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Last Post 09 Jun 2021 03:22 PM by  Sergio Ramirez
Are battery shop vacs legal in California
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Sergio Ramirez
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15 Mar 2021 04:06 PM
    I was wondering if any one knows if small battery operated vacuums are legal to use in California for say like cleaning out a crevice and such?
    Sergio, new member this year!
    William Hall
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    15 Mar 2021 06:51 PM
    Welcome Sergio,

    No worries on the vacuum, if any one asks tell them your doing your part to clean up the creek/river
    Make no mention of gold LOL
    :)

    Bill
    So Much River So Little Time...Get Out There
    Sergio Ramirez
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    15 Mar 2021 09:08 PM
    Thanks Bill,
    didn't get the answer I was looking for, but you are right, I should tell them I'm the clean nut, Felix Unger's son and I'm beautifying the place, cleaning up the litter of rocks that mother nature has strewn about and if I happen to get gold with the rocks then that's pure luck and shouldn't be held against me.
    The reason I asked that is that i've heard the DFG sometimes takes away equipment that's not legal, I have a nice DeWalt 1.5 gal battery powered vac, seems to work good, haven't tried it out on the field yet, would hate to get it taken away.
    Thanks for your reply,
    look forward to meeting fellow miners!
    Serg
    BRIAN WILLIAMS
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    15 Mar 2021 10:21 PM
    I’d use it Sergio. I fully intend to use a small lightweight generator to power my 6.3 gallon Lowe’s dry vacuum in order to work a (dry) high bench on an awesome creek bend on my claim in Northern California. I recommend being discreet with minimal earthen disturbance, and maintain the philosophy of leaving the area cleaner than you found it...we are constantly picking up other people’s trash 😕. Technically, like a previous article in the Gold Prospectors magazine pointed out, in California, you are ‘supposed’ to maintain a distance of 300 feet from a stream with any mechanized equipment...but some areas are more miner friendly than others. Maybe keep photo examples of the lead/trash you recover as proof that you are benefiting the environment. Good luck, you should do well. My metal detector has lit up with faint signals on cracks and crevices on dry benches, most often only audible with headphones 🎧,
    Sergio Ramirez
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    15 Mar 2021 11:02 PM
    Right on Brian, that's good advice, that's so true about litter, hate seeing it, i do pick up so I don't have to see it, love the pristine look of nature. I must admit I'm a fisherman and sometimes use led shots and sometimes snag, I don't like it, but try to keep it to a minimum (mainly use lures though), what I really hate is the food litter and beer cans and such that can be packed out.
    I will try my vac this year, it's a good way to clean out a crevice,
    thanks again,
    Sergio
    MICHAEL PANELLI
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    16 Mar 2021 03:09 PM
    The use of vacuum or suction dredge equipment, otherwise known as suction dredging, is currently prohibited and unlawful throughout California.

    Under new state law effective January 1, 2016, the use of vacuum or suction dredge equipment is defined to mean 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.

    Under existing state law the California Department of Fish and Wildlife is also currently prohibited from issuing any permits for suction dredging in California under the Fish and Game Code.

    With state law in effect, the use of vacuum or suction dredge equipment, otherwise known as suction dredging, is unlawful in California rivers, streams, and lakes, and any such activity is subject to enforcement and prosecution as a criminal misdemeanor.

    (See generally Fish & G. Code, §§ 5653, 5653.1, 12000, subd. (a).)
    William Hall
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    16 Mar 2021 07:04 PM
    Michael is correct, "suction dredging" is illegal in "water ways" as such.
    I do believe that motorized vacuum that Sergio intends to use, are used above the water line, in most cases on bedrock cracks and crevices
    At times when water is no where to be seen
    Not prohibited
    Vacuum on Sergio

    Bill
    So Much River So Little Time...Get Out There
    BRIAN WILLIAMS
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    16 Mar 2021 07:34 PM
    I’m with you Bill! Use it Sergio, and good luck!! Another way to think about it, what would George Massey do?...I have a good idea.
    ARTHUR WAUGH
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    16 Mar 2021 08:27 PM
    Only question is how a LEO is going to interpret "bank" if he is near water, but high and dry sucking out a crack, even if not attached to anything remotely looking like a dredge.

