Public can comment on changes to dredging rules
February 28, 2019
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is seeking public comments on proposed rules that would require people to obtain a standard state hydraulics permit to use a suction dredge to prospect for gold or other minerals in or near state waters.
A suction dredge works by sucking up water, gravel, gold, and other minerals through a narrow hose and ejecting this material into a sluice box, which expels the gravel and retains the gold and other minerals.
Under the proposed rules, suction dredgers would be required to obtain a standard individual Hydraulic Project Approval (HPA) permit and submit an annual report on their activities.
Current regulations allow people to operate a suction dredge as long as they follow state rules for that activity outlined in WDFW's Gold and Fish pamphlet.
Draft rules for the new permitting system are posted for public review on the department's website at https://wdfw.wa.gov/licensing/hpa/rulemaking/. WDFW will accept public comments submitted through 5 p.m. April 8 on that website, email (HPARules@dfw.wa.gov) or postal mail (P.O. Box 43200, Olympia, WA, 98504-3200, ATTN: HPA Rules).
The department drafted the new rules at the direction of the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission, which called on WDFW last April to develop new regulations that provide greater accountability for suction dredging throughout the state.
The commission, a nine-member panel appointed by the governor to set policy for WDFW, has scheduled a public hearing on the proposed rules during a meeting scheduled April 5-6 in Olympia. (See schedule at https://wdfw.wa.gov/commission/meetings.html.) The commission will consider comments received during that meeting, along with those submitted in writing, before taking action on a final proposal later in 2019.
Randi Thurston, WDFW Habitat Program Protection Division Manager, said the rules proposed by the department are designed to provide more information on when, where, and how much suction dredging occurs throughout the state.
"Questions have been raised about the scope of suction dredging in our state," she said. "The proposed changes to the application process and permit requirements will provide that information."
To help prevent the spread of invasive species, the proposed rules also include new requirements for inspection and decontamination of dredging gear that is moved into and around the state, Thurston said.
Last July, Thurston and other WDFW program staff held four public meetings around the state to discuss the rule-making process with suction dredgers and other members of the public. The department considered comments received at those meetings and other discussions in developing the proposal that is now available for public review.