Introduced by Representative Donahue of Northfield
Subject: Conservation; alteration of streams; recreational mineral prospecting
Statement of purpose: This bill proposes to authorize recreational mineral prospecting in the state under a license similar to a fishing license. It also authorizes the issuance of three licenses a year for the use of suction dredges in recreational mineral prospecting. In addition, the bill requires the agency of natural resources to conduct a study of recreational mineral prospecting in the state.
AN ACT RELATING TO RECREATIONAL MINERAL PROSPECTING
It is hereby enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Vermont:
Sec. 1. 10 V.S.A. § 1021 is amended to read:
§ 1021. ALTERATION PROHIBITED; EXCEPTIONS
(a) A person shall not change, alter, or modify the course, current, or cross‑section of any watercourse with a drainage area greater than ten square miles at the location of the proposed change, alteration, or modification, or of designated outstanding resource waters, within or along the boundaries of this state either by movement, fill, or by excavation of ten cubic yards or more in any year, unless authorized by the secretary.
* * *
(h)(1) Notwithstanding any other
provisions of this section,
recreational mineral prospectors: (A) shall not operate suction
dredges in any watercourse; (B) may operate sluice boxes in
any watercourse, provided: (i) a request for approval to
conduct mineral prospecting shall be filed with and approved by the
secretary; and (ii) mineral prospecting shall
not be conducted on private land without landowner permission, or
on state land without permission from the secretary. (2) Hand panning prospecting
techniques shall be exempt from this subchapter a person shall not
engage in recreational mineral prospecting in any watercourse of the state
without first having procured a recreational mineral prospecting license.
(2) A recreational mineral prospecting license shall entitle the holder to operate sluice boxes in any watercourse in the state that is a public water resource under section 902 of this title, provided the license holder shall not operate suction dredges unless approved to do so by the secretary.
(3) Without advance permission of a landowner, the holder of a recreational mineral prospecting license shall not conduct mineral prospecting or any activities attendant to mineral prospecting in a private watercourse or on private land adjacent to a public or private watercourse if the relevant watercourse or land is bounded by posters that identify the watercourse or land as a privately owned area.
(4) A recreational mineral prospecting license may be issued to any person 15 years of age or older.
(5) A recreational mineral prospecting license may be obtained at any license agent authorized under subsection 4254(f) of this title.
(6) Vermont residents and nonresidents may apply for a recreational mineral prospecting license on forms provided by the secretary.
(7) Handpanning techniques shall be exempt from this subchapter.
Sec. 2. PILOT SUCTION DREDGING LICENSE
(a) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the secretary shall issue three recreational mineral prospecting licenses a year that authorize the holder to operate a small suction dredge for two consecutive days at a location approved by the secretary.
(b) A person holding a recreational mineral prospecting license issued under subsection (a) of this section may operate in any watercourse, provided that:
(1) the secretary is informed of the location of suction dredging two weeks prior to the proposed date of dredging;
(2) the small scale suction dredge used by the licensee shall have a motor no greater than 5.5 horsepower and a nozzle no greater than four inches in diameter;
(3) suction dredging shall not be conducted in a private watercourse or on private land without landowner permission, or on state land without permission from the secretary;
(4) written landowner permission and the current license from the secretary shall be posted for public view at the mineral prospecting site at all times when suction dredging is taking place;
(5) suction dredging may only take place between June 1 and September 30, or as set by the department of fish and wildlife, such that dredging does not interfere with the spawning habits of salmonoid or other game fish; and
(6) suction dredging is done in a manner which will not result in erosion of the property of riparian landowners. Practices prohibited by this requirement include undercutting of stream banks, dredging in or around tree root systems, and the discharge of muddy water.
(c) Fees for a license issued under this section shall be the same as the fees for mineral prospecting under 3 V.S.A. § 2822(j)(27). Fees collected under this subsection shall be used by the secretary of natural resources to complete the study of recreational mineral prospecting required by Sec. 3 of this act.
Sec. 3. STUDY OF RECREATIONAL MINERAL PROSPECTING
(a) The secretary of natural resources or the secretary’s duly authorized representative shall conduct a study of recreational mineral prospecting in the state. The study shall identify:
(1) The number of recreational mineral prospecting licenses issued between July 1, 2005 and January 1, 2008.
(2) The number of stream alteration permits approving recreational mineral prospecting issued by the secretary between July 1, 2001 and July 1, 2005.
(3) The number of stream alteration permits issued by the secretary authorizing the use of suction dredges between July 1, 2005 and January 1, 2008.
(4) The location of the license agents that issued recreational mineral prospecting licenses between July 1, 2005 and January 1, 2008.
(5) Whether, based on the number and location of recreational mineral prospecting licenses issued, recreational mineral prospecting is concentrated in one geographic area of the state.
(6) The environmental, social, economic, and other relevant effects of activities conducted under recreational mineral prospecting licenses.
(b) On or before February 1, 2009, the secretary shall report to the general assembly the findings of the study and its recommendations with respect to continued recreational mineral prospecting in the state.
Sec. 4. SUNSET
(a) 10 V.S.A. § 1021(h) shall be repealed on June 30, 2009.
(b) Sec. 3 of this act shall be repealed on June 30, 2008.
The Vermont General Assembly
115 State Street