EPA Hopes to Have Final Pebble Report Out by Year’s End

An independent team of scientists in Anchorage has completed
its critique of a lengthy draft Bristol Bay watershed report compiled by the US
Environmental Protection Agency.
Now the federal agency hopes to complete its final report by
the end of the year, after which it will make a decision on whether to stop development
of the massive copper, gold and molybdenum mine.
Dennis McLerran, administrator of EPA Region 10 in Seattle, said
the goal is to get the science right before making any final decisions. At this
point, no decision has been made on which of the available Clean Water Act options
to use, depending on conclusions reached, McLerran said.
Of the more than 200,000 people who submitted written comments
on the draft assessment, roughly 90 percent of them supported the EPA’ s draft document
findings, McLerran noted in a news conference Aug. 7, during a break in public testimony
before the peer review panel of 12 scientists selected by EPA’s contractor, Versar.
Versar served as the facilitator for the three-day event, which included a day of
public testimony, a day of public discussion by the peer reviewers and then a day
for the peer reviewers to privately compile their comments, which were given to
Versar to prepare the overall summary for the EPA.
The final peer review report is to be released to the public
by the EPA later this fall.
The controversial mine plan, developed for the Pebble Limited
Partnership has over the past several years drawn both criticism and support from
thousands of individuals, and business and professional groups and organizations
The big concern among opponents of the mine, who include thousands
of people involved in commercial, sport and subsistence fishing, is that the mine
will have adverse effects on habitat critical to the Bristol Bay sockeye salmon
fishery, the largest such fishery in the world, which provides thousands of jobs
and sustenance to people, as well as food for wildlife throughout the Bristol Bay
Mining proponents contend that the mine can be built and operate
in harmony with the fishery, a stance questioned by at least several of the peer
review scientists.