    Would probably be okay, unless he runs across an overzealous LEO or Ranger with a preservationist bent.
    Leo Lorenz
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    16 Mar 2021 11:11 PM
    In todays world...its ok to set fire to a federal courthouse, loot and vandalize in the city streets, and everything else. A misdemeanor is nothing more than a traffic ticket. I'll take my chances, go get my gold, and deal with the BS later, pay the fine and go back at it. Will they label me a habitual offender, I dont really care. California is beyond repair.
    MICHAEL PANELLI
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    16 Mar 2021 11:15 PM
    Guess you didn't read where it states 1) VACUUM, 2) MECHANIZED, 3) BANK, which is above the water line. But do as you feel comfortable. They will confiscate your equipment and fine you and if you like dealing with the court system go for it. I did 3 years ago and it wasn't fun. $300.00 dollar fine and lost the equipment I had with me. also had 4 separate court dates 150 miles from where I live. Again don't let them catch you and you'll be fine. It sucks I know....
    BRIAN WILLIAMS
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    17 Mar 2021 12:10 AM
    Bravo! Great forum and discussion fellas. Thanks Michael for sharing your experience 🤝! Very sorry that happened to you! Makes me angry. I’m from Texas where there’s still a little sanity left. Our freedom is being eroded and constitution corrupted. Leo, I am convinced we are quickly approaching the end of this age...before our Lord and Savior ✝️ returns to put a permanent end to the world’s evils. Michael, what area were you in when this happened? Sounds like some unreasonable and overzealous cops/court system.
    Sergio Ramirez
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    17 Mar 2021 01:27 AM
    Wow, good stuff all, thanks for the input, I guess i'll have to be careful when I use my vac, it's very small and can hide it in my pack, just incase, dose GPAA get you out of jail & out of trouble?, is that part of being in the club? ; )
    glad I joined the club, this is good stuff, lots to talk about and lots of gold to find, never enough time. My camp sight doesn't open until end of April
    where I fish & mine and make killer pancakes, so i've been told, i'll try to get out to some of the GPAA claims before then.
    Happy golding all,
    Serg
    Sergio Ramirez
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    17 Mar 2021 01:29 AM
    Or maybe I should start build the ARK!
    Serg
    ARTHUR WAUGH
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    17 Mar 2021 05:12 AM
    As a member, you are supposed to know and follow all laws, regulations and rules for the area you are prospecting/mining in.

    They won't come get you out, or pay fines.
    Sergio Ramirez
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    17 Mar 2021 12:30 PM
    Hey, come on now, that was just a joke, geez, I am learning all the rules and don't plan on getting into any trouble and don't plan on using GPAA to get myself out of trouble, never been in trouble with the law my whole life, i'm a person that respects the law and respects others enjoying nature. As a fisherman I have a lot of respect for the DFG rangers & wardens, I pick up litter & leave my holes looking like no one has been there, I never fish over the limit, in fact I usually catch & release, and i'm not a greedy person, not looking to get rich looking for gold, I just find it very interesting, the thought process that goes into finding gold and the excitement of figuring things out & seeing gold in your pan, so that's me in a nut shell.
    Thanks,
    Serg
    Art Anders
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    03 Apr 2021 12:48 AM
    Yes, you may use your Dewalt for out of water surface mining. The wording on Ca. SB 637 passed in 2015, contained the term, "Bank" .Section 5653.1 used to read, "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." SB1222 changed the wording to, "equipment means the use of any equipment that removes minerals and water in conjunction to process and recover minerals." SB1222 was written because of the ambiguous and confusing wording of SB 637.
    For further clarification, simply read SB637 subsection 5653.1. Then read SB1222 5653.1 and you'll see the wording change and removal of the word "Bank".

