Iliamna Seals Are Latest Subject in Dispute Over Pebble Mine

NOAA Fisheries will conduct a status review
of harbor seals in Iliamna Lake in Southwest Alaska as a result of a petition
from the Center for Biological Diversity.
The conservation organization’s petition
urged NOAA to list harbor seals in Iliamna Lake in Southwest Alaska as an
endangered or threatened species under the Endangered Species Act.  The Iliamna seals are one of only five seal
populations in the Northern Hemisphere living exclusively in fresh water and
the only American freshwater seals. They live in the eastern half of Alaska’s
largest, deepest body of freshwater, in a pristine wilderness area that is also
home to the world’s largest run of sockeye salmon, noted Kiersten Lippmann, a
biologist with the center in Alaska.

The center is concerned that activities
related to the proposed Pebble copper, gold and molybdenum mine at the
headwaters of Bristol Bay will have an adverse effect on the environment
critical to these seals. The revised draft Bristol Bay watershed assessment
released recently by the Environmental Protection Agency said that the mine
development would result in filling in nearly 100 miles of streams and 4,800
acres of wetlands, devastating salmon habitat. In the event of a mine failure
or accident, pollutants and waste from the mine could cause irreversible harm
that would continue for centuries, mine opponents contend.

The Pebble Limited Partnership, upon
learning of the upcoming status review, issued a statement saying the PLP
remains confident that is mine can proceed responsibly without affecting the
habitat of the seals or their population.

NOAA is accepting scientific and commercial
information regarding the seals until July 17. Send comments to Jon Kurland,
assistant regional administrator for protected resources, Alaska Region NMFS,
Attn: Ellen Sebastian, and identified by FDMC Docket Number
NOAA-NMFS-2012-0236.  Comments may also
be submitted electronically via the Federal e-Rulemaking portal at ;
by mail to P.O. Box 21668, Juneau, A. 99802-1668; via tax at 1-907-586-7557; or
hand delivered to the Federal Building, 709 West 9th Avenue, Room 420A, Juneau,