EPA Now Requires Idaho Dredge Mining Permit

Apr 5, 2013

Dredge mining on Idaho's Salmon River.
Credit Aaron Kunz / EarthFix

Anyone who wants to mine gold in Idaho streams with a suction dredge will need to get a permit from the Environmental Protection Agency. 

For years, people have flocked to a stretch of the Salmon River north of Riggins to mine for gold. Many of them have used a suction dredge to extract the precious metal from the gravel and silt on the river bottom. Until now, the EPA didn’t require these modern day prospectors to get permission if they used small-scale dredges.

But the EPA’s state director Jim Werntz says that had to change. A big reason: mining stirs up sediment that harms salmon along the river’s entire stretch.

“You have critical habitat for several species in that area and we couldn’t, basically couldn’t keep that area open under the general permit coverage," Werntz says.

The EPA came up with its new permit because it had determined that without it, the agency was allowing people to violate the Clean Water Act.

Anyone wanting a permit can apply for one now. There will not be an application fee. The EPA will hold workshops in the coming weeks to help explain the new permit.

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