Posts Tagged ‘Maine’

Maine LD 1671 (SP646) “An Act To Prohibit Motorized Recreational Gold Prospecting in Certain Atlantic Salmon and Brook Trout Spawning Habitats”

Presented by Senator BOYLE of Cumberland.

Cosponsored by Representative McCABE of Skowhegan and

Senators: MAZUREK of Knox, PATRICK of Oxford, SAVIELLO of Franklin,

Representatives: FARNSWORTH of Portland, GATTINE of Westbrook, ROCHELO of

Biddeford, SANBORN of Gorham, THERIAULT of Madawaska.

This new legislation is not necessary due to the fact that last year legislation was introduced and passed to impose a dredging season from June 15 to September 15. With this law in effect the spawning period for trout and salmon are protected. This should be enough right? Wrong. Trout Unlimited seems to think otherwise, they are the driving force behind this legislation.

On January 27, 2014 there was a public hearing on LD 1671 before the Environment and Natural Resources Committee at the Cross building in Augusta Maine. John Clark (Hillbilly John) and I were in attendance along with members of Central Maine Gold Prospectors,  Prospectors from Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut and New York.

LD 1671 Public Hearing Jan. 27, 2014

LD 1671 Public Hearing Jan. 27, 2014

Testimonies started with those in support of LD 1671, each person was given 3 minutes to speak for a 30 minute period and then those in opposition had the floor for the same amount of time and back and forth until every ones testimony was heard. A lot of the testimony I heard from those that support this legislation was based on opinion and conjecture. Laws should be based on facts not on opinion and conjecture.

Over the past several decades there have been studies performed and reports written by professionals  on the effects of small scale recreational gold suction dredging. Many of which were presented to the Environment and Natural Resources Committee for their review.

Here are some excerpts from Fact Sheet June 9, 2013 Written and prepared by:

Claudia Wise, Physical Scientist (USEPA retired), Miner

Joseph Greene, Research Biologist (USEPA retired), Miner

Guy Michael, Miner

Tom Kitchar, President, Waldo Mining District

Scientific studies have identified both detrimental and beneficial effects from this level of mining.

Dozens of studies on the environmental effects from small scale mining, and in particular “in-stream suction dredge placer mining”, have been performed by various agencies since the 1980’s, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, U.S. Geological Survey, and other federal and state agencies and universities at the cost of millions of dollars. To date, other than a few short-term and highly localized detrimental effects that are already mitigated to the point of being “less than significant”; the only other effects studies identified were beneficial to fish, the aquatic habitat, and the economy.

ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACTS

Relevant Science showing miniscule effects:

There have been a number of studies on the effects of small scale gold suction dredge mining that have concluded that these operations have impacts on the environment that are temporary, highly localized, and less-than-significant:

  •  1994, The Alaska District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued Special Public Notice 94-10, which concluded that, the effects from small suction dredges and hand operations were de minimus and did not require Army Corp permitting;
  • 2004,The Alaska District of the Army Corps issued Special Public Notice 2004-06, which restated that these placer mining activities still have “de minimus impacts” on the aquatic environment:
  • 1994,In an Environmental Impact Report, the California Department of Fish and Game, reached the conclusion that suction dredge mining had a less than significant impact on the environment;
  • 2012,The California Department of Fish and Wildlife, under a court order, completed another Environmental Impact Report on small-scale gold suction dredging, at a cost to the state of $1.2 to $1.5 million dollars. The overall conclusion was that the environmental impact from operation of these small scale dredges was less-than-significant for 56 of the 60 factors reviewed;
  • 2001, The Siskiyou National Forest, Oregon Draft Environmental Impact Report, Suction Dredging Activities are less-than-significant;
  • 2004, The Clearwater National Forest, Idaho completed the draft Environ-mental Impact Statement for Small-Scale Suction Dredging in Lolo Creek and Moose Creek Clearwater and Idaho Counties. The report stated that “EPA generally supports the terms and conditions for dredging and we believe they are designed to protect fish habitat and seem to minimize the potential to damage stream channels and banks.”, which supports a less-than-significant outcome;
  • 2012, Wallowa-Whitman National Forest, Oregon FINAL Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement reached the conclusion that suction dredge mining had a less than significant impact on the environment; and,
  • 2013, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Biological Evaluation Small Suction Dredge Placer Mining in Idaho reached the conclusion that suction dredge mining would have a less than significant impact on the environment.

 

There have also been a number of other more recent reports with the same conclusion, starting with:

  • Results from the 1992 Chugach National Forest, Alaska Report of Water Quality Cumulative Effects of Placer Mining which stated that, “The results from water quality sampling do not indicate any strong cumulative effects from multiple placer mining operations within the sampled drainage” (Huber and Blanchet).( NOTE: The operations studied here were large on-stream and off-stream commercial operations.)
  • In 1999 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reported the results of a cumulative field study evaluating the performance of 10, 8, and 4 inch gold dredges and concluded environmental impacts from these operations were less than significant (Royer et al., 1999).
  • Bayley (OSU), 2003, (for Siskiyou N.F., Oregon) Response of fish to cumulative effects of suction dredge and hydraulic mining in the Illinois subbasin concluded,”The statistical analyses did not indicate that suction dredge mining has no effect on the three responses measured, but rather any effect that may exist could not be detected at the commonly used Type I error rate of 0.05.”

All of these reports agree that the effect of small-scale gold suction dredging on the environment is less-than-significant, minimal, or immeasurable.

Net Environmental Benefits of Small-scale Suction Dredging: These important studies of small-scale suction dredge operations show impacts on the environment have a less-than-significant footprint. Furthermore, they make note of beneficial factors that create an overall net benefit to some areas. These factors need to be taken into consideration when interpreting suction dredge activities and further incorporated into best management practices agreements.

Experts agree that fish survival improves under moderate turbid conditions (25 NTU):

  • Results of the Gregory 1993 report notes that any reduction in feeding efficiency of fish may be offset by reduced risk of predation at moderate levels of suspended sediment.
  • CH2M HILL in 2000, added to that result showing that elevated total suspended solids (TSS) conditions, similar to turbidity plumes created from dredging activity, have been reported to enhance cover conditions, reduce piscivorous fish/bird predation rates, and improve survival.
  • Stern 1988, stated that, “Pools created by abandoned dredger sites can provide holding and resting areas for juvenile and adult salmonids”.
  • Harvey 1991, studied fish size and habitat depth relationships in headwater streams. During times of low flow in a river or stream, increased water depth can provide a refuge from predation by birds and mammals.
  • Nielsen 1994, examined excavations from dredging operations finding they can result in temporarily formed pools or deepen existing pools, which may improve fish habitat. Deep scour may intersect subsurface flow creating pockets of cool water during summer, which can provide important habitat for fish
  • 2001, Siskiyou National Forest, found if excavated pools reduce pool temperatures, they could provide important coldwater habitats for salmonids living in streams with elevated temperatures.
  • In1999, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reported the results of a cumulative field study evaluating the performance of 10, 8, and 4-inch gold dredges. The findings showed an increase in macroinvertibrate density and improved diversity in mined areas.
  • In 2010, The American River Spawning Gravel Supplemental Environmental Assessment (EA) points to the benefits of additions of spawning gravels even coming from an outside source. The addition of spawning gravels are to increase and improve Chinook salmon and steelhead spawning and rearing habitat.
  • Again in the 2011, American River Spawning Gravel EA; the supplemental Environmental Assessment Report supported the previous EA reporting benefits of supplementing spawning gravels

Tailings from small-scale suction dredge mining provide excellent spawning gravel. Suction dredging breaks up compacted steam beds; the gravels are dispersed by the high stream flows, making up suitable spawning gravels each year. If insufficient substrate is available Salmonids are left with the choice of spawning over and destroying previously built redds, or using cleaned dredge tailings.

Additional benefits of small-scale suction dredge mining include:Measureable improvement in water quality due to removal of wastes left by other users of the waters or that have eroded into the waterways. 100’s of pounds of lead fishing weights, bullets, water bottles, sunglasses, car debris, nails, broken glass, etc. are removed from our waterways and camping and recreational sites by miners every year.

Laws should be based on facts not on opinion and conjecture.

Here is a list of studies and reports that have been compiled over years of research that can be referenced available to all:

CDFG, 1997. draft Environmental Impact Report: Adoption of Amended Regulations for Suction Dredge Mining. State of California, The Resource Agency, Department of Fish and Game

Cooley, M.F. 1995. Forest Service yardage Estimate. U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Forest Service, Siskiyou National Forest, Grants Pass, Oregon.

Griffith, J.S. and D.A. Andrews. 1981. Effects of a small suction dredge on fishes and aquatic invertebrates in Idaho streams. North American Journal of Fisheries Management 1:21- 28.

Harvey, B.C., K. McCleneghan, J.D. Linn, and C.L. Langley, 1982. Some physical and biological effects of suction dredge mining. Lab Report No. 82-3. California Department of Fish and Game. Sacramento, CA.

Harvey, B.C. 1986. Effects of suction gold dredging on fish and invertebrates in two California streams. North American Journal of Fisheries Management 6:401-409.

Hassler, T.J., W.L. Somer and G.R. Stern. 1986. Impacts of suction dredge mining on anadromous fish, invertebrates and habitat in Canyon Creek, California. California Cooperative Research Unit, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Humbolt State University. Cooperative Agreement No 14-16-0009-1547.

Huber and Blanchet, 1992. Water quality cumulative effects of placer mining on the Chugach National Forest, Kenai Peninsula, 1988-1990. Chugach National Forest, U.S. Forest Service, Alaska Region, U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Lewis, 1962. Results of Gold Suction Dredge Investigation. Memorandum of September 17, 1962. California Department of Fish and Game, Sacramento, CA.

North, P.A., 1993. A review of the regulations and literature regarding the environmental impacts of suction gold dredging. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 10, Alaska Operations Office. EP 1.2: G 55/993.

Prussian, A.M., T.V. Royer and G.W. Minshall, 1999. Impact of suction dredging on water quality, benthic habitat, and biota in the Fortymile River, Resurrection Creek, and Chatanika River, Alaska, FINAL REPORT. US Environmental Protection Agency, Region 10, Seattle, Washington.

SNF, 2001. Siskiyou National Forest, Draft Environmental Impact Statement: Suction Dredging Activities. U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Forest Service, Siskiyou National Forest, Medford, OR.

Somer, W.L. and T.J. Hassler. 1992. Effects of suction-dredge gold mining on benthic invertebrates in a northern California stream. North American Journal of Fisheries Management 12:244-252

Stern, 1988. Effects of suction dredge mining on anadromous salmonid habitat in Canyon Creek, Trinity County, California. M.S. Thesis, Humbolt State University, Arcata, CA.

Thomas, V.G. 1985. Experimentally determined impacts of a small, suction gold dredge on a Montana stream. North American Journal of Fisheries Management 5:480-488.

US EPA, 2001. Mercury Recovery from Recreational Gold Miners.

Wanty, R.B., B. Wang, and J. Vohden. 1997. Studies of suction dredge gold-placer mining operations along the Fortymile River, eastern Alaska. U.S. Geological Survey Fact Sheet FS-154-97.

Attention prospectors Maine Legislation has proposed a ban on gold dredging. Legislative Document No. 1671, S.P. 646 An Act To Prohibit Motorized Recreational Gold Prospecting In Certain Atlantic Salmon and Brook Trout Spawning Habitats. Emergency.

Presented by: Senator Boyle of Cumberland, cosponsored by Representative McCabe of Skohegan and Senators: Mazurek of Knox, Patrick of Oxford, Saviello of Franklin. Representatives: Farnsworth of Portland, Gattine of Westbrook, Rochelo of Biddeford, Sanborn of Gorham, Theriault of Madawaska. Emergency means that this proposal will become effective immediately if passed.

This legislation has been introduced under the guise that gold dredging harms Atlantic salmon and brook trout spawning habitats. This is far from the truth, in reality we gold dredgers help fish habitat, we create beds for the fish to spawn in. The fish come into our pools to get out of the currents to feed. We also clean their habitat by removing trash and toxic metals  such as lead and mercury. Mercury is very harmful to fish and humans that consume them. Most of the lead is sinkers from fishermen and bullets and birdshot from hunters, believe me when I say that there is a lot of lead.

Lead from the Swift River from one afternoon.

Lead from the Swift River from one afternoon.

Close up view, notice the lead sinkers, some are even attached to fishing line, notice the bullets and bird shot

Close up view, notice the lead sinkers, some are even attached to fishing line, notice the bullets and bird shot

This is my lead count for the whole day Swift River.

This is my lead count for the whole day Swift River.

We also remove broken glass from the rivers and streams of Maine, we also remove trash that has been left behind by others from the banks of the rivers, this includes items such as bottles, cans, monofilament (fishing  line) and those six-pack rings, which these last two items are very harmful to birds and ducks. Birds will pick up fishing lines and use it for nesting material which later trap their young when they hatch and they die, ducks and other small mammals get those six-pack rings caught over their heads eventually strangling them.

If you are a prospector and a resident of Maine or if you own a business in Maine that is supported by prospectors I would like to encourage you to contact your elected officials by phone, email or letter and ask them to vote against S.P.646. All concerned prospectors could send letters to the editors of newspapers in the areas that you prospect in and voice your concerns.

