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ARTICLE 1 - General | Califonrnia Fish and Game Code - FGC | Section 5653.

5653. (a) The use of vacuum or suction dredge equipment by a person in a river, stream, or lake of this state is prohibited, except as authorized under a permit issued to that person by the department in compliance with the regulations adopted pursuant to Section 5653.9. Before a person uses vacuum or suction dredge equipment in a river, stream, or lake of this state, that person shall submit an application to the department for a permit to use the vacuum or suction dredge equipment, specifying the type and size of equipment to be used and other information as the department may require pursuant to regulations adopted by the department to implement this section.

(b) (1) The department shall not issue a permit for the use of vacuum or suction dredge equipment until the permit application is deemed complete. A complete permit application shall include any other permit required by the department and one of the following, as applicable:

(A) A copy of waste discharge requirements or a waiver of waste discharge requirements issued by the State Water Resources Control Board or a regional water quality control board in accordance with Division 7 (commencing with Section 13000) of the Water Code.

(B) A copy of a certification issued by the State Water Resources Control Board or a regional water quality control board and a permit issued by the United States Army Corps of Engineers in accordance with Sections 401 and 404 of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (33 U.S.C. Secs. 1341 and 1344, respectively) to use vacuum or suction dredge equipment.

(C) If the State Water Resources Control Board or the appropriate regional water quality control board determines that waste discharge requirements, a waiver of waste discharge requirements, or a certification in accordance with Section 1341 of Title 33 of the United States Code is not necessary for the applicant to use of vacuum or suction dredge equipment, a letter stating this determination signed by the Executive Director of the State Water Resources Control Board, the executive officer of the appropriate regional water quality control board, or their designee.

(c) Under the regulations adopted pursuant to Section 5653.9, the department shall designate waters or areas wherein vacuum or suction dredge equipment may be used pursuant to a permit, waters or areas closed to the use of that equipment, the maximum size of the vacuum or suction dredge equipment that may be used, and the time of year when the equipment may be used. If the department determines, pursuant to the regulations adopted pursuant to Section 5653.9, that the use of vacuum or suction dredge equipment does not cause any significant effects to fish and wildlife, it shall issue a permit to the applicant. If a person uses vacuum or suction dredge equipment other than as authorized by a permit issued by the department consistent with regulations implementing this section, that person is guilty of a misdemeanor.

(d) (1) Except as provided in paragraph (2), the department shall issue a permit upon the payment, in the case of a resident, of a base fee of twenty-five dollars ($25), as adjusted under Section 713, when an onsite investigation of the project size is not deemed necessary by the department, and a base fee of one hundred thirty dollars ($130), as adjusted under Section 713, when the department deems that an onsite investigation is necessary. Except as provided in paragraph (2), in the case of a nonresident, the base fee shall be one hundred dollars ($100), as adjusted under Section 713, when an onsite investigation is not deemed necessary, and a base fee of two hundred twenty dollars ($220), as adjusted under Section 713, when an onsite investigation is deemed necessary.

(2) The department may adjust the base fees for a permit described in this subdivision to an amount sufficient to cover all reasonable costs of the department in regulating suction dredging activities.

(e) It is unlawful to possess a vacuum or suction dredge in areas, or in or within 100 yards of waters, that are closed to the use of vacuum or suction dredges.

(f) A permit issued by the department under this section shall not authorize an activity in violation of other applicable requirements, conditions, or prohibitions governing the use of vacuum or suction dredge equipment, including those adopted by the State Water Resources Control Board or a regional water quality control board. The department, the State Water Resources Control Board, and the regional water quality control boards shall make reasonable efforts to share information among the agencies regarding potential violations of requirements, conditions, or prohibitions governing the use of vacuum or suction dredge equipment.

(g) For purposes of this section and Section 5653.1, the use of vacuum or suction dredge equipment, also known as suction dredging, is the use of a mechanized or motorized system for removing or assisting in the removal of, or the processing of, material from the bed, bank, or channel of a river, stream, or lake in order to recover minerals. This section and Section 5653.1 do not apply to, prohibit, or otherwise restrict nonmotorized recreational mining activities, including panning for gold.

(Amended by Stats. 2015, Ch. 680, Sec. 2. Effective January 1, 2016.)

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Last modified: July 19, 2016