A History of Mining: Is the Yuba Watershed still Plagued with Mercury?

Historic photograph of hydraulic mining operations

The California Gold Rush brought dramatic changes to the landscape of the Yuba River watershed. Miners and settlers displaced native people, denigrating their communities and practices, and left the landscape covered in evidence of hydraulic mining. They cleared hillsides of trees and vegetation and scoured them clean of gravel and soil. We can see evidence of this damage throughout the watershed.

In 2014, SYRCL set out to understand the impact of abandoned mines on water quality and the local community. We conducted outreach with landowners and stakeholders, partnered with The Sierra Fund and The San Juan Ridge Taxpayers Association. We identified three watersheds that potentially contained high levels of mercury and sediment loss and have spent the last several years (between 2014 and 2017) collecting data to better understand how much mercury and sediment were still moving out of these hydraulic mine sites and into the Yuba River watershed.

Scotchman Falls during a storm event

SYRCL recently completed two reports; Spring and Shady Creeks: Mercury and Suspended Sediment and Scotchman Creek Watershed Assessment, as part of work that was funded by the Cosumnes American Bear Yuba (CABY) Integrated Regional Water Management Group in partnership with The Sierra Fund and funded by California Department of Water Resources and The Rose Foundation for Communities and the Environment.

What is Hydraulic Mining? Why are we worried about Mercury? What is SYRCL doing about this?

Discover more about mining in the Yuba River Watershed:

SYRCL recently completed two reports; Spring and Shady Creeks: Mercury and Suspended Sediment and Scotchman Creek Watershed Assessment. Read the full reports below:

Share

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *