Final peer review report issued on Bristol Bay watershed assessment

The US Environmental Protection Agency has released its final
peer review report, prepared by independent peer reviewers charged with
evaluating the EPA’s draft assessment of how large-scale mining could affect
the Bristol Bay watershed. Although not specifically named, the big issue is
development of large-scale copper mining at the headwaters of the Bristol Bay
watershed, home of the world’s largest wild sockeye salmon run.
The EPA said that based on those comments and a commitment
to fully address them that the federal agency has decided to convene a group of
qualified experts to review its revised draft assessment. The final Bristol Bay
assessment will reflect this further expert review and be accompanied by the
EPA’s point-by-point response to the peer reviewers’ comments as well as public
comments, the EPA said.
Bob Waldrop of the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development
Association said that while scientific review of mining the Pebble deposit – of
copper, gold and molybdenum – is important and welcome, that no amount of peer
review can change the core risks to the fishery and fishermen identified by the
watershed assessment, its vast magnitude and location at the headwaters of the
world’s most valuable wild salmon fishery.
Tim Bristol, Alaska program director for Trout Unlimited,
commended the EPA for “its continued commitment to a thorough, transparent,
independent and science-based process for protecting Bristol Bay. The peer
review report underscores what we’ve known all along: mining on the scope and
scale of Pebble simply cannot coexist with Bristol Bay’s Fish,” he said.
The Natural Resources Defense Council also applauded the
peer review report, saying that if anything the draft watershed assessment
actually underestimated the risk of large-scale mining to the watershed. The
NRDC urged the EPA to finalize the watershed assessment, incorporating
recommendations from the peer review report to examine all aspects of harm
associated with the proposed Pebble mine.
Pebble proponents continue to maintain that large-scale
mining and the world-class salmon fishery can co-exist.