Officials with the US Army Corps of Engineers in Anchorage, Alaska, have released a draft environmental impact statement (EIS) for the proposed Pebble mine in Southwest Alaska.
The 1,400-page document is expected to be published on Friday, March 1, in the Federal Register, opening a 90-day public comment period on the controversial project.
The US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) also has scheduled seven public meetings in the Bristol Bay region, as well as one in Homer and one in Anchorage in March and April. Dates and times are posted on the USACE website, https://pebbleprojecteis.com/.
Release of the draft EIS on Feb. 20 drew praise from the Pebble Limited Partnership (PLP) – a subsidiary of Hunter Dickinson Inc., a diversified global mining group based in Vancouver, British Columbia. Tom Collier, chief executive officer of the PLP, said his company’s preliminary review of the draft EIs shows no major data gaps or substantive impacts that cannot be mitigated, and that he sees no environmental challenges that would preclude getting the project permitted.
The Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association (BBRSDA), which strongly opposes the mine, said the 90-day comment period is far too short of a time period to review and comment on the massive document.
“The speed at which insufficient materials are being pushed through this mine’s permitting process is irresponsible given that the Bristol Bay salmon ecosystem is a biological wonder of the world. This region contains the world’s largest wild salmon runs, which have supported a rich culture for millennia and sustained a thriving commercial fishery for more than 130 years,” said Andy Wink, executive director of the BBRSDA.
Wink pointed out that the BBRSDA members are concerned that the Army Corps of Engineers is not adequately considering the findings of the Environmental Protection Agency’s watershed assessment, which found that a mine of this size would pose an unacceptable risk to the Bristol Bay watershed, home of the world’s largest sockeye salmon run.
United Tribes of Bristol Bay also contends that the draft EIS has several major flaws, including an inaccurate premise that implies there is a need for mining in Bristol Bay.
A group of Bristol Bay fishermen oppose to the mine have announced a presentation on Friday, March 1, at the Hotel Captain Cook in Anchorage by a hydrologist who will present his findings on modeling the impacts of a tailings dam failure at the Pebble Mine. The hydrologist, Cameron Wobus, a senior scientist with Lynker Technologies, has extensive experience in geomorphology, hydrology and environmental data analysis and modeling.
Bristol Bay fisherman Mike Friccero said that the fact that fishermen had to fund this analysis to get an accurate look at Pebble’s proposed environmental impacts is outrageous. It puts the burden of proof on fishermen and Alaskans.