That was the word today from Craig Tucker, Klamath Campaign Coordinator for the Karuk Tribe, as he explained why he, the Karuk Tribe’s Vice Chair Leaf Hillman and commercial fisherman Dave Bitts, of Eureka, are suing the California Department of Fish and Game.
They filed suit in Alameda County Superior Court this morning. The complaint alleges that the DFG is illegally using taxpayer’s money to run its suction dredge mining program — which litigants say allows hobby miners to dredge in places “known to be critical habitat for endangered and at-risk species such as Coho salmon, Pacific lamprey, and green sturgeon,” according to a news release.
DFG was court-ordered to rewrite its suction dredge rules to reflect knowledge of species that were listed for protection after the current rules were written — and it was supposed to have completed the California Environmental Quality Act review process and changed its regulations by June 20 of last year.
That didn’t happen. DFG said it hadn’t the money to do the review. The tribe and others tried legislating change; the governor wouldn’t sign it. Two weeks ago, the Karuk Tribe and a commercial fishermen’s group and others petitioned DFG Director Don Koch to write emergency regulations restricting dredging. They wanted that to be contingent upon the State Water Resources Control Board’s granting half a million bucks to the DFG to do the CEQA review. The money was granted but the petition was rejected.
Thursday evening, DFG spokesperson Jordan Traverso said that, legally, the DFG couldn’t impose emergency regulations based on the criteria the petitioners offered.
So now there’s the lawsuit. Said Craig Tucker on Thursday by phone:
We’re seeking whatever remedy we can now. If we have to file lawsuits we’ll file lawsuits. This is phenomenally important to the Karuk Tribe. And for those guys not to step up and protect these fish, I just can’t tell you how disappointed we are.
He added that, with all the talk of cuts in state government, the program for “3,000 hobby miners” might be a good place to start.
By 5 p.m. today, DFG Director Koch’s office hadn’t been served with the lawsuit, said Traverso, and so they weren’t ready to comment on it yet.