Personally I spend all of my vacation time in Maine doing what I love to do and that is prospecting and gold dredging. I have spent up to six weeks a year there doing so. While I am there doing what I love I am spending money on things such as lodging, supplies from local businesses, gas from local gas stations. We eat in local restaurants, I buy firewood from local sellers and so on. I usually spend a week to two weeks at a time in Maine spending $800 to $1500 a trip. I know I am not the only prospector doing so when I am there I see many others doing the same. If this ban on dredging goes into effect I will be forced to gold dredge in another state that is prospector friendly, the money that is currently being spent in Maine will now be spent in another state.

The clock is ticking, and time is running out fast, if you want to help preserve your right to dredge in Maine the time is right now. Please act even if all you do is share this post at least we together can get the word out in time.

If you have any information to add that supports this post please post it and if you have any more ideas on what to do to help please post them, Thank you.

Hillbilly John and I made our usual trek northward to the Western Mountains of Maine on the first week of September which has been customary for us for over the past several years. This year Hillbilly John’s daughter Melissa and her boyfriend Mike accompanied us. It was their first time out dredging for gold.  It was also their first time visiting Maine. The weather was nice, it was warm and humid and it looked like we were going to have some nice weather for the labor day weekend. We arrived in the later part of the afternoon, we set up camp, jumped on the quads and headed out to the spot we planned to dredge in to look it over and put together a solid plan for the following day. We had a location picked out that we have dredged before that we had gotten some nice gold out of. We had been driven out of the spot before by the weather. We get to the trail and there is this sign posted on a tree that reads no all terrain vehicles beyond this point. What a bummer now we have to make a new plan. I had another location in mind, something that was relatively simple to get to. This place was down river on the East Branch of the Swift River. The first spot we looked at was reasonable. The following day we got up had some breakfast, packed up the 2 and a half inch dredge/ high banker combo and hit the trail, it was time to test the location out. We got there set up the equipment and we were Prospecting.

Hillbilly John and his daughter Melissa tending the sluice and Mike on the nozzle.

Hillbilly John and his daughter Melissa tending the sluice and Mike on the nozzle.

