Stream Channel Alterations by Recreational Mining FAQs
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- Question 1: Why do I need a permit to operate recreational mining equipment?
- The Idaho Dept of Water Resources (IDWR) administers the Stream Channel Alteration Act established by Idaho Code § 42-3801 et seq. If you are going to dredge, dig, scrape, or otherwise move stream bed materials from below mean high watermark (MHWM) in your prospecting/mining efforts you will be altering the stream channel and you must have an IDWR issued stream channel alteration permit.
If your prospecting/mining equipment does not exceed certain physical size limits, you operate your equipment as described in our current "IDWR Recreational Dredging Program Instructions available from the IDWR webpage," and you operate only when streams are specifically listed as open you may apply for and will be issued recreational dredging permit (LETTER PERMIT) to conduct your stream channel alterations.
If you wish to alter a steam bed with other equipment or to alter streams that are closed (not specifically listed as open) you must have a valid stream channel alteration long form permit in your possession at time of alteration. These are called "Joint Application for Permits." (see Question 2)
- Question 2: Where can I get a "Joint Application for Permits?"
- The "Joint Application for Permits" and instructions on how to complete can be downloaded from these links:
- Question 3: Is the LETTER PERMIT the only permit I need to conduct recreational prospecting/mining?
- Your LETTER PERMIT allows you to alter a stream channel only when such alterations are conducted as described in the current "IDWR Recreational Dredging Program Instructions available from the IDWR webpage" and the stream is specifically listed as open. The operator of the prospecting/mining equipment is responsible for other permits that may be required. For example, you may have other permit requirements if you are on US National Forest lands or US BLM lands and you would need to contact the US EPA for any National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) general permit requirements.
- Question 4: I have a mining claim so why do I need a stream channel alteration permit?
- Your mining claim gives you rights to minerals on a specific portion of land. The miner is still responsible for conducting their mining operation in compliance with other established requirements, including stream channel alteration requirements established by Idaho Code that requires you to obtain a stream channel alteration permit.
- Question 5: What is considered recreational mining equipment?
- Any equipment that can alter the bed of a stream channel below mean high watermark (MHWM) requires a stream channel alteration permit. If a miner's equipment and its operation are consistent with that described in the current "IDWR Recreational Dredging Program Instructions available from the IDWR webpage" and the equipment is operated in a stream specifically listed as open, it is considered recreational mining and can be done with a LETTER PERMIT. All other equipment or methods of operation require a "Joint Application for Permits." (see Question 2)
- Question 6: Do I need a LETTER PERMIT to operate my high-banker on a stream specifically listed as open?
- Your high-banker or other types of hydraulic concentrators used for mining are only allowed to operate in stream channels (below MHWM) when the stream is specifically listed as open and the operator has a valid LETTER PERMIT.
If you operate your high-banker at an upland location (above MHWM) you require a LETTER PERMIT to process material that has been removed from the stream channel (below MHWM). Stream channel materials can only be removed from a stream channel when the stream is specifically listed as open.
If you operate your high-banker in an upland location (above MHWM) and you are processing only upland materials (obtained from above MHWM) it is not considered a stream channel alteration and you do not need a LETTER PERMIT; however, Idaho Department of Lands placer mining regulations may apply. Please visit the Idaho Department of Lands website for more information.
If you operate your high-banker at an upland location (above MHWM) you must also have a water right to withdraw water from the stream. (see Question 8 regarding water rights)
- Question 7: How do I determine if I am working below mean high watermark?
- Idaho Code § 42-3802(h) states "Mean high watermark" means a water level corresponding to the natural or ordinary high watermark and is the line which the water impresses on the soil by covering it for sufficient periods of time to deprive the soil of its terrestrial vegetation and destroy its value for commonly accepted agricultural purposes.
- Question 8: Do I need a water right?
- If you are withdrawing water from the stream you must have a valid water right in your possession. Contact the IDWR "agent of the day" at (208) 287-4800 or Craig Saxton at (208) 287-4916 for information on a temporary water right.
- Question 9: What is the penalty for violating Idaho’s stream channel protection act?
- You may be issued a citation for illegally altering a stream channel. Illegal stream channel alterations that have occurred over several days are subject to daily penalties from $150.00 to $500.00 per day of violation. Repeat offenders or blatant violations are subject to equipment forfeiture.