plumas.placer.miner

Using Water In A Nearby Creek?

14 posts in this topic

I am new to placer mining.

Preface:

The CA drought has left my claim practically waterless (for the time being). I'd like to transfer water from a creek nearby to my claim (within 2 miles) to storage containers on my claim for use in a recirculating system to wash gravel on my claim. I think I want to use somewhere in the neighborhood of 250 gallons total for each sluicing session, each of which will run maybe 10 buckets of classified material. My thought is to pump water from the nearby creek, into several 30-40 gallon containers, which will be on a large trailer, and take them back to my claim where I will transfer the water to a larger container at the head of my recirculating system. The land that the creek is on is either claimed, or is privately owned. USFS is the managing agency. I do not know what the CFPS measurement of the "host creek" is, but it is certainly sufficient to sustain pumping with a 2.5" pump.

Water may return to my claim if we have more precipitation this winter. Hope springs eternal, but water in California apparently doesn't. :)

Questions:

Are there legal or ethical issues surrounding this [possible] practice? Can anyone cite the applicable publications, water regulations or mining laws that address this question?

Thanks in advance for your assistance.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Diverting water out of a creek is subject to all sorts of legal restrictions. Nearly every gallon in every creek in California is spoken for. The agricultural industry is very powerful in California and water rights are precious. My in-laws in California are not in any mining area, but they have so little water, they are letting trees die in their orchard.

Most very small scale mining activity involves just taking water out and putting it back in at essentially the same spot. So no diversion.

The amount of water you are talking about is so small. Can you just fill containers at your home and haul it out there?

Hopefully we are getting enough water that it will not be an issue for you.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for your reply Chris.

 

I thought about bringing water from home, but water is heavy... 250 gallons is a little over 2000#, and my trailer is only a 3/4 ton military. Maybe I could haul that much in one trip, but that could be a very sloshy trailer load over pot-hole ridden dirt roads. For that drive, I might be putting permanent fingerprints in the steering wheel.  * 

 

I also thought to dig a deep hole in the creek on my claim, where right now just a little water percolates, and create a cistern that I could use as a reservoir. It's seems to me that the claim upstream from mine has already likely thought of that idea.

 

Since the importance of knowing and understanding current and pertinent mining laws cannot be understated these days, and because I don't want to get gut shot, I thought I would ask here.

 

~!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The mining acts give you a prior appropriative right to the beneficial use of water for mining purposes only. The California excess allocation process (1914) is years subsequent to the mining acts (1866). Miners have, in the past, proven their prior appropriative right to beneficial use in California. You are already using the riparian rights that are also superior to the allocation of unused waters.

 

All that being said you should carefully consider Chris' points about agriculture and the allocation system in California. Should some water authority object you could expect a phalanx of objections, fines and arrests from the various affected parties. You could become infamous.

 

Should you choose to exercise and defend your prior beneficial use right I have no doubt that you would eventually prevail - you have 150 years of precedent on your side. Prevailing in those circumstances could not be considered a "win". As your obvious intent is to mine I can virtually guarantee you that you would be distracted from that goal for a very long time.

 

I've studied water use in the west for many years. You might call it a part time hobby. My interest began when I was a stakeholder in the Merced irrigation district many many years ago. Water is power in the west. It's the unseen base to virtually all the power struggles between the states and the various use interests. The Central Arizona Project canal is the largest federal government project ever undertaken - it's still incomplete after 47 years. The 7 states settlement of the Colorado river water use was the longest, and costliest series of legal actions in U.S. history. Arizona and California declared war over water. The Colorado river was diverted to inland California for two years and much of the land law in Northern Mexico has evolved from the many attempts to turn that critical waterway to the exclusive use of California.

