We were just informed IDEQ (Idaho Dept of Environmental Quality) now is proposing another permitting scheme to dredge in Idaho. Death by a thousand cuts and make it so onerous, the miners cannot dredge.
Unelected bureaucrats making laws. AMRA is formally opposing this new permitting scheme on the suction dredgers behalf. Our letter:
To: AJ Maupin
Idaho Department of Environmental Quality
1410 N. Hilton, Boise, ID 83706
Dear IDEQ, June 30, 2019
We have thoroughly read the “Idaho Pollutant Discharge Elimination System: User’s Guide to Permitting and Compliance Volume 4 — General Permits Excluding Storm Water” permitting scheme proposed by IDEQ and have some concerning questions which need to be answered by IDEQ.
Firstly, suction dredging is not recreational, it never has been. It is an industry and citizens may file real-property mining claims on lands open to mineral entry in the public domain with the intent of securing, and developing a valuable mineral deposit. They have deeds to those properties and in some states, they even pay property taxes on these claims. Miners, at the end of the day do not toss their gold back into a waterway as a recreational fishermen would a small trout, there is no gold too small to toss back. The mining claim owner also has fundamental rights, not mere privileges to obtain the valuable minerals contained in their mining claims and the miner is not a guest on his mining claim as a recreational outdoors-person is. Federal laws protect this right to mine and the states are prohibited from materially interfering with the mining activities. We do recognize the states have some authority to regulate, but to the limited degree outlined in the federal laws.
What is astounding is that now, to allegedly dredge on the south fork clearwater in northern Idaho, one is told to obtain a PoO permit from USFS, a NPDES permit from EPA, a state permit from IDWR and now the IDEQ is stating a permit needs to be obtained. This meets the very definition of over-regulation and is prohibitive. To limit suction dredges to just 15 on the SFCW is also by definition, a prohibition. We formally oppose this permitting scheme.
1) What is the scientific basis IDEQ is using for determining suction dredging is a discharge?
Suction dredging does not “add” anything to the river or waterway which did not exist prior to the operation. The process of dredging simply lifts sand and gravels, sifts them over a sluice and collects the valuable minerals along with lead weights, fishing lures, discarded beer cans, mercury, trash and other heavy items left by others or mother nature. Modern suction dredges remove 98% of the mercury from legacy mining and naturally occurring deposits. Simply put, suction dredges clean the waters of Idaho.
2) What is the estimated time it will take to obtain a permit on a waterway not listed in this permitting scheme? Given the fluctuations in weather in the state, delays in permitting could cause undue burdens of miners making their living off of mining these claims which currently do not require a permit from IDEQ.
3) Where did the following information derive from specifically? Under 9.1.3 of this permitting scheme, dredge size restrictions are listed as follows:
1 – 5 inch dredge;
1 – 4 inch dredge and 1 – 1 inch dredge;
1 – 3 inch dredge and 1 – 2 inch dredge;
1 – 3 inch dredge and 2 – 1 inch dredges;
2 – 2 inch dredges and 1 – 1 inch dredge;
3 – 1 inch dredges and 1 – 2 inch dredge;
5 – 1 inch dredges.
This is incredibly inaccurate if the intent is to compare 5 1” dredges to a 5” dredge by volume of material used.
4) Were any suction dredge miners consulted as a part of the development of this permitting scheme? If so, who were the miners consulted (names), the timelines of the consulting and the content of what was provided by these miners. If no miners were consulted, why were stake holders not consulted?
5) Why is an NOI required annually on some rivers and not others? Why are they required at all?
6) 9.3.1 addresses mercury mobilization and suspension of solids. Define, specifically what temperature mercury methylates and what rivers (where suction dredging occurs) where this is of concern. Define what the reasoning or scientific basis is, if it is a proven scientific fact a modern suction dredge removes 98% of the mercury that leaving it in a waterway is good for the environment, the drinking water or the fish who live in the water. This is analogous to saying one should never vacuum their carpet for fear of a piece of dirt moving onto the coffee table. Removing 98% of a toxin in any water should be encouraged.
7) 9.3.1 Define what specific suspended solids IDEQ is referring to. Naturally occurring solids become suspended during any run-off event, flood event or spring flood in volumes which make a tiny suction dredge insignificant. We have pictures we would gladly provide to IDEQ which shows the SFCW running as chocolate milk from its source to the confluence, and even over the road.
8) 9.3.1 Provide specific details on TMDL’s which IDEQ is determining suspended solids, what the suspended solids are and where these statistics, studies or data was derived from (source).
9) 9.3.1 Define what adverse affects are scientifically documented, to what fish or wildlife and what source was used to determine this.
10) 9.3.1 We are aware of numerous studies performed on mercury methylation and have consulted some of the very scientists who have conducted these studies. List the peer reviewed studies or methodology used to determine suction dredging can cause methylation in any Idaho cold-water waterway where suction dredgers mine for gold.
11) Suction dredging is not allowed during spawning of anadramous fish to our knowledge. Where has this occurred before and if it has been allowed, what are the results of studies performed.
12) 188.8.131.52 Speaks to logs and rocks may not be moved with “wenches”. We will assume you are referring to “winches” which are mechanized pieces of equipment for moving large objects as opposed to “wenches” which refer to prostitution. Why are motorized winches not allowed? What is the specific concern and factual basis for denying the use of these essential pieces of equipment? Whether one uses a “come-along” which is manually operated or a mechanized winch, the equipment is still strapped to a tree and used as a secure pull-point (the tree is undamaged). Motorized or manual, they are the same and are required for miner safety. If a miner is trying to reach bedrock where the gold typically collects, one will undoubtedly encounter a boulder. That boulder must be moved or the miner risks serious injury or death.
13) Who in IDEQ is a part of this permitting scheme department has suction dredge experience, has seen a suction dredge operation, has been trained or has any knowledge of how a suction dredge operation operates and what is the extent of their knowledge and/or training?
14) Provide any and all studies used to determine suction dredging has caused harm to even one fish, ever which was used as the basis for this permitting scheme.
15) Explain where the permitting scheme originated. Who initiated the permitting scheme proposal, when and what were their concerns.
We look forward to your replies to our specific questions.
Mr. Shannon Poe
President, American Mining Rights Association (AMRA)
PO Box 467
Coulterville CA 95311
We encourage you to oppose this if you are a suction dredger in the state of Idaho. All information can be found here: