January 11, 2017 – Governor Brown’s proposed 2017/2018 budget proposes a $14.2 million investment to protect water quality from historic mining activities at three state parks including Mt. Diablo State Park, Empire Mine State Historic Park, and Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park. These funds can be used for “permit monitoring, sampling, study, evaluation, alternative analysis, implementation, and maintenance of remedial actions to abate contamination of water resulting from historic mining activities at three state parks.”
The largest investment is proposed as a one-time appropriation of $8,201,000 available for two years to implement the remediation plan being developed for Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park (MDSHP). Development of this plan was funded in the 2016/2017 budget.
“The Sierra Fund applauds the visionary investment that the Governor and State Parks are making in one of State’s most treasured historic landscapes, that of Malakoff Diggins,” notes Elizabeth “Izzy” Martin, CEO. “The Sierra Fund has been working collaboratively with State Parks at this site since 2011 , bringing funding, technical expertise, and research capabilities to efforts to address the legacy mercury contamination left behind from late 19th and early 20th century hydraulic mining operations.”
Malakoff Diggins, formerly the site of the North Bloomfield Mining and Gravel Company, is a historic, registered landmark partly due to the role the mine that was operated there played in California history. The mine was the subject of the historic “Sawyer Decision” that essentially banned hydraulic mining first in the state and later in the nation. Research conducted by The Sierra Fund, CSU Chico and the US Geological Survey have documented that “particulate-bound” mercury is discharged from the hydraulic mining pit during storm events. This mercury flows down Humbug Creek and into the South Yuba River, which is a state designated Wild and Scenic River above Englebright Dam.
Any remediation project will preserve and protect the historic nature of this beautiful landscape while also protecting water quality and improving habitat for fish and other wildlife.