Combie Lake Dredging Moves Forward

Millions being spent to remove small amounts of mercury from Lake Combie

Don't Call it a Dredge, it's a "Magical Mercury Machine"

The environmental groups stand to make a lot of money from their own dredging project, the beauty of it is they don't even have to recover gold, or mercury, or even work to do it.

The Nevada City newspaper, the Union, reported last July on the continuing effort to dredge Lake Combie for mercury and gold. The Nevada Irrigation District and the Sierra Fund have partnered to try to get $9 million in taxpayer funds to recover valuable minerals from the lake. The District claims they intend to recover up to $1 million in gold which they will use to offset the costs of the dredging project.

It sounds like mining to the casual observer, but don't call it mining, it's mercury remediation and there is an awful lot of money in mercury remediation, a lot more money than there is in gold mining. If you're in the business of mercury remediation then the dredging laws don't apply to you.

/The California Water Board conducted a test in 1995 with an unmodified suction dredge to determine its utility to remove mercury from the waterways. The results of the test showed a suction dredge would recover 98% of mercury, yet stunningly, the Water Board concluded the 2% the dredge didn't capture was too great of risk to the environment and 100% of this mercury should be left in place unless...wait for it, a Combie Lake style operation which costs millions was used. Subsequently the Sierra Fund and the Nevada Irrigation District received millions to conduct a test with a suction dredge which costs nearly one million dollars. The lease alone was $600,000 per year.

The Combie Lake dredge is built by a Canadian company and leased to NID. The company, Pegasus Earth Sensing, has no apparent documented record of building mercury removal dredges, or any type of dredge for that matter. It's unclear how NID chose a company with only 2 listed employees in 2007 for their dredging project. The largest, and oldest dredge manufacturers in the world are located in California. Carrie Monohan, a Sierra Fund associate, was hired as a consultant for the Combie Lake project. The Sierra Fund is an outspoken opponent of any use of dredges in California waterways, with apparently this Combie Lake exception. To demonstrate the potential of multi-million dollar projects to recover small amounts of mercury a test project using the mercury dredge was conducted.

MS Monohan proudly announced the Combie Lake dredge recovered only 93% of the mercury and released 7% of the mercury back to the water. These results are far worse than the measured results from the California Water Board's suction gold dredge testing. For years the Sierra Fund has claimed suction gold dredgers release far too much mercury, which is 2%, but they staunchly defend their own dredging project which releases 7%.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife, after releasing a 2012 Environmental Report whereby they claimed the 2% mercury released by suction dredges presented too great of an environmental danger, inexplicably approved the Combie Lake dredging project. Ironically the Combie Lake project never underwent a full environmental review, but instead used a much abbreviated version called a Mitigated Negative Declaration. Surprisingly no environmental groups challenged the Combie Lake project.