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EPA Issues Clean Water Act Permit for Small Suction Dredge Miners in Idaho

Release Date: 04/04/2013
Contact Information: Mark MacIntyre, macintrye.mark@epa.gov, EPA Public Affairs, (206) 553-7302

(Boise, ID - April 4, 2013) Starting today, small-scale suction dredge miners may begin applying for a new federal water discharge permit to lawfully operate their dredges in Idaho’s rivers lakes and streams.Mining for gold using small suction dredges is a popular activity in Idaho with hundreds of dredges in use, especially during the summer. Small-scale suction dredge miners (using intake nozzles of five inches in diameter or less and engines rated at 15 horsepower or less) will need to apply for coverage under the new Clean Water Act general permit. Larger suction dredges are not covered by this general permit and need to be authorized under a separate individual permit.
There is no fee to apply for the EPA General Permit.

According to Dan Opalski, Director of EPA’s Water Office in Seattle, the new general permit protects water quality and the people, fish and wildlife that depend on clean water.

“Miners can help protect water quality by applying for the permit, understanding the limits and following the ‘best practices’ for small suction dredge operations,” said EPA’s Opalski. “Many waters in Idaho are already closed, due to existing state and other federal designations. This general permit protects additional waters, including those with threatened and endangered salmon, steelhead, white sturgeon and bull trout, as well as waters within Tribal Reservations.”

To legally operate small suction dredges in Idaho, miners must apply to EPA to be covered by the EPA General Permit, as well as check with the Idaho Department of Water Resources or other state or federal authority for any additional permits that may be required.

The EPA General Permit also contains:

  • Special conditions
  • Required best practices for dredging equipment operations
  • Areas that are open to small suction dredge mining
  • Monitoring and reporting requirements

If an operator isn’t eligible to be covered under this general permit, they can apply for an individual permit from EPA. EPA encourages operators to review the permit and access helpful information at: http://yosemite.epa.gov/r10/water.nsf/npdes+permits/idsuction-gp and also check with the appropriate land manager before applying for a permit from EPA.