 

Your 250 gallons may be puny by any standards but those of your 3/4 ton trailer. In the overall scheme of things it might well be the straw that broke the camel's back. If you have the interest, fortitude, skill and funds to enforce your prior beneficial right to that water I, for one, would support you. Please be aware of the implications of your actions before proceeding.  There is a poorly hidden monster out there and it's particularly cranky now that the excess allocations can't be filled.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thank you Clay,

 

It's very difficult to receive valid information about mining, especially for a noob like me. The relatively recent legal challenges, and the renewed interest in CA over water as it applies to these interests has, as you put it, created a "cranky monster". Heh.  I have learned that for the most part, the mining community is very tight-lipped (for good reason I surmise), and I am grateful for your response. Fortune favors the bold, so I keep asking questions so I can learn.

 

Your thoughtful response brings up several points; some of which I have considered, and others I have not (for which I am grateful). I know that CA has the 8th largest economy in the world, and I know that agriculture comprises a large part of that. I grew up near Chico, bucking hay and picking fruit, so I have some understanding of the importance of water to agricultural interests. I have also been reading voraciously for the past year, with great interest, about the current struggles of the mining community with regulatory agencies and other interest groups in CA. So much so, in fact, that I was convinced by the mining community's overwhelming response to the the Rinehart case, to send my eight letters for the case to be published for citation in other federal and state mining rights arguments. My name is on that list. :) I am delighted that many of these decisions have supported the legal assertions that federal mining rights supercede state "regulation" which have resulted in prohibition. Also, my Father was a Millwright (capitalization intentional). :) Mining is in my blood. (Parker Schnabel helped me realize how I need mining in my life - that kid is really something!).

 

No, I do not possess sufficient personal resources to sustain a long legal campaign. Such battles, while important, would certainly place my family in financial difficulties, which is why I joined ICMJ and PLP (special offer), so I could contribute to Mr. Rinehart's defense and learn more about mining. I also donated $100 (10 tickets) to McCracken's (although I am not a New 49'ers member) last nugget raffle fundraiser . I didn't win, but that's okay...for me, it's not about getting the gold, it's about finding the gold. I also need to be in the forest and to shovel gravel in summer... to unwind from my job.

 

I am a college professor (I know...some may label me "the enemy") but I happen to believe that I can hold these two seemingly contradictory thoughts in my mind: Public management entities have a solemn duty to protect resources for everyone, and mining activity is a fundamental right of American citizens. I do not believe that I must hate one side, in order to love the other. The historical and social context is far too complicated for that stance, in my opinion. The reason we have the judicial system is so we can work out these conflicts when they arise. But just because we disagree on resources use, doesn't mean we need to hate the opposition. They are people just like us, with families and struggles and well-meaning intentions...mostly.

 

I will figure out a solution to my water needs, and I am grateful for any assistance provided by you folks. I have learned a lot this past year through research. I bought a claim, I sampled it, I am purchasing equipment to extract the minerals, (according to my lovely wife my spending has been out of control....mining is not an inexpensive pursuit*), and I continue to learn more from generous "old timers" like yourself (um..I mean... your experience, not your age :)

 

I have made some mistakes, but I am truly enjoying the ride.

 

Sorry for this long missive; my introduction to the community requires that I divulge my thoughts and intentions to the community...in order to build trust. You are correct sir, my intention is to mine.

~

Ronald C and Clay like this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The waters of California are owned by the people. California State has a Public Trust duty with relation to the people's water.

 

California has not appropriated the water but they did take over administration of the allocation of unappropriated waters in the State, in 1914, as part of their public trust obligations. Waters that had already been appropriated or were part of preexisting riparian rights are not a part of the State's allocation of unappropriated water resources unless the owner of the water right opts for the State allocation scheme. Many have opted for that scheme, the United States has not.

 

The United States holds riparian rights, reserves the right to appropriate needed water, as well as having granted locators the right to appropriate water needed for mining on lands held in trust by the United States. All of those water rights are subject to the "beneficial and reasonable use" restriction in the California Constitution.

 

California is not unique in recognizing both the Eastern standard of riparian rights to water as well as the "first in time first in right" prior useful appropriation doctrine. Being as both rights are also tangled up in the State's control over allocation of unappropriated waters your confusion about the nature of water ownership is a common misunderstanding. Water is not owned by individuals but individuals do in many cases have a right to the use of water.

