ODEQ to Hold Meeting In Medford Over 700PM Permit

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality has announced that they are holding a public meeting about the NPDES 700PM permit in Medford.

The meeting will be held at the large conference room at the Medford branch of the Jackson County Public Library at 205 South Central Ave., Medford, at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 7, 2013.

Apparently, ODEQ are now actively working with California DFG (the same agency who was publicly criticized for brandishing weapons against ranchers in Siskiyou County, California over irrigation). ODEQ intend to allow "a representative from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife will provide an update on the suction dredge mining moratorium in California and DEQ will also accept comments about how California's experience with mining regulation may inform the Oregon permitting process." It should be remembered that California DFG were in many ways responsible for the ban on suction mining in California.

Miners who care about their rights are encouraged to attend the Medford meeting and give ODEQ and California DFG a piece of their mind.

A copy of one of ODEQ's letters on this meeting follows:

January 31, 2013

Department of Environmental Quality
Water Quality Division
811 SW Sixth Ave
Portland, OR 97204-1390
Phone: 503-229-5696
In Oregon: (800) 452-4011
TRS: 711

Dear Interested Stakeholders:

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality seeks your input as it begins renewal of the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System general water quality discharge permit for small suction dredge operations and in-water, non-motorized mining. The existing 700-PM permit expires December 31, 2014.

You're invited to join DEQ staff in the large conference room at the Medford branch of the Jackson County Public Library at 205 South Central Ave., Medford, at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 7, 2013 to learn more about this process and how you can participate in the renewal and revision of this permit.

The meeting will include an opportunity to provide oral and written comments. Specifically, we want your initial feedback on a broad range of potential permit conditions and regulatory strategies, outlined below in this letter. We also want to hear about your experience with the current permit as well as your thoughts about the water quality and environmental benefits of potential changes to the permit. In addition, we want to understand how any changes to the permit, if adopted, would affect mining operations.

Also at the March 7th meeting, a representative from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife will provide an update on the suction dredge mining moratorium in California and DEQ will also accept comments about how California's experience with mining regulation may inform the Oregon permitting process.

