EPA’s Draft Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment Due Out in April

The US Environmental Protection Agency has issued an update on progress made to date on its analysis of the Bristol Bay watershed, in advance of a draft assessment of its findings due out in late April.

The goal of the EPA’s scientific analysis is to better understand how future large-scale mining may affect the salmon fishery in Bristol Bay. Information gathered during the assessment will be used to make decisions to protect salmon resources and habitat on which salmon and other fish depend.

The assessment is focused on the Kvichak and Nushagak watersheds because those drainages are open to development of mineral resources.

The goal of the EPA’s analysis it to better understand how large-scale mining may affect the Bristol Bay salmon fishery. The EPA plans to use information gathered during the assessment to make decisions to protect the resources, including habitat on which salmon and other fish depend.

The EPA schedule calls for public meetings in Anchorage and in Bristol Bay communities in May, a scientific peer review panel holding a meeting open to the public in Anchorage in August, and release of a final assessment in November.

The EPA initiated the assessment in response to petitions from nine Alaska tribes and other stakeholders who asked the EPA to take action to protect salmon because they were concerned about risks posed by large-scale mining, in particular the proposed Pebble mine, which is now in the exploration phase.

The mining effort is backed by the Pebble Partnership, an alliance between London-based Anglo American and Vancouver-based Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd. The area is believed to contain vast quantities of copper, gold and molybdenum, which is used as an alloying agent in cast iron and steel.

The EPA said it has already compiled the best available information on Bristol Bay salmon, resident fish, wildlife, culture, economics and roads, plus traditional ecological knowledge from interviews with tribal elders and culture bearers.

Updated information is posted online at www.epa.gov/region10/bristolbay.

The Pebble Partnership earlier in February released a 27,000 page environmental baseline document, also online at www.pebbleresearch.com, and available from the Pebble Partnership as a DVD.