National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) - Suction Dredge Mining
California Fish and Game Code section 5653.1, subdivision (b) has statutorily prohibited the use of vacuum or suction dredge equipment in the state since 2009. However, Senate Bill 637 which became effective on January 1, 2016 has amended section 5653 of the Fish and Game Code and added section 13172.5 of the California Water Code to provide a framework to lift the statutory prohibition on suction dredge mining.
Consistent with the requirements of Senate Bill 637, Water Board staff has solicited input from stakeholders and California Native American Tribal interests by conducting five public meetings with staff of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife in January and February 2017 in Fresno, San Bernardino, Orleans, Redding, and Sacramento prior to developing a draft statewide NPDES permit for discharges from suction dredge mining activities.
Additional information about Section Dredging:
See “Announcements” below for the latest details.
- Updated Frequently Asked Questions
- Regulation of Suction Dredge Mining in California
The Water Code, as amended by Senate Bill (SB) 637, requires any person planning to conduct suction dredge mining to obtain regulatory approval from the Water Boards prior to obtaining a permit from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. In 2020. State Water Board staff issued a proposed Statewide Suction Dredge Mining General Permit, and a high-resolution electronic map for public comments.
The State Water Board is dedicating its staff resources towards the reissuance of existing NPDES permits, as provided in the State Water Board 2023 Strategic Plan and is not proceeding with further development of a statewide NPDES permit for suction dredge mining at this time.
To request the required regulatory approval from the Water Boards (prior to requesting a permit from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife), a miner should contact the Regional Water Quality Control Board affiliated with the proposed mining location, to apply for the appropriate permit.
Regional Water Quality Control Board contact information is located at the following link: Regional Water Quality Board Directory | California State Water Resources Control Board
- Draft Statewide NPDES Permit Development
On May 12, 2020, the State Water Board issued a draft Statewide General National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Permit to regulate discharges associated with suction dredge mining activities (in response to Senate Bill 637 (2015)). Water Board staff held a public workshop on May 28, 2020 to explain the proposed statewide Permit. The State Water Board held a public hearing on August 5, 2020 to hear oral comments.
State Water Board staff additionally issued a draft higher resolution map that corresponds to the proposed statewide permit for suction dredge mining activities and extended the public comment period to March 8, 2021.
The State Water Board placed the draft NPDES permit reissuance on hold to allow the use of existing staff resources to be used for NPDES permit reissuance projects listed on the 2023 State Water Board Strategic Plan.
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- Updated Public Notice
- Second Revised Public Notice – Public Comment Due Date Extended
- Draft Statewide Suction Dredge Mining NPDES Permit
- Draft Interactive Mapping Application
- Suction Dredge Mining Mapping Application User Guide
- Enlarged Map Snapshots of Individual Counties
- Instructions for Participating in the January Public Workshops
- January 13, 2021 Public Workshop Presentation
- January 28, 2021 Public Workshop Presentation
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General Permit Information
For Fee information please check this Fee Schedule link and see the section related to other general NPDES permits, Category 3.
Please Note: The California Water Code requires the State Water Board to adjust the fees each fiscal year to conform with the revenue levels set forth in the California Budget Act. The fees may change every year.
Other Permitting Links
Previous Workshops per SB 637
Staff conducted five public meetings throughout the state in early 2017 to solicit input from stakeholders and California Native American Tribal interests prior to developing a Water Board permit or waiver for suction dredge mining. The public meetings were held in: Fresno on January 17, 2017; San Bernardino on January 18, 2017; Orleans on January 24, 2017; Redding on January 25, 2017; and Sacramento on February 6, 2017. The following links provide the video of the Sacramento meeting, the slides presented by Water Board staff at the Sacramento meeting, and a Frequently Asked Questions document: