Advocacy Update: Improved Suction Dredge Permit

Earlier this year Upper Missouri Waterkeeper submitted technical comments to the Montana DEQ concerning draft revisions to its Suction Dredging General Permit.  Click here to learn more about suction dredge mining.

The good news is that DEQ’s final permit, issued recently, contains improvements that represent big steps forward in protecting local water quality and fisheries.

Montana’s new Suction Dredge General Permit offers the following key protections:

  • Daily monitoring and recording of dredging operations to ensure sediment discharges from operations are minimized (no big dirt plumes going downstream in the creek/river)
  • Suction dredges cannot operate side-by-side in streams – spreading out operations helps minimize local impacts
  • No dredging in A-1 or A-closed waterways, or in wilderness areas or wild and scenic rivers (e.g., protect our high quality waterways and wild places)
  • Required consultation with MT FWP to evaluate the proposed site of dredging. Specifically, whether allowing dredging will impact an area of unique ecological or recreational significance, or harm fisheries or local conditions.

Conversely, the permit could be improved by mandating:

  • Including new requirements addressing the spread of invasive species
  • Prohibiting, per se, suction dredging in any waterway listed as impaired for sediment and/or mercury. (E.g., if the rivers already hurting from these pollutants, don’t allow an activity that increases that type of pollution).
  • Closure of dredging in any waterway less than 10′ in width (to protect bank stability and minimize erosion and sedimentation)