New law restricts motorized mining in critical salmon habitat

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Pat Chapman, Regulatory Services Coordinator, 564-999-1531
Rachel Blomker, Communications Manager, 360-701-3101

OLYMPIA – Starting today, mineral prospectors can no longer use motorized or gravity siphon equipment to search for gold in rivers and streams that are designated as critical habitat under the federal Endangered Species Act for salmon, steelhead, or bull trout, and all fresh waters in the state that salmonids use for spawning, rearing, and migration.

The new law is a result of House Bill 1261, adopted earlier this year by the state Legislature. More than 160 conservation and recreation organizations supported the bill.

To use motorized or gravity siphon equipment in allowed areas, miners will still need to apply for a Hydraulic Project Approval (HPA) from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). Application instructions are available on WDFW’s website. For a map of allowed mining locations, visit the Department of Ecology’s website.

In addition to the HPA, prospectors using motorized or gravity siphons will be required to get another permit from the Department of Ecology. The National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit will be required if the prospector will discharge water from their equipment back into surface or ground waters.

Non-motorized small-scale prospecting and mining methods will continue to be authorized through the updated WDFW’s Gold and Fish pamphlet. For more information, visit the rules for mineral prospecting and placer mining webpage.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is the state agency tasked with preserving, protecting and perpetuating fish, wildlife and ecosystems, while providing sustainable fishing and hunting opportunities.

Persons with disabilities who need to receive this information in an alternative format or who need reasonable accommodations to participate in WDFW-sponsored public meetings or other activities may contact Dolores Noyes by phone (360-902-2349), TTY (360-902-2207), or email (dolores.noyes@dfw.wa.gov). For more information, see https://wdfw.wa.gov/accessibility/requests-accommodation.