DEQ issued the current 700-PM permit on July 30, 2010. This permit specifies allowable small suction dredge and in-water, non-motorized activities and establishes waste discharge limits to protect water quality, fish and other aquatic life, and other uses. The permit includes monitoring requirements and best management practices for permit holders, as well as a prohibition on suction dredge mining in scenic waterways and waters already degraded by sediments, turbidity and certain toxic pollutants. The permit and other supporting information are on DEQ's website at http://www.deq.state.or.us/wq/wqpenmVmining.htm#GeneralNPDES.
DEQ will meet with stakeholders (including miners, environmental advocacy and conservation groups and citizens) several times during the next year as it develops a draft revised permit that will replace the expired permit. During that time it will gather information to improve the permit's overall quality, to make it easier to understand and use, and to continue to support positive environmental outcomes. Your first opportunity to provide input on the permit renewal process will be at the March 7l Medford meeting. DEQ will continue to seek your input throughout 2013 and into 2014.
DEQ will follow a timetable to consider and respond to feedback and to work through potential permit revisions:
From April through June 2013, DEQ will consider feedback received before, during and
after the March 7th meeting and will accordingly modify the potential permit conditions
and regulatory strategies listed below. During that same period, DEQ will identify
subgroups of stakeholders based on the nature of each stakeholder's interest in regulation
of suction dredge mining. DEQ will provide the modified potential permit conditions and
strategies to the subgroups for their consideration and findings.
From July through December 2013, DEQ will meet at least twice with each stakeholder
subgroup to discuss their reactions, proposed findings and suggestions on potential permit
conditions and regulatory strategies. DEQ will consider subgroups' findings on the
feasibility and benefits of the potential permit conditions and regulatory strategies when it
develops the draft renewal 700-PM permit. The public will have the opportunity to
comment on the draft renewal permit when it's published for public review and comment,
expected to be in spring of 2014.
Potential permit conditions and regulatory strategies of renewed permit
It's important that DEQ receive your input on the benefits and feasibility of the following POTENTIAL permit conditions and regulatory strategies for suction dredge mining:
1.   The effectiveness of the current permit and the benefits and feasibility of the following POTENTIAL permit terms:
a. Potential prohibition of suction dredge mining in:
i.         Stream segments that are water quality limited for sediment, turbidity, or
toxics/metals; ii.        Recreational/special designation areas:
A. Waters in the National Wild and Scenic River system;
B. Waters within state parks or other recreational areas;
C. Waters within all wilderness areas, national monumeats, and
designated botanical areas; and
iii.       Segments with fish as designated beneficial use:
A. Essential Fish Habitat;
B. Essential Salmon Habitat;
C. Segments of waterways where salmonid spawning is known to
occur; and
iv.       Critical habitat for aquatic listed species under the federal Endangered Species Act.
. b. Potential Monitoring, Record-Keeping and Reporting Requirements:
i.         Permit registrants must complete regularly updated daily logs of suction dredge mining activity, recording the location (including stream segment and Township/Range/Section Number) and how many cubic yards were mined.
ii.         After each mining season, each permit registrant must submit an annual report to DEQ, which summarizes where (including stream segment and Township/Range/Section Number), when (how many days, and on what dates), and how many cubic yards were mined. Annual report submissions must include all daily logs from the relevant mining season.
iii.       Permit registrants must comply with any other applicable monitoring and reporting requirements in 40 C.F.R. §§ 122.41 Q)(3); 122.44(i)(2); 122.48.
c. To be covered under the Revised Suction Dredge Permit for each mining season,
each applicant must submit the previous year's year-end report, and be current
on fees.
d. The suction dredge operator permit number must be stenciled on or affixed to all
dredges being operated by persons registered under the permit at all times and in a
manner that is clearly visible from both stream banks.
e. Dredging within three feet of the lateral edge of the current water level, including
the edge of in-stream gravel bars or under any overhanging bank, is prohibited.
f. Dredging on substrates predominated by silt and clay materials, the disturbance of
which would significantly increase turbidity, is prohibited.
g. Movement of any material embedded in the banks of rivers or streams, or any
cutting, movement, or destabilization of instream woody debris, such as root-
wads, stumps or logs, is prohibited.
h.         Constructing dams, weirs, or any other in-water structures that concentrate or alter the natural course of current or streamflow is prohibited.
i.         Importing any earthen or fill material into a stream, river, or lake is prohibited. -
j.         No fuel, lubricants, or chemicals may be stored within 100 feet of the current water level and a containment system must be in place beneath the fuel, lubricants, or chemicals. The containment system must be sufficient in size to completely accommodate the full volume of all fuel, lubricants, and chemicals without overtopping or leaking.
k.         Before relocating a suction dredge to another waterbody, water shall be drained from all equipment for at least two weeks or the suction dredge and associated equipment must be decontaminated. Decontamination must be consistent with the existing invasive species decontamination protocol established by the Oregon Marine Board.
2.   DEQ also seeks your input and proposed findings on the following:
a. The cost to DEQ to administer, regulate, and enforce suction dredge mining
compliance with the federal Clean Water Act on a yearly basis;
b. The revenue received by DEQ from suction dredge mining permit fees on a
yearly basis;
c. Whether DEQ should propose an amendment to the current statute governing
permit fees for suction dredge mining;
d. Whether suction dredge mining has the potential to negatively affect:
i. Salmonid habitat;
ii.         Lamprey habitat; and
iii.       Freshwater mollusk habitat;
e. Whether or not suction dredge mining, through the re-suspension and discharge of
mercury, has the potential to contribute to:
i.         Mercury loading to downstream reaches/waterbodies; ii.        Merthylmercury formation in downstream reaches/waterbodies; and iii.       Bioaccumulation in aquatic organisms in downstream reaches/waterbodies;
f. Whether it is possible to substantially mitigate the environmental impacts of
suction dredge mining;
g. The feasibility of developing and using a system for permit holders to submit
annual reports online;
h.         The feasibility of requiring discharge monitoring reports and the content of any discharge monitoring report submitted;
i. The feasibility of requiring permit registrants to submit photographic
documentation of dredging activities; and
j,         Whether a suction dredge applicant who is seeking to conduct operations in a new area (i.e. one that is allowed under the terms of the permit but where the applicant has not previously conducted suction dredge mining operations under a previous NDPES permit) is a new discharger, and the feasibility of implementing any resulting requirements.
3.   DEQ seeks your input on potential strategies for reducing environmental impacts of suction dredge mining on Oregon waterways, and your proposed findings as to the benefits and feasibility of each potential strategy:
a.         Whether to place limits on the amount of dredging that can occur under the permit and, if so, how to establish any such limits;
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b. Whether to prohibit suction dredge mining in segments of waterways with less
than a certain average summer flow;
c. Whether to prohibit suction dredge mining under the permit in segments of
waterways where the substrate is more than a specified percent silt or clay;
d. Whether to limit the amount of mining to be conducted under the 700-PM based
on a consideration of ecosystem impacts;
e. Other strategies that would include reasonable restrictions on the time, location
and amount of dredging that should be allowed on any particular waterbody or
allowed under the general permit.
DEQ will follow the Medford meeting with subgroup meetings in southwestern and eastern Oregon through December 2013. At these meetings DEQ will consider all information provided by stakeholders and continue to discuss the merits associated with topics identified in this letter as well as subsequent staff recommendations. DEQ expects to have a draft permit and permit evaluation available for public comment before June 2014.
Thank you for your interest and input on the renewal of this water quality permit.

Dennis Ades
Manager, Surface Water Management
Water Quality Division
Oregon Department of Environmental Quality