The weather was with us, some clouds passed over but over all it was a sunny day, we dredged until late afternoon, it was time for a clean up. We shut the dredge down and started washing the concentrates into a container, I looked down at the ribbed matting and I saw gold, so far so good. We cleaned all the concentrates out of the sluice and then we panned it down, we found numerous flecks of gold in each pan. The spot looked really good. We went back to camp had some dinner and then started getting the gear ready for the following day, we started assembling the 4″ dredge by putting the pontoons on the frame. We loaded up the trailer and prepared for an early start in the morning. Before turning in for the night it started to sprinkle and then it stopped. We turned in and before I fell asleep it started sprinkling again and I could hear thunder, and then came lightning. I could see it’s flash through the ceiling of the tent, which I find to be very peaceful and calming. I drifted off to sleep later to be awakened by the sound of pouring rain and thunder right over head. It must have been raining for a while at this point because when I went out of the tent to use the bathroom I stepped into ankle deep water just outside the door. I went back in to sleep, but just lay there for a while thinking  so much for the weather being with us, after all this is the first week of September in Maine. The next thing you know I am opening my eyes and it is starting to get light and the good news is I don’t hear rain on the roof of the tent. I got up and got dressed and went outside, it was foggy but at least it wasn’t raining. Hillbilly John was up and Melissa and Mike were still in their tent. I got some coffee on and started to fry up some bacon. It wasn’t long after that that Melissa was up and out of her tent. The eggs were done and breakfast was now ready and Mike finally joined us. If you are going to be dredging you need a good solid breakfast, you need lots of energy to move rocks and boulders. We saddle up and headed out with Hillbilly John leading the way towing the trailer with his quad,  Melissa and Mike were in the middle in the Jeep and I was in the rear making sure we didn’t lose anything. We had about a 3 mile commute to the parking area where we would have to leave the trailer and the Jeep and we would have to make several trips to get all of our equipment in on a narrow trail. Once we got every thing in we had a rather small ledge that we had to lower everything down to the river. Hillbilly John and I finished assembling the 4″ dredge and then I assembled the 2 1/2″ dredge for Melissa and Mike to use. After getting the equipment set up we donned our wet suits and we were ready to go. We worked together as a team, I was on the 4″ nozzle while Mike was on the 2 1/2″. Melissa tended the sluice for Mike and Hillbilly John was tending for me and moving rocks and boulders. We were working around a good size boulder. I worked the left and the down river side while Mike worked the right side. I could tell by the material that this location had been dredged before, the question was how deep and how far was it to bedrock or the clay layer. After about 1 1/2 to 2 feet I started to hit hard pack which was a good sign to me. I was excited and working like a mad man trying to get the rocks out of the way. I was throwing the rocks to my left, my peripheral vision is impaired due to my mask and I didn’t see Hillbilly John walking into my line of fire, I threw this rock about the size of a base ball and hit him right square in the bread basket. It’s a good thing he had on his wet suit it gave him some protection. Mike and Melissa were doing great for their first time out; they made a good team. The weather wasn’t to bad, there were scattered showers throughout the day with some patches of sun and it was fairly warm. We prayed that the weather would be with us, if it just rained at night I would be happy.Dredge We worked at a frantic pace all day, it was getting late and it was time for a clean up. We were quite eager to see what we had in the box, we ran the dredge for a few minutes clean just to wash the material a little better, just to get rid of some of the junk. We then throttled down on the dredge, Hillbilly John got in position with the plastic bus pan to catch our concentrates, I raised the rubber mat at the top of the sluice box and removed the first set of riffles. To my surprise I saw the most gold I had ever seen come across the ribbed matting. Man you got to see this I said to every one else, look at this we got gold!!!! We got us a good spot. We picked all the gold off that we saw with tweezers and continued our clean up, grabbing up every bit of gold we could before it hit the end of the sluice. We finished the clean up and panned down the concentrates. We found gold in just about every pan, the gold was small but we had a lot. If we are getting this on the surface just imagine what we will get as we get deeper. We had spent about 14 hours on the river that day and then the clouds rolled in. It was nearly dark by the time we got back to the camp sight. We ate dinner and then we relaxed by the campfire, it started to rain. We took cover in our tents and went to sleep. I awoke several times throughout the night to the sound of pouring rain. Day light came and it was still raining. We were huddled under the canopy hoping for the rain to stop but it wasn’t letting up so  we decided to go into town and get breakfast, we would at least be dry for a little while and get a good hot breakfast. Before going into town we  went to Coos Canyon Rock and Gift, Hillbilly John wanted to get a spiral pan to help us in our clean out efforts, hand panning is very labor intensive. We got out of the car and we could hear the river raging through the canyon. We had gone in to see Rosey, she was out of new spiral pans but she had a used one out back. Hillbilly John said he was interested in seeing it, She went and got it brought it out, it was an older model but in very good shape the battery was dead so Hillbilly John said that we will come back later and if it works he would buy it. We went into town and went to a local diner, breakfast was great we were dry and warm and I didn’t have to cook. Afterwards we went to Wal – Mart I wanted to get a rain suit so I did, Hillbilly John got a battery charger, he figured he would need it for the spiral wheel. We got back to Byron, still raining, we could hear the river raging from our camp site Hillbilly John thought that we should go and check on our equipment I agreed an put on my new rain suit . We took the quads, the rain was pouring down I could barely see with the rain hitting me in the face but at least the rain suit was working that was $14.00 well spent. I was worried the whole way there wondering what we were going to find or not find. Fortunately the day before we had pulled the 4″ dredge up onto dry land and securely tied it off  because the weather was looking pretty ominous. The other dredge was not tied and the motor was in a plastic Rubbermaid bin on the bank of the river. We got there and I was very hesitant about looking. Hillbilly John was the first on the scene and I had to ask how did it look, looks like everything is there he replied so I then looked for myself. The river was up on the bank and it had washed the 4″ out into the river and thank GOD we tied it off or else we probably would never had found it. The river was just inches from the Rubbermaid bin. We hauled the 4″ back in to land and drug it farter up the bank and re-tied it. Everything else we moved farther up on the bank. We were lucky again, it seems to be the same old story here, we are usually short on time, every day that we have really counts, when we lose a day or two it really puts a damper on our plans. But this is all part of the adventure and we are gluttons for punishment we will be back for more! Later on that day we went back to Rosey’s and Hillbilly John purchased the spiral wheel. We went back to the campground and it was virtually empty the rain had driven everyone out, we were talking with the owner of the campground and he told us that a couple of prospectors had lost their dredges and they hadn’t been found.

