Feb 22, 2010

Idaho’s Small Scale Placer Miners Will Need General Discharge Permit Under EPA Proposal

Informational workshops scheduled for Grangeville, Boise, Salmon and Idaho Falls

Operators of small suction dredges who mine for gold in Idaho will need to apply for a general water quality discharge permit under the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) 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 in. in diameter or less and using motors or engines rated at 15 hp or less. It will be administered under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System, 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, specify when and where suction dredgers may operate and 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 Werntz said. “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.”

To explain and discuss the new permit proposal, informational workshops will be held.