Since one thousand nine hundred sixty. California has officially been known as the Golden State. And that's because as the plaque reads California's development and remarkable prosperity began with the discovery of gold humanities. Love of gold is fairly bizarre of all the hundred and eighteen elements in the periodic table. Gold is the only one which we humans have always gravitated towards gold was used earliest currencies. Gold joined us in marriage and was used to produce most precious artifacts. Maybe the secret to our love of gold is simply that it's beautiful and never tarnishes in eighteen. Fifty-three my father's great grandfather Henry. Cohn traveled from a tiny stelle. In what is now Poland to Hamburg where he boarded a boat and six months later. After walking across the isthmus of Panama Henry ended up in San Francisco. Henry Cohn was part of the Goldrush the largest mass migration in American history bringing about three hundred thousand people to California. It all started in eighteen. Forty eight when James Marshall found gold in his piece of land at Sada's mill in Coloma. The News of gold quickly spread around the world. At first the gold could be picked up from the ground but later on it was recovered from the streams and rivers with the use of panned. The gold rush peaked in eighteen fifty. Two and after that the Gold Rassoul getting thinner and harder to reach soon largescale and more environmentally damaging methods of traction cold hydraulic mining were employed. One hundred and seventy years later on the environmental legacy of the gold rush a significant and yet acknowledged as we'll discover in today's episode mercury which is a deadly neurotoxin was elemental to the process of gold-mining today large quantities of mercury from the gold. Russia's still polluting California posing a risk to every kind of living organism including us. I travel up to California's gold country to meet with Izzy Mountain. Izzy is a community organizer and environmental advocate with over forty years of experience working in rural communities to economic and environmental justice. She is what with a wide variety of constituencies from tribal leaders to Maynas and from farmers to forest is is. He first entered local politics. Nevada County Planning Commission at during the nineteen ninety s and later while serving on the Nevada County Board of supervisors. Miss Martin led the fight to put the South Yuba river into the state. Wild and scenic river program is he became. Ceo The Sierra Fund Sixteen years ago she conceived of and led the effort that resulted in the publication of the Sierra Funds. I report on the impact of the Goldrush mining's toxic legacy and has worked for the last decade to bring attention to golds dark shadow on a very hot day. Is Ian. I climb to the top of a damn standing above the angle. Bright Damn A army corps US Army Corps of Engineers Dam on the main stem of the river. Where is that though in Nevada county? We're about halfway between Tahoe. And Sacramento. A little north of that would not actually in Nevada. Nope we're in the state of California and we are standing right between Nevada County and Yuba County and we're standing on the beautiful Yuba River which flows down to the feather. And then the Sacramento from there down into the San Francisco Bay in the ocean. So you were a county board of Supervisors member when you first came here. Tell us about your first experience with this. Damn down a few different times over my life had been here my whole life. It was built and commissioned in nineteen forty seven by the Army Corps of Engineers so that people could resume hydraulic mining blocks hundreds of miles of potential fish passage for fish. Come from the ocean and go up into the high sierra to lay their eggs so when I first came to the damn understanding that the state of California had targeted this spot em federal government as maybe the best place to restore passage at the very first meeting we went to the. Us Geological Survey stood up and said you can't do anything to that. Damn until you look at the material behind it is holding back a whole bunch of mercury and that was the very first time I had ever heard anything about mercury and the state of California and its role in the goal rush. Or how long have you lived in this part of the world? My family came to California as part of the Gold Rush. We were quakers. Escaping the east coast. Ten violent religious oppression moved out to become farmers I was raised in Concord California on that form and in one thousand nine hundred five. I married a farmer and we moved to Nevada county beautiful organic farm in a place called Penn Valley. Tell us about this county and just its history and the gold rush because it is a lot of history here. Nevada county was ground zero of the California Gold Rush. Far More gold was taken out of this county and specifically this river that we're standing above than any other place in the state of California. It's where the very destructive technique called hydraulic mining which is using power water monitors to to scrub mountainside. Looking for gold is where that was invented. They started to dam the rivers and convey that water over to these huge hydraulic mining activities. Which were recovering thousands of of gold but millions of tons of sediment not material here from Nevada county rolled down the river and kept flooding the Sacramento Valley and eventually the farmers downstream who are really tired of having their houses filled with all this debris sued and stopped the activity known as hydraulic mining.