously flawed (Journal, July 18). The methodology was the same as if one were to count flies in the proximity of an outhouse, and then estimate the number of flies in Placer County. Bad science. As we expected, every opposition group picked up on the results of this study and used it to scare the public and politicians into taking a position against suction dredging. You have to ask the common-sense question. If there were 13,000 dredges operating in California waters in the 1980s, (now only 3,000) and dredging has been going on for over 60 years, then where are the masses of dead fish oozing with mercury? Where is the evidence of fishery collapse from that period? Where is the documented epidemic of mercury contamination of humans downstream from that period? No, they don’t exist! There is gold in those rivers, a lot of gold, or we would not work as hard as we do in difficult situations with a large investment of capital to do it. This is not a hobby for many of us, it is a business. The gold is extracted and brought to market in many ways and is translated into state revenue. The numbers paraded around do not reflect the value of the actual gold, just the commerce surrounding the extraction. The mining business does not discuss the gold values for obvious security reasons. The gold is a natural California resource and is a strong part of its wealth. Elimination of mining in California and the U.S.A. pushes it into countries with no regulation with horrific environmental consequences. The (California Department of) Fish and Game is the appropriate agency to investigate and sort through the facts on this issue. While they may get some of it wrong, they should be allowed to make the final determination through the public process. For all these other groups to step in and do end runs around the science and the experts, is poor public policy and poor governance. So far, the Fish and Game studies have shown that dredging done responsibly, with some regulation, does not harm fisheries. While the study makes wild claims for mercury hydration, history and more complete and factual science is on our side on these issues. James Hutchings, Foresthill