The following day the sun came out, the river had receded enough and were back to dredging. Our hole had been loaded up again with rock and gravel, but it wasn’t to long before I was in the hard pack again. Even though the sun was out it had cooled off a lot. We could see a couple of prospectors down river heading our way, when they got close enough I could see that it was Harry and Waynette Bragdon, my wife’s cousin. I had been looking for them and they for us but on this day they were just out prospecting and found us by accident. They had their sluice box with them and set up near us. As I said it was a lot cooler so I took many breaks to get warm and we took turns on the nozzle, I would take a turn, then Hillbilly John and then Mike. We kept the material flowing through the dredge all day long.

Hillbilly John takes the nozzle

Hillbilly John takes the nozzle

Mike gets ready to take his turn on the nozzle.

Mike gets ready to take his turn on the nozzle.

Melissa is trying to stay dry for a change.

Melissa is trying to stay dry for a change.

Hillbilly John getting warm on the rocks.

Hillbilly John getting warm on the rocks.

It was a great day on the river, we got some nice gold, we ran the concentrates through the spiral wheel and it worked good but we were tired of being cold and wet. The following day we packed up the equipment and decided to try something different.

While we were gold prospecting in Maine in September I had heard that some changes were made to the recreational motorized gold prospecting regulations. From what I can tell not much has changed except that there is now a season from June 15th to September 15th and that you do not need a permit. Here is the link to LD 1135 from the 126th Maine legislature, First Regular Session – 2013. I suggest that you read it for yourself in black and white. If you can point out to me what else in this document is new  law please feel free to do so. You can see the law on the books here: Chapter 10, Sub Chapter III 10.27G Motorized Recreational Gold Prospecting pages 263 to 268. It is always a good idea to know the rules no matter where you go so that you don’t get yourself in a pickle with the law. Who wants to pay a fine and possibly lose your equipment. Gold Dredge

Thats me Prospector Jack

Demonstrating the proper place to dig and that is in the stream bed.

On our last trip to Byron Maine, it had been brought to our attention that a very selfish individual, one who knows the regulations of the state of Maine, chose to disregard the regulations and dig in the bank while prospecting for gold. It was said that this individual had dug approximately 20 feet into the bank in a nearby stream, he was not on the swift river. Along comes hurricane Irene dumps all her water on the region and swells all the rivers and streams in the area. In this particular stream where this individual had dug in the bank, all this flood water had undermined trees and fell into the stream and causing it to dam thus creating a huge mess. The land owner was not pleased at all. The land in mention is owned by one of the large paper companies who graciously allows recreational prospectors to prospect for gold. Needless to say the land owner was so angry they closed down the property for public use. May I also add that the state of Maine was none to pleased either. This kind of activity could cause the state to make more stringent laws concerning gold prospecting or shut it down entirely thanks to the actions of one selfish, carless individual.

GENERAL REGULATIONS ( Taken from the Department Of conservation State Of Maine Geological Survey Web site)

With the exception of areas administered by the Maine Land use Regulation Commission, gold panning activities in Maine do not require a permit as long as the following restrictions are adhered to:

    1. The activity is confined to sandy/gravely/cobbly unvegetated stream beds, with no disturbance of stream banks.
    2. The activity is limited to the use of gold pans, sluices of less than 10 square feet, or suction dredges with a hose diameter of 4 inches or less.
    3. Permission from the land owner must be obtained. Why? First, it’s a matter of common courtesy to the land owner. But also,trespassing on posted land in Maine can be a matter of civil law. The water in a stream is under the jurisdiction of the state; but the stream bottom and streambank- as well as the access across land to the stream is most likely private property (exceptions include public lots, state parks, etc.). If you cause any damage to that property, even if it is not posted, you may be subject to civil action brought by the land owner. You can avoid these problems by talking to the landowner ahead of time.
You can find this at: www.maine.gov.  type in ” gold in maine” in the search maine.gov.
If we all just follow these simple rules we can ensure that we have a place to prospect tomorrow. These regulations change from state  to state so always check with the state conservation department you wish to prospect in before you engage in such activity.

