Going for the Gold

Posted: Sunday, July 09, 2000

The Gold Prospectors Associa-tion of America claims are open only to GPAA members, but the U.S. Forest Service has reserved parts of Chugach National Forest for recreational mining by the public.

The Forest Service allows recreational miners to use pans, sluice boxes and dredges with nozzles no more than four inches in diameter. In salmon-bearing streams, though, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game allows dredges and sluice boxes only with free permits and only from May 15 to July 15, when salmon eggs and fry generally are absent. Fish and Game generally does not regulate recreational gold panning.

The Chugach recreational mining areas lie:

n Within 1,300 feet of the Seward Highway from Turnagain Pass to Petes Creek. Sluice boxes and dredges are allowed year-round on parts of Bertha, Spokane, Lyon and Tincan creeks, since those contain no salmon. However, Granite Creek is closed to recreational mining to protect salmon spawning grounds.

n Along Sixmile Creek .7 miles to five miles north of the Hope Junction. The recreational mining area extends from the east bank of Sixmile Creek to a line 200 feet west of the center of the Hope Highway. Dredges and sluice boxes are allowed by state permit from May 15 to July 15.

n Along lower Resurrection Creek near Hope. The recreational area extends 1.5 miles upstream from a footbridge 4.5 miles from Hope on the Resurrection Pass Trail. However, a patented mining claim near the center of the recreational area is closed to mining by the general public. Dredges and sluice boxes are allowed by state permit from May 15 to July 15.

n Along Crescent Creek in Cooper Landing from the bridge at Quartz Creek Road to the confluence with Quartz Creek. The recreational area is on the north side of Crescent Creek. There are mining claims on the south side. Dredges and sluice boxes are allowed by state permit from May 15 to July 15.

Recreational mining is allowed at many sites outside these reserved areas, but check with the federal Bureau of Land Management and the Alaska Division of Mining, Land and Water to avoid trespassing on existing mining claims.

State recreational mining permits ban recreational miners from digging into the banks, said Don McKay, Fish and Game permitting supervisor for Southcentral Alaska.

"That damages riparian vegetation, widens the stream, removes the cover that young fish depend on for rearing and puts a bunch of sediment back into the stream," he said.

Sediment settles into spawning beds and suffocates eggs, fry and the tiny animals young fish need for food, he said.

Mills Creek near Summit, where the GPAA has claims, contains resident fish such as Dolly Varden trout, he said. However, it is not a salmon-bearing stream, so Fish and Game has no authority there to regulate dredging and excavation. Dan Lentz, spokesman for the Forest Service in Seward, said patented claims often allow practices not permitted in public mining areas, since claim holders later must reclaim the land.

Mitch Henning, permit director for the Division of Mining, Land and Water, said recreational dredges are banned from Alaska state parks. Pans and sluice boxes are allowed, but stick to active riverbeds, since digging into the banks is banned.

On state land outside state parks, including many Cook Inlet beaches, recreational dredging may be allowed subject to Fish and Game restrictions, Henning said. In state-controlled areas, recreational dredges may have nozzles up to six inches in diameter.

McKay said Fish and Game requires permits for dredges and sluice boxes within state critical habitat areas and refuges. Dredges and sluice boxes are banned year-round along major salmon streams such as the Kenai, Ninilchik and Anchor rivers and Stariski and Deep creeks. He has never had an application to dredge the Kasilof River, he said, but the state likely would not allow dredging there.

Within the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, gold pans are allowed, but dredges, sluice boxes and digging tools are banned, said Brenda Wise, refuge clerk.

Reams of restrictions rankle miners such as Kenai's Joe Demaree, who has invested in Gold Cache Prospecting Equip-ment and Supplies in Sterling. Demaree is part of a private club with permission to work a mining claim on Quartz Creek.

"If I could get down to bedrock here, if they'd let me, that's where I'd find the good stuff," he said. "There's a lot of gold around here if the government would just let you get it."

Numerous agencies regulate mining, he said, and the difficulty of obtaining multiple permits stifles the industry. He questioned whether mining hurts fish.

"Back east, Fish and Game will tell you that dredging actually enhances the trout population because you have a gravel bar and it's packed (tightly). I'm taking gravel from this point and depositing it at that point. I'm taking the silt out of it and leaving a nice clean pool. If a trout spawns in it, the eggs go down in the gravel and other fish won't get them," he said.

"Say you put a 20-inch dredge in the river and dredge down eight or 10 feet to bedrock. The river is moving all this rock and gravel down the river. Say you moved some gravel and all you took was a little sediment and gold. What have you done that nature hasn't done?"

"I've heard it before," McKay said. "In general, mining is not helpful to fish, and our job is to try to protect the fish."

