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Alaska Suction Dredging Regulations

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This Fact Sheet is from the Alaska Department of Natural Resources Division of Mining & Water Their website is at

Version June, 2010


Suction dredging is a popular form of recovering gold from the numerous placer streams in Alaska. Various sizes of suction dredges are used, varying from those "recreational" models with a small 1Ĺ inch intake hose to large, heavy dredges with 8 inch and 10 inch intake hoses, driven by powerful engines, and capable of processing large amounts of material in a single day.

The definition of "recreational" suction dredging varies between state and federal agencies; but, generally it may be stated that, on:

STATE LAND: Use of a suction dredge, with an intake line of six (6) inches or less, powered by a motor of 18HP or less, and which is used without mechanized support equipment, is classified as a recreational activity and would not require a permit from the Division of Mining, Land & Water (DMLW).

Structures are not permitted, even if they are on skids or some other form of non-permanent foundation. However, temporary tent camps may be utilized, but for not more than 14 days at one site.

Suction dredging is not permitted in State Parks.

FEDERAL LAND: Before using a suction dredge of any intake size on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) managed federal lands, the suction dredge operator must contact the local BLM Field Office to determine if suction dredging can be authorized for the desired location, and if so, how to apply for authorization.

"Commercial" operations involve the use of suction dredges larger than those defined above under the "recreational" category and may require permitting by several state and federal agencies. Most operators in the "commercial" category submit an Annual Placer Mining Application (APMA) for their permits. The APMA may be used to satisfy the "Notice of Intent" required for "commercial" mining operations on federal lands. Contact the Division of Mining, Land and Water, Mine Permitting Office for further information concerning the Annual Placer Mining Application process.

Many gold-bearing streams in Alaska support salmon and there is only one way to tell if the stream you want to dredge has been designated as important to anadromous fish - contact the nearest Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Habitat Section.. Anyone proposing to conduct suction dredging operations are required to obtain prior authorization from one of their offices before the commencement of such activity due to potential impact on anadromous fish habitat. Permits are free!

In most areas of the state, adult salmon spawning begins in mid-July and extends through the fall. The eggs deposited in the stream bed do not emerge as free swimming fish until April or May of the following year. Salmon eggs deposited in stream bed gravelís are extremely vulnerable to any type of disturbance such as suction dredges. Accordingly, the instream use of any suction dredge is generally prohibited in salmon spawning and rearing areas except for a period between May 15th and July 15th, when salmon eggs and salmon fry are least vulnerable to disturbance. These dates may vary depending upon the species of fish and the distances they must travel to reach their natural streams.

Please note changes to regulations of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency which became effective September 24, 1993, are affecting regulations of recreational placer mining activities in Alaska. There are exemptions; but each of these agencies should be contacted to determine if your mining operation will require permits from their respective agencies.

Any activity must be conducted in a responsible manner and must comply with all applicable state, federal, and local laws and regulations. Many land classifications do not allow recreational activity that disturbs the surface in any manner. Camping permits may be required for certain areas. Check First! Both the State Department of Natural Resources and the Bureau of Land Management can assist you in determining land ownership.

bullet EPA Small Dredge Permit - Copy of AKG-37-5000 in Adobe Acrobat (.pdf) format as reissued in 2007. This permit has been replaced by the Habitat permits below. For suction dredges with a 6" or smaller nozzle opening (note: NOT hose size). Fact Sheet.
bullet Alaska Dept. of Fish & Game Habitat Permits - A recreational suction dredge permit is required to dredge in a waterbody designated as important for the spawning, rearing, or migration of anadromous fish or that is used by resident fish as a migratory corridor.
bullet Annual Placer Mining Applications - For larger scale mining operations, including dredges with a larger than 6" nozzle opening, and any dredging operations that need exclusions from conditions contained in the other permits.
bullet Corps of Engineers General Permit 2007-372 - General Permit covering most suction dredging activities in Alaska. Make a copy and have it with you. Adobe Acrobat (.pdf) format.
bullet Suction Dredging in the National Forest - Very informative general information on suction dredging.


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