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Legislation & Regulation

Legislative and Regulatory Update

• Idaho miners will challenge new EPA permit at rally
Idaho County Commissioner Jim Chmelik has taken a lead role in fighting against the EPA’s demands on suction gold dredgers and other public land users in the state.

Chmelik suggested an organized protest involving miners. The event has evolved into what is being called “Occupy Idaho Waters” and is scheduled for June 30 through July 6, 2014, on a portion of the Salmon River near Riggins.

“As a sitting county commissioner I will personally assist the dredgers and dare the EPA to arrest me while exercising our First Amendment rights. Can I count on you?” said Chmelik in a published press release.

Chmelik is also currently running for lieutenant governor.

The EPA created a new permitting system for Idaho suction gold dredgers last year and slipped in new regulations that prohibited suction gold dredges in many of the state’s gold-bearing streams, including most of the streams in the Salmon and Clearwater basins.

The protest group reportedly has the support of the local sheriff and numerous legislators, and they are encouraging miners from other states to come out and join them.

“We want to follow all Idaho State rules that have worked well and kept our waterways clean for decades,” said John Crossman of the Southwest Idaho Mining Association.

Crossman stated that those who wish to come out and support the cause need to obtain a permit from the Idaho State Water Board. Attendees will not be applying for the EPA’s National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit.

The Idaho permits are $10 for residents and $30 for non-residents. You can download the permit application on our webiste at www.icmj.com on our Occupy Idaho Waters Permit page.

More information can be obtained on the Occupy Idaho Waters Facebook page.

• California proposes to amend definition of a suction dredge
The California Department of Fish & Wildlife will hold a public hearing on June 5, 2014, regarding a proposal to amend the regulatory definition of suction gold dredging. CORRECTION: We've just been informed (by Shannon Poe of the American Mining Rights Association) the meeting has been moved to June 11, 2014. The times and location remain the same.

The agency gave in to environmentalist demands back in July 2013 and changed the definition of suction dredging to prohibit devices that use a vacuum system, but the emergency declaration is set to expire. The agency intends to make this change permanent despite the ongoing litigation. (See “California Dredgers: A Step Closer to Getting Back in the Water” on page 29 for more.)

The meeting will be from 3pm-5pm at the Resources Building Auditorium, 1416 9th St, 1st Floor, Sacramento, CA 95814.

Written comments may also be submitted by mail, fax or email:

Mail: CA Dept. of Fish & Wildlife
ATTN: Helen Briss
Habitat Conservation Planning Branch
1416 9th St, 12th Floor
Sacramento, CA 95814
Fax: (916) 653-2588
Email: suctiondredge@wildlife.ca.gov

• Proposed rule redefines “navigable waters”
On April 21, the EPA published a proposed rule in the Federal Register that would redefine the term “navigable waters” in the Clean Water Act in an attempt to regulate virtually all waters in the United States. The agency is trying to downplay the extent of the proposed rule by calling it a “clarification.”

The proposal would include most ditches and ephemeral drains where water only flows when it rains. The agency took the step after losing twice in front of the US Supreme Court, which declared they did not have jurisdiction in such cases.

The proposed rule, if allowed to stand, would have a devastating impact on public and private land use and is just another tool that federal agencies would use to collect fees, require mitigation and prevent development.

We encourage you to call and ask to speak to your US Senator at (202) 224-3121, and ask for a copy of the new EPA wetlands jurisdiction report.

You can also reach your US Representative at (202) 225-3121. Ask them for the same report and encourage them to withhold funding for the EPA to implement these new regulations.

You can download the proposed rule (pdf file) and obtain the comment requirements, email, fax and mailing addresses online.
© ICMJ's Prospecting and Mining Journal, CMJ Inc.
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