I hate to open the can of worms on this subject ,,,,,but. The short answer is yes it is legal to run a highbanker in California, in or out of a stream (at least for the rest of the year). The problem is any LEO you might encounter will not have a full understanding of the current policies of their own organization. (had a Forest Service LEO tell me last weekend I needed a Plan of Operation,,,,,, whole other story)
SB 637 which was just passed and signed into law by Gov. Moonbeam gives the California State Waterboard authority to regulate "discharges" into state waters and goes into effect in January. So highbankers that do not discharge into the water should remain ok. SB 637 was written to regulate, specifically, dredging but unfortunately the definition of "dredge" in it encompasses a whole lot more than dredges. For us prospectors and for that matter the LEO's it will be a very confusing year as to what is "legal" and what is not. Unfortunately I foresee a lot of citations and court cases before this is clarified.
Question to ponder,,,,,, How long do you think it will take the Waterboard to develop the permit program? The law goes into effect in January so I am sure they have it all set and ready to go,,,,, right?
On a brighter note: The last dredging case in Fresno was "dismissed" by the judge just last month! To say it another way, in the words of Judge Ochoa the dredging ban is "illegal and unenforceable"!