EPA issued an NPDES general permit in 2013 for small suction dredge operations in Idaho. To comply with the Clean Water Act, operators of small suction dredges must obtain NPDES permit coverage prior to operation. The general permit covers small suction dredges with an intake nozzle size of five inches in diameter or less and with equipment rated at 15 horsepower or less.
EPA modified the general permit in 2014 in order to: 1) correct typos; 2) clarify that tributaries of Elk, Grimes, and Mores Creek are also subject to annual permitting and allocated hours (Permit Part II.B.3); 3) extend the application deadline for Elk, Grimes, and Mores Creek and their tributaries to April 1 each year; and 4) create new Appendices F and G.
The general permit places conditions on the discharge of rock and sand from each mining operation to protect water quality and aquatic resources. These conditions include best management practices and prohibited areas.
The general permit will expire on April 30, 2018.
How do I get permit coverage?
- Read the Final Small Suction Dredge Mining General Permit (PDF) (44 pp, 1MB).
- Confirm that the waterbody you wish to work in is eligible for a permit from both the Idaho Department of Water Resources Recreational Mining Permits Program and the EPA for small suction dredge mining. Be aware that you will need permits from both agencies to dredge in Idaho.
Mores Creek, Grimes Creek, Elk Creek, and their tributaries are permitted annually (see Permit Parts I.G. and I.B.3), with an application deadline of April 1 each year.
Elsewhere in Idaho, open waters are eligible for coverage until the permit's expiration date. Applications are welcome year-round. Please review the maps below to confirm which areas are open (represented by the color green); in some cases, the main channel is closed, but tributaries of the main channel remain open:
Permit Part I.D. lists 7 categories of waters that are closed to dredging: Nationally Protected Areas, Tribal Reservations, National Wild and Scenic Rivers, Endangered Species Habitat Areas, Withdrawn Rivers, State Protected Rivers, and Impaired Streams. The following map shows all prohibited areas throughout Idaho:
Many popular areas (e.g., Middle Fork Boise River, South Fork Payette, Salmon River, Clearwater River) have been designated as critical habitat for threatened or endangered species protected under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), and are not open to dredging at this time. A process known as ESA consultation must be completed before the EPA can authorize suction dredging in critical habitat areas, or where threatened and/or endangered species are present (see Permit Part I.D.4.a). For more information, please review the following:
Fill out and submit a Notice of Intent information sheet (PDF) (2 pp, 68K) and follow mailing instructions.
Wait for written authorization from the EPA before operating.
Remember to submit an annual report (PDF) (1 page, 95K).
Permit Documents and Information
Final Small Suction Dredge Mining General Permit (PDF) (44 pp, 1MB) - Modified March 2014
Appendix G: Endangered Species Critical Habitat Areas (PDF) (58 pp, 311K)
Technical Fact Sheet for Suction Dredge General Permit (PDF) (44 pp, 351K) - 2012
EPA's Response to Comments on Suction Dredge General Permit (PDF) (40 pp, 240K) - 2013
EPA's Response to Comments for the December 2013 Suction Dredge General Permit Modification (PDF) (4 pp, 66K)
Federal Register Notice on General Permit Modification - March 14, 2014
Federal Register Notice on General Permit Issuance - April 4, 2013