Hillbilly John and I had planned for a couple of weeks another dredging trip to Maine again, probably the last one of the season, then Hurricane Irene hit. After seeing the news and seeing the devastation that Irene had brought to the Northeastern part of the United States we thought we may have to cancel our plans. We weren’t even sure if we could make it to Byron Maine but we left anyway, a day later than we had planned. We made good time it only took us 7 hours to get there and that was with towing a trailer with 2 quads. We arrived and went straight to the East Branch of the Swift River, the river level had gone down to a good level to work with a dredge. We set up camp right along the river, only to get kicked out of that spot the following day by a game officer, it was not an approved camp site, fortunately we didn’t get a fine and we were able to get an available site at Coos Canyon campground and cabins wich was about 5 miles away from our work site. Anyway when we arrived we had gone down to the river and located the site we wanted to work and then found a way in to it. We had gone back to our site and got our equipment, the dredge was dismantled so that we could pack it in to the work site on quads, it took us several trips to get all our equipment and tools in to the work site. We put the dredge together which is a Keene 4 inch, 3 stage. We made preparations so that we could start dredging the following morning, everything was good in the universe. We went back to our camp site had dinner then sat around the campfire and made our plan of attack for the following day.

The next morning we got up and had breakfast and raced down to the river to get started. We put the dredge in the water and went to work and found that the flood waters had washed away much of the overburden we had experienced on a previous trip we had made back in May. We had dredged all day and moved a lot of rock, we did our clean up on our dredge and brought our concentrates back to the camp site, and that is when we discovered the ticket on the windshield of the truck. We figured we better move to the campground. It was late in the day and almost time for the campground office to close so I jumped on the quad and headed down to the campground.Hillbilly John stayed behind and started breaking our camp site down. I had made the office just in time and they only had 2 sites left being labor day weekend, we were very fortunate. I went back up to the spot we had by the river and helped Hillbilly John pack up the rest of our gear. We got to the campground and we still had a little bit of daylight left, we made some quick work of setting up camp again. I started cooking dinner and Hillbilly John started running the concentrates through the Desert Fox. Dinner is now served Hillbilly John took a break from running the material and we both at, I was famished as I usually am after  a hard day of prospecting. After dinner Hillbilly John was back to his task of cleaning up our find, and I washed the dishes. Hillbilly John had finished running the concentrates and he said hey Jack you got to see this we got a small nugget I was like WHAT? Sure enough he had dumped the cup upside down in a gold pan and sure enough we had a small nugget and a lot of small flakes as well. That turned out to be a good hole.

The following day we worked the hole and moved a lot of boulders it was a productive day. We were going to continue when the sky turned dark and then the heavens opened up, poured,hail, thunder and lightning from every direction the sky looked as if a tornado was about to touch down the way the clouds were churning. We had taken cover on the bank and all we could do was watch the river rise and it rose quick. after about 40 minutes the rain subsided and we pulled the dredge out of the water and secured it on the bank. We cleaned the concentrates from the dredge and went back to camp, it was a wet ride back for the rain was now slow and steady, by the time we got back to the campsite it had stopped for a little while. We cleaned up the concentrates and we had some nice gold again. We had dinner, had a camp fire and called it a day.

The spot we had to move to.

The next day we discovered that the river had risen and the hole we had been working was now to swift to dredge so we had moved the dredge to a spot about 70 feet above where we were working still the same line we had intended to work. We had to push the dredge through some rapids to a pretty calm eddy. We tied the dredge off to a boulder and everything was good. We were ready to start again upon starting the dredge we discovered the air compressor was full of water, I couldn’t get any air to breath. We drained off the water and we were back in business. It was raining again and the air compressor continued to take on water so every so often we had to stop to drain the air out of it. To remedy this we zip tied an umbrella to the snorkel on the air compressor to keep the water out. Never the less with all the issues with the rain, and rain it did for the rest of the time we were there we had gotten gold every day that we were there and that was a good thing thanks to hurricane Irene for cleaning up the river.

See you next time.

