Starting last week, mineral prospectors in Washington state can no longer use motorized or gravity siphon equipment to search for gold in rivers and streams that are designated as critical habitat under the federal Endangered Species Act for salmon, steelhead, or bull trout, and all fresh waters in the state that salmonids use for spawning, rearing, and migration.
The new law is a result of House Bill 1261, adopted earlier this year by the state Legislature. More than 160 conservation and recreation organizations supported the bill.
To use motorized or gravity siphon equipment in allowed areas, miners will still need to apply for a Hydraulic Project Approval (HPA) from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. Application instructions are available at https://wdfw.wa.gov/licenses/environmental/hpa/application.
For a map of allowed mining locations, visit the Department of Ecology’s website at https://ecology.wa.gov/Regulations-Permits/Permits-certifications/Mineral-prospecting-and-placer-mining
Suction dredge mining is a type of recreational gold mining that uses a motorized or non-motorized vacuum to suck up the bottom of rivers and streams to look for gold. This type of mining can kill young fish and eggs, and disturb spawning gravel for salmon.
Oregon banned suction dredging in some state waters in 2018.
In addition to the HPA, prospectors using motorized or gravity siphons will be required to get another permit from the Department of Ecology. The National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit will be required if the prospector will discharge water from their equipment back into surface or ground waters.
Non-motorized small-scale prospecting and mining methods will continue to be authorized through the updated WDFW’s Gold and Fish pamphlet. For more information, visit the agency’s rules for mineral prospecting and placer mining webpage.
— CBB, June 5, 2019, WASHINGTON IMPLEMENTS STRICTER REGULATIONS ON SUCTION DREDGING TO PROTECT FISH, REDUCE INVASIVE SPECIES https://www.cbbulletin.com/washington-implements-stricter-regulations-on-suction-dredging-to-protect-fish-reduce-invasive-species/
— CBB, June 20, 2019, GUEST COLUMN: WASHINGTON STATE NEEDS MORE STRINGENT REGULATIONS ON SUCTION DREDGE MINING TO PROTECT FISH HABITAT https://www.cbbulletin.com/guest-column-washington-state-needs-more-stringent-regulations-on-suction-dredge-mining-to-protect-fish-habitat/
— CBB, Sept. 28, 2018, NINTH CIRCUIT UPHOLDS OREGON LAW BANNING MOTORIZED GOLD MINING IN SALMON STREAMS https://www.cbbulletin.com/ninth-circuit-upholds-oregon-law-banning-motorized-gold-mining-in-salmon-streams/