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Trouble ahead as gold-dredging fever hits Nome?

Discovery Communications

Old-timers in the offshore dredging business in Nome say the horde of newcomers spurred by high gold prices and the Discovery channel show "Bering Sea Gold" don't know what they're in for this summer. They tell KTUU-TV for its two-part "Gold Fever, Reignited" series that the rookies are ignoring their advice about the work, the waves and the weather.

"They don't seem to respect the knowledge of the old-timers," said Bob Hafner, who has been dredging in Nome for 20 years. "These new people come up here, they look at our dredges, they copy our dredges, and they think, ‘Oh, this is really easy to do.' "

In reality, weather conditions can often get in the way, limiting the amount of time people can be actively dredging for gold out in the Bering Sea.

Sure enough, The Nome Nugget reports that a diver working on a dredge associated with the Discovery show had to be rescued recently when he missed a boat ride and tried to swim a quarter mile through the cold current and fog to the dredge.

Nome Fire Chief Matt Johnson said [John Bunche] had been in the water 2.5 hours. He was hypothermic and probably would not have lasted much longer.

Chief Johnson commented that notification is a concern for rescue personnel. "There is no way for us to know if they (dredgers) are in trouble." Many offshore miners are working by themselves and many are unskilled divers.

Read more, and see the broadcast segment, at KTUU: Nome experiences second gold rush

In other Nome dredging news, the Alaska Department of Natural Resources agreed to ease its enforcement of a no-dredging buffer zone within a half mile of salmon streams, reports The Nugget.

Kerwin Krause, DNR mineral property manager, affirmed the one-half mile rule, but gave up some slack on the issue during the last 10 weeks of the suction dredge mining season.