The new law requires that all small-scale miners using motorized suction pumps obtain a Clean Water Act Permit from the State Water Resources Control Board before mining in California waterways.
The legislation affects suction dredge mining, high banking and any other form of mining that relies on motorized suction pumps to process materials from the banks or beds of rivers and streams.
Suction dredges are powered by gas or diesel engines that are mounted on floating pontoons in the river; attached to their engines is a powerful vacuum hose, which the dredger uses to suction up the gravel, sand and mud from the bottom of the river.
The suctioned material is sifted in search of gold. Similarly, high banking suctions water to process material excavated from riverbanks, causing erosion and sediment problems, as well as affecting cultural sites.
Dredging and high banking alters fish habitat by changing the river bottom and often reintroduces mercury, left over from historic mining operations, to the waterways threatening communities and fisheries. These machines can turn a clear-running mountain stream into a murky watercourse unfit for swimming or fishing.
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