    Here's the link. https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billTextClient.xhtml?bill_id=201720180SB1222
    Sergio Ramirez
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    03 Apr 2021 01:35 AM
    Sounds good Art, Thank you for the info, makes me feel a little better if I use it. Is that the Klamath in Northern California? and is there a GPAA claim up there? How did you do there?
    Thanks again,
    Serg
    Art Anders
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    03 Apr 2021 02:15 AM
    Lots of GPAA claims up in Siskiyou county and the Klamath river. I spent from May until the end of October living in my motorhome mostly around the Happy Camp area last year, surface mining the banks of the Klamath and various confluences. Klamath is about 30 miles south of Oregon border. Did fairly well....lots of gold up there. I'm also a member of another club that has additional claims on the river too. I hope to do better this season. I use my Dewalt for crevices and moss. A good tool for retrieving the fines. If one is going to prospect the Klamath, it's good to be able to work the other side of the river, so I got a little boat with a trolling motor. (Be careful with a small underpowered boat crossing the Klamath, it can be quite dangerous in places.) I can't run the rapids with it, but it enables me to access areas hard to get to and seldom worked parts of the claims. Good luck and happy hunting.
    Leo Lorenz
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    03 Apr 2021 02:12 PM
    So...lets keep this in perspective. If I dont remove the water from the creek, stream, river I can still vacuum for minerals underwater right? My device does everything under the surface of the water , so water never is removed. Also the materials are not removed from the water either. Only the minerals recovered are removed. So I'm good to go dredging in California water.
    Art Anders
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    03 Apr 2021 05:33 PM
    The original question was whether it is legal to vac mine the banks of a river, lake or waterway in California. The vague, ambiguous wording of SB 637, passed in 2015 or 16 was amended by SB 1222 in 2018, which didn't change the dredging law, only the wording as to what constituted illegal dredging activity in and around water.
    SB637 Subsection 5653 (g) "For purposes of this section and Section 5653.1, 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. This section and Section 5653.1 do not apply to, prohibit, or otherwise restrict non motorized recreational mining activities, including panning for gold.".....this was the troublesome language. The term, "bank" caused many miners to have various equipment confiscated because of inconsistent interpretations from the various law enforcement agencies , when enforcing the SB 637 dredging rules. SB1222 addressed those issues and changed the wording to, "(g) For purposes of this section and Section 5653.1, the use of vacuum or suction dredge equipment means the use of any equipment that removes minerals and water in conjunction to process and recover minerals. This section and Section 5653.1 do not apply to, prohibit, or otherwise restrict non motorized recreational mining activities, including panning for gold. any equipment that does not transport mineral bearing material through a suction or nozzle."

    These aren't my sole interpretations of the law. I've discussed these issues with both forestry folks and others who have much more knowledge and expertise than I. The real question might be if everyone in various law enforcement circles are on the same page in their enforcement strategy.
    I guess the bottom line is bad legislation creates erratic and inconsistent enforcement of it's results.
    Lia McVicker
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    03 Apr 2021 05:55 PM
    Hi Everyone,

    I agree with Michael Panelli, technically using a any kind of "suction" including a vacuum would be a violation of the law, however Artur Waugh has a good point. There are some DFG Wardens who will only question what you are doing and just watch and observe and just wish you luck, BUT unless you're friends with the Warden and knows which way he is bent I'm not sure I would take the chance. There are other ways to getting the gold from the crevices and cracks, might take longer but it might be less costly.
    Art Anders
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    03 Apr 2021 06:31 PM
    Probably the best and safest way is to ask the local enforcement organization in the area you're prospecting, what is their interpretation of the law as it pertains to surface vac mining.
    If there's confusion on the enforcement end of a particular law, usually it is because the State Attorney General hasn't interpreted and provided guidelines to the various enforcement agencies involved. I'd like to find and read the Atty. Generals notes or guidelines on the issue, if there are any. Always better to be safe than sorry....and you are right...there are many other ways to find that pesky shiny stuff.
    They appear to not have a problem with surface vacs up on the Klamath area, but I don't know their interpretations in other areas. I guess it's too much to ask that the enforcement be consistent across the state.

    My next trip up to the Klamath will be in May. I will make it a point to go by the DFG office or find a officer and get a definitive answer to the surface vac question. I'll share whatever they say.
    Leo Lorenz
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    03 Apr 2021 08:02 PM
    This is a very real political play. If you have a liberal democrat hard core supporter who works as a DFG employee, he will act in a totally different manner than a Trump supporting DFG and votes Republican. Its a fact of today's world. Environmentalist activists are totally against any sort of mineral extraction unless it fits "their" rules. Any member of the GPAA who wants to collect gold/mine/and detect cannot possibly also be sitting on the fence in their support. Its very easy to understand why up along the Kalamath River DFG can have a different attitude. There are many who believe the government should butt out of private citizens business, they are out doing this recreationally and dont need to be told how and what to do in protecting the environment. Besides, California is guilty of doing more harm to the environment and pumping more carbon into the atmosphere with its yearly forest fire circus. All the ash which pollutes the rivers and streams is 100's times more than any dredging can do in many years time.
    BRIAN WILLIAMS
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    03 Apr 2021 08:33 PM
    Squeaky wheels get the grease. I’d drive on and use it without drawing attention to yourself by tapping on a Forest Service Officer’s shoulder with technical questions. Take your good faith interpretation of the law and boldly drive on. I’m going to use my inconspicuous set up on my claim irregardless. Again, depends on the area you’re working. If in an unfriendly/uninviting area, then take your business elsewhere...my Texas $ goes a long way in boosting the local economies of Northern California!!
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