Suction Dredge Clean Water Act Enforcement

Suction Dredge Clean Water Act Enforcement

Current Status:

Case Title:
Idaho Conservation League v. Shannon Poe, No. 1:18-cv-353-REB (D. Idaho)

Staff attorney(s):
Bryan Hurlbutt


Idaho Conservation League

To Protect:

Clean Water

Fish Habitat


Case Information:

August 10, 2018: Advocates for the West filed suit against Shannon Poe for illegally suction dredge mining on Idaho’s South Fork Clearwater River in violation of the Clean Water Act. Poe spent many days dredging in past years, and again this summer, without a permit authorizing his pollution discharges to the river. Despite being notified numerous times by state and federal agencies, and by our client, Idaho Conservation League, of the requirement to obtain a Clean Water Act permit to operate a suction dredge, Poe refuses to obtain a permit and continues to encourage other dredge miners to disobey the law too.

Suction dredge mining involves using a motorized apparatus attached to an underwater nozzle to suck up riverbed material, sorting the material for gold on a watercraft-mounted sluice box, and then discharging sediment and other pollutants to the river. Suction dredge pollution discharges degrade water quality and impair fish habitat.

The scenic South Fork Clearwater River is popular for recreation and is important habitat for Chinook salmon, steelhead, bull trout, cutthroat trout, and Pacific lamprey. The South Fork is still recovering after decades of harmful mining, fails to meet water quality standards, and faces significant pressure from suction dredge mining.

We are representing ICL in this Clean Water Act citizen enforcement suit, which aims to stop Poe’s illegal dredging and serve as a warning to others who might suction dredge in Idaho without following environmental laws.