BOISE, Idaho — Starting April 4, 2013, small-scale suction dredge miners may begin applying for a new federal water discharge permit to lawfully operate their dredges in Idaho’s rivers lakes and streams, according to a press release.

Mining for gold using small suction dredges is a popular activity in Idaho with hundreds of dredges in use, especially during the summer, stated the release.

Small-scale suction dredge miners (using intake nozzles of five inches in diameter or less and engines rated at 15 horsepower or less) will need to apply for coverage under the new Clean Water Act general permit.

Larger suction dredges are not covered by this general permit and need to be authorized under a separate individual permit, noted the release.

There is no fee to apply for the EPA General Permit.

According to Dan Opalski, director of EPA’s Water Office in Seattle, the new general permit protects water quality and the people, fish and wildlife that depend on clean water.

“Miners can help protect water quality by applying for the permit, understanding the limits and following the ‘best practices’ for small suction dredge operations,” said Opalski. “Many waters in Idaho are already closed, due to existing state and other federal designations. This general permit protects additional waters, including those with threatened and endangered salmon, steelhead, white sturgeon and bull trout, as well as waters within Tribal Reservations.”

Read the entire press release here.