HEAD:Public mining areas, complex regulations await those who dig gold for recreation

The Gold Prospectors Associa-tion of America claims are open only to GPAA members, but the U.S. Forest Service has reserved parts of Chugach National Forest for recreational mining by the public.

The Forest Service allows recreational miners to use pans, sluice boxes and dredges with nozzles no more than four inches in diameter. In salmon-bearing streams, though, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game allows dredges and sluice boxes only with free permits and only from May 15 to July 15, when salmon eggs and fry generally are absent. Fish and Game generally does not regulate recreational gold panning.

The Chugach recreational mining areas lie:

n Within 1,300 feet of the Seward Highway from Turnagain Pass to Petes Creek. Sluice boxes and dredges are allowed year-round on parts of Bertha, Spokane, Lyon and Tincan creeks, since those contain no salmon. However, Granite Creek is closed to recreational mining to protect salmon spawning grounds.

n Along Sixmile Creek .7 miles to five miles north of the Hope Junction. The recreational mining area extends from the east bank of Sixmile Creek to a line 200 feet west of the center of the Hope Highway. Dredges and sluice boxes are allowed by state permit from May 15 to July 15.

n Along lower Resurrection Creek near Hope. The recreational area extends 1.5 miles upstream from a footbridge 4.5 miles from Hope on the Resurrection Pass Trail. However, a patented mining claim near the center of the recreational area is closed to mining by the general public. Dredges and sluice boxes are allowed by state permit from May 15 to July 15.

n Along Crescent Creek in Cooper Landing from the bridge at Quartz Creek Road to the confluence with Quartz Creek. The recreational area is on the north side of Crescent Creek. There are mining claims on the south side. Dredges and sluice boxes are allowed by state permit from May 15 to July 15.

Recreational mining is allowed at many sites outside these reserved areas, but check with the federal Bureau of Land Management and the Alaska Division of Mining, Land and Water to avoid trespassing on existing mining claims.

State recreational mining permits ban recreational miners from digging into the banks, said Don McKay, Fish and Game permitting supervisor for Southcentral Alaska.

"That damages riparian vegetation, widens the stream, removes the cover that young fish depend on for rearing and puts a bunch of sediment back into the stream," he said.

Sediment settles into spawning beds and suffocates eggs, fry and the tiny animals young fish need for food, he said.

 

No caption was contained in the photo file

Mills Creek near Summit, where the GPAA has claims, contains resident fish such as Dolly Varden trout, he said. However, it is not a salmon-bearing stream, so Fish and Game has no authority there to regulate dredging and excavation. Dan Lentz, spokesman for the Forest Service in Seward, said patented claims often allow practices not permitted in public mining areas, since claim holders later must reclaim the land.

Mitch Henning, permit director for the Division of Mining, Land and Water, said recreational dredges are banned from Alaska state parks. Pans and sluice boxes are allowed, but stick to active riverbeds, since digging into the banks is banned.

On state land outside state parks, including many Cook Inlet beaches, recreational dredging may be allowed subject to Fish and Game restrictions, Henning said. In state-controlled areas, recreational dredges may have nozzles up to six inches in diameter.

McKay said Fish and Game requires permits for dredges and sluice boxes within state critical habitat areas and refuges. Dredges and sluice boxes are banned year-round along major salmon streams such as the Kenai, Ninilchik and Anchor rivers and Stariski and Deep creeks. He has never had an application to dredge the Kasilof River, he said, but the state likely would not allow dredging there.

Within the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, gold pans are allowed, but dredges, sluice boxes and digging tools are banned, said Brenda Wise, refuge clerk.

Reams of restrictions rankle miners such as Kenai's Joe Demaree, who has invested in Gold Cache Prospecting Equip-ment and Supplies in Sterling. Demaree is part of a private club with permission to work a mining claim on Quartz Creek.

"If I could get down to bedrock here, if they'd let me, that's where I'd find the good stuff," he said. "There's a lot of gold around here if the government would just let you get it."

Numerous agencies regulate mining, he said, and the difficulty of obtaining multiple permits stifles the industry. He questioned whether mining hurts fish.

"Back east, Fish and Game will tell you that dredging actually enhances the trout population because you have a gravel bar and it's packed (tightly). I'm taking gravel from this point and depositing it at that point. I'm taking the silt out of it and leaving a nice clean pool. If a trout spawns in it, the eggs go down in the gravel and other fish won't get them," he said.

"Say you put a 20-inch dredge in the river and dredge down eight or 10 feet to bedrock. The river is moving all this rock and gravel down the river. Say you moved some gravel and all you took was a little sediment and gold. What have you done that nature hasn't done?"

"I've heard it before," McKay said. "In general, mining is not helpful to fish, and our job is to try to protect the fish."



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