The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is seeking public comments on proposed rules that would require a standard state hydraulics permit to use a suction dredge to prospect for gold or other minerals in or near state waters. The rule would require applicants to submit an annual report on their activities. To help prevent the spread of invasive species, the proposed rules also include new requirements for inspection and decontamination of dredging gear that is moved into and around the state.
Current regulations allow people to operate a suction dredge without a hydraulics permit. They must follow state rules for that activity outlined in WDFW’s Gold and Fish pamphlet.
Draft rules for the new permitting system are posted for public review on the department’s website at https://wdfw.wa.gov/licensing/hpa/rulemaking/. WDFW will accept public comments submitted through 5:00 p.m. April 8 on that website, by email (HPARules@dfw.wa.gov) or postal mail (P.O. Box 43200, Olympia, WA, 98504-3200, ATTN: HPA Rules).
The department drafted the new rules at the direction of the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission, which called on WDFW last April to develop new regulations that provide greater accountability for suction dredging throughout the state.
The commission, a nine-member panel appointed by the governor to set policy for WDFW, has scheduled a public hearing on the proposed rules during a meeting scheduled April 5 to 6 in Olympia. (See schedule at https://wdfw.wa.gov/commission/meetings.html.) The commission will consider comments received during that meeting, along with those submitted in writing, before taking action on a final proposal later in 2019.
Last July, WDFW program staff held four public meetings around the state to discuss the rule-making process with suction dredges and other members of the public. The department considered comments received at those meetings and other discussions in developing the proposal that is now available for public review.