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Idaho’s Small Scale Placer Miners will need a General Discharge Permit under EPA’s Proposal to Protect Idaho’s Rivers and Streams

Release Date: 02/19/2010
Contact Information: Mike Lidgard, EPA/Seattle, 206-553-1755, lidgard.michael@epa.gov Jeff Philip, 206-553-1465, philip.jeff@epa.gov

Informational Workshops Scheduled for Grangeville, Boise, Salmon and Idaho Falls

(Seattle, Wash. – February 19, 2010) Operators of small suction dredges who mine for gold in Idaho will need to apply for a general water quality discharge permit under EPA’s latest proposal to better protect the state’s rivers and streams.

If implemented as proposed, the new General Permit will cover placer mining operations in Idaho using small suction dredges with an intake nozzle of 5 inches in diameter or less and using motors or engines rated at 15 horsepower or less. It will be administered under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES), the federal program that controls the discharge of pollutants into U.S. waters. When issued, the new permit will require implementation of best management practices, will specify when and where suction dredgers may operate, and will establish other terms and conditions on the operation of small suction dredges.

According to Jim Werntz, EPA Idaho State Director in Boise, the proposed permit is necessary to protect the health and integrity of Idaho streams and rivers, and follows up on a commitment EPA made to miners to develop this permit.

“We know Idaho’s recreational and small-scale gold miners want to do the right thing,” said EPA’s Werntz. “We believe this general permit, in addition to the State’s permitting efforts, will establish requirements to prevent damage to our rivers and streams. Smaller headwater habitats and spawning areas are especially fragile. Permitting creates clear, enforceable expectations and guidance to protect them.”

Four Informational Workshops Scheduled in February

To explain and discuss the new permit proposal, informational workshops will be held on the following locations:

LocationAddressDate/Time
Nez Perce National
Forest
104 Airport Road
Grangeville, ID
February 22, 2010
4 pm – 7 pm
Idaho Department of Environmental Quality Conference Room C1410 N. Hilton
Boise, ID
February 23, 2010
2 pm – 5 pm
Salmon-Challis National Forest1206 S. Challis Street
Salmon, ID
February 24, 2010
4 pm - 7 pm
Idaho Department of Fish and Game4279 Commerce Circle
Idaho Falls, ID
February 25, 2010
3 pm – 6 pm

At the workshops, participants can get more detailed information, ask questions and learn first- hand about the permit requirements.

Persons wishing to submit comments on the draft general permit must do so by March 8, 2010. Copies of the draft permit and fact sheet may be found on the internet at the following website: http://yosemite.epa.gov/R10/water.nsf/NPDES+Permits/Permits+Homepage

If you need a hard copy of the material mailed to you, please contact Audrey Washington at washington.audrey@epa.gov or by telephone at 206-553-0523.

All written comments must be received by March 8, 2010.