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Vacuums, Stream Channels and SB 637

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I have a couple of questions...

After reading SB 637, I have concluded that the way it is worded, the use of a small motorized vacuum (like a small backpack vacuum) in a "stream channel or bed" is illegal:

"...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."


I have questions about this.

1. Exactly what defines "stream channel or bed"? Is it high bank width?

2. Does this law apply to stream channels or beds that are dry? If so, what percentage of the year must a stream need to be wet or flowing in order for it to qualify as a "stream channel or bed"?

Example: What if I find (what appears to be) a dry stream bed on my claim(s) that seems only to be a spring thaw runoff drainage? Is that drainage considered to be a stream channel or bed? 

3. If the SB 637 definitions of a stream channel or bed also cover these dry spring runoff drainages, doesn't that lend credence to the argument that SB 637, as worded, is indeed onerous and designed to curtail placer mining rather than to ensure water quality? It seems correct to me that using a vacuum in a dry stream channel, far above (for the sake of argument, farther than 100 yards) the current flowing stream channel, would not negatively affect water quality, unless nature itself washes soil down the drainage in spring runoff the following year.


Can anyone clarify this for me? Please contact me off list if you wish. Thanks in advance for the responses.

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I am no lawyer, so don't take my comments as legal advice, but I interpret this as prohibiting dredging equipment, which is described as being of the vacuum or suction type. I do not see how it addresses dry vac type suction units working dry tributary runoff beds where there is no water. To make this apply, the dry vac would have to fit into the definition of a dredge, which includes a sluice or some other processing device, not just a bucket as most dry vacs have. Again, I am not a lawyer and this is my personal opinion, not legal advice.

Just as an aside, there are hardly any tributary gulches that are dry in the Sierra these days! (though they will dry out this summer I am sure).

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