Just got back from a ten-day prospecting adventure in Byron Maine. It was a really great time and for me ten days was not enough time. We had started our adventure on July 17, this time I had brought my wife Doris my son Charlie who is 8 years old the little girl who my wife baby sits for Nora who is 7 and my parents Alice and Maynard. There were also other family and friends that  were meeting us at the camp ground, all had never prospected before. I had brought my sluice high banker dredge combo that I had mentioned in a previous post with me and I was very eager to try it out. I brought enough pans for every one to use of various sizes and of course shovels, buckets and so on. My jeep was packed to the hilt. My parents met at my house in New York, they live in New Jersey, and their vehicle was also packed. We left my house at 6am and arrived in Byron Maine at 2 pm, it was an 8 hour trip. We camped at Coos Canyon  Campground and Cabins.Doris the kids and I rented a lean-to. My parents rented a tent site with electricity. We unloaded the vehicles and set up camp as soon as I was done with that I was down over the bank to the river in Coos Canyon to do some panning. Doris went over to the cabins to meet up with her sister Kathy who was spending a couple of nights in the cabin with her husband and daughter. Meanwhile another group in our party had arrived, family of ours from Maine Russ, Sue and their two kids Mike and Katie. They had a tent site in between us and my parents. While I was panning I did find a little color that was a good sign. I went to check on how every one was coming along with setting up their tents. We also had some other friends from New Hampshire staying next to my parents wich they had gotten there the day before us. We were all settled in, we ate dinner and had a nice campfire. I made my plans for the next day. I don’t know about everyone else but I slept great. I fell asleep to the sound of the river’s waters cascading over the centuries worn ledge rock and awoke to the same with the sun’s golden rays beaming down through the evergreen canopy and the smell of the lush pines and hemlocks. I got up got a fresh pot of coffee going on the camp stove and made bacon and eggs for the adults. My wife Doris got up and made blueberry pancakes for the kids. Then I started making preparations for the day. For all those who were interested converged on our camp site by 10 am. A group of us headed for the river with the sluice box, pans, buckets and shovels. Doris and I gave some panning lessons, and then a demonstration on how a sluice box worked. Some people panned while others dug in the riverbed and ran the material through the sluice box. The younger kids got bored with it and spent their time with swimming and catching minnows. We spent a good portion of the day at it and then we did our clean up. Not much gold just a few salt and pepper size pieces. We gave the gold to Chuck my brother-in-law because he had to leave that evening and we will get more gold the next day. It was a good learning experience for those who had never panned or sluiced before. After the prospecting it was back up to our camp site for a bar-b-que. We all ate good and then it was relaxation and conversation by the campfire with some good coffee. The following day Doris took a group of people down to the lower end of Coos Canyon for some panning and crevicing and swimming for the kids. While Mike, my dad and I went up river to where the East branch of the swift river ran into the main branch for some dredging. We parked the jeep along the main branch and we had to carry everything across the main branch to the East branch, we each had to make a couple of trips. There were a few prospectors already there sluicing and panning of course I had to go see how they were making out, they were finding some color. One of them was from Michigan the others were from Maine. It took a little time to get set up I had to put the dredge together. It’s a two and a half-inch dredge/high banker conversion kit that bolts up to my sluice box. I had added some ribbed matting that I had bought at Coos Canyon Rock and Gift, Rosey the proprietor has a good selection of prospecting supplies. While we were in there Rosey had informed us that on that past sunday a prospector dredging on the East Branch had found a five eighths oz. nugget and a good number of nice sized flakes. She showed us pictures of it and I swear it was over an ounce of gold. Well any way we got the dredge together and up and running, My dad tended the box while Mike and I took turns at the nozzle and moving the big rocks. I was very happy with the performance of the dredge. At the end of the day we had color in our pan. Mike is 16 years old, he was leaving the following day so we gave him the gold to take home with him, He thought it was a cool experience.The following day my dad and I worked the same hole, we found a little gold not much I decided it was time to move. The hole was about as deep as I could reach with just a snorkel and mask.I had moved our operation further up the East Branch. For the next couple of days we had dredged in this spot and now it was me Doris, my son Charlie and Nora. It was fun The kids had a chance to work the dredge we found a little more gold. There were  a good number of prospectors in this area, some dredging, some panning and some others sluicing. some were experienced well seasoned prospectors and some were first timers. I had a good time showing people how to set up their sluice box and how to pan, I enjoy the camaraderie, I also enjoy in sharing in the excitement of those that are new to prospecting when they find gold. The following day we had stayed down by the camp ground, we were expecting some more family to stop in to see us. I did some sluicing in coos canyon while the kids swam. Doris sat on the ledge while making her jewelry. It was a beautiful day, the sun was shinning and we were all content. Kathy and Chuck found us, I put their son Scott to work shoveling while their daughters Erica and Gina enjoyed the water. They had brought a picnic lunch and drinks and that was greatly appreciated. I cleaned up the sluice found a small bit of gold and we went back to the camp site. I wanted to try yet another area so the following day I went to a spot on the East Branch for some sluicing. This spot had some nice looking ledge outcropping. Found a hole that someone else had been working, dug a few inches more and  hit bedrock. I started following the bed rock and this is where I found my best pieces of gold yet. Got a nice flake and several other small bits. We had one more day left I figured I should try the high banker out so that is what I did. I found some more nice pieces, I was very pleased with the operation of the high banker configuration. It figures though on the last two days I was starting to find the best gold. I should have started with this spot. Oh well next time. It was a great time and an experience I am sure the kids will not forget.