 

Surprisingly the California Water Board has a fair synopsis of water rights in the state. You can read that synopsis HERE.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Have you considered being a seasonal miner?

 

People tend to disagree over water when it's in short supply, as the current CA drought.  At the moment at my home near Redding CA,  we have too much water falling from the sky.  Nobody cares about miners washing gravel in the wet season.  That was always a historical fact concerning placer mining in CA.  

 

Your claim elevation and access might be beneficial for seasonal work......or maybe not.

 

I'm very glad to hear your personal views over the Brandon Rinehart Plumas County case.  We share a great respect for miner's constitutional rights.

Ronald C and Clay like this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi Rod, Thanks for your reply.

 

Access to my claim is pretty good most of the way, (4x4 required for the last distance), and elevation is 5300' to 5600'. Suffice it to say, I am a seasonal miner...pretty much restricted to Summer, but sometimes I can make it up there on weekends. I look for reasons to go to the claim in the off seasons. :) It's amazing up there.

 

Insofar as the current legal questions are concerned, I see mining as a legitimate and historical stakeholder for resources, among many stakeholders and interests, and one that I am willing to defend with more than just words. That said however, I believe that it can become easy to lose sight of the bigger picture when we concentrate on just our own financial and social interests. I catch myself in that trap occasionally. In fact, as an agent of Nevada State Education, a "public official" if you will, it is important that I remain on task with regards to serving all of Nevada's citizens, and not just the ones with whom I agree on social or economic issues. Being a part of the mining community provides me with an outlook and a perspective that I would most likely overlook and dismiss, were I not to have a stake in mining. In other words, in order for me to understand a miner's perspective, I need to walk a mile in a miner's boots, and weigh a troy ounce of miner's hard-earned gold, and I am going to do those things.

 

Mining has every good reason to make it's arguments for being an important part of American culture, for being an industry that built our country, and for being a legitimate and noble vocation. I understand and recognize the concerns of other stakeholders, and I feel privileged that in America we have the right to stand up in a public forum and make our case for what we believe in. That also includes others whose interests are in opposition to our own. That's what democracy is supposed to be, and I do not advocate for any other type of government, even though democracy has it's flaws and shortcomings.

 

It appears to me as though the courts are recognizing the importance of mining laws (Thank You Judge Ochoa), and for good reason, but in my opinion, it has to be balanced with the needs of others in our society. Clay offered a link [above] to the CA Water Control Board's "Water Rights Process", in which is included this poignant paragraph, which outlines the challenges that such laws must address:

 

The difficulty comes in balancing the potential value of a proposed or existing water diversion with the impact it may have on the public trust. After carefully weighing the issues and arriving at a determination, the Board is charged with implementing the action which would protect the latter. The courts also have concurrent jurisdiction in this area. As with all the other pieces of the California water puzzle, allocating the limited resource fairly and impartially among many competing users represents one of the Board’s greatest challenges.

 

Read it again.

 

I get to make my choices about where I stand, as do others. Even though I studied Fishery/Wildlife Biology at Utah State and Oregon State, and I understand the issues they argue, I have decided to side with mining. That said, I am of the opinion that we will all be better off if we start listening to one-another, instead of being in a constant state of war (I am a service-connected disabled Vet....I hate war). I would like to see an equitable solution in the Third Appellate, because my intention is to wash gravel this Summer, and I like to see the dredgers back in the water. The mining industry has earned that right. Hell, Gold mining in the American West pretty much paid for the Civil War, which preserved our nation. America owes the mining industry a great debt.

 

/endRant :)

Ronald C and Clay like this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Search for a source for "ground water" instead of "surface water". And if in SW Oregon don't call an underground hole with a corregated pipe enclosed a "cistern".....those are illigal. Altho the very same system called an underground holding retrival plant is acceptable...go figure.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!


Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.


Sign In Now