The US Environmental Protection Agency has undertaken a scientific analysis of the Bristol Bay watershed in southwest Alaska to help residents understand how future large-scale development may affect water quality and the salmon fishery.
The EPA’s focus is primarily on two areas – the Nushgak and Kvichak watersheds, which are not currently protected as parks or wildlife refuges.
EPA officials say the process will include scientific peer review, tribal consultation, federal and state agency participation, as well as public and industry input.
EPA officials will be at Newhalen on June 1 (today) and at Dillingham on June 3 to talk with residents about the assessment and to answer questions.
EPA announced plans for the assessment in February in response to concerns from federally recognized tribes and others who petitioned the agency.
Assessment aims are to answer three primary questions:
- Is the Bristol Bay salmon fishery the one of a kind, world-class fishery that it is depicted to be?
- What are the potential impacts to Bristol Bay’s salmon fishery from large-scale development activities such as hard rock mining?
- Are there technologies or practices that will mitigate these impacts?
EPA scientists with expertise in fisheries biology, mining, geochemistry and anthropology are reviewing existing information compiled by the state of Alaska, federal resource agencies, tribes and scientific institutions from around the world. The sources include peer-reviewed research published in scientific journals, agency staff, tribal elders and input from other experts.
EPA officials said their assessment is being conducted side-by-side with a public process and they plan to share their findings and progress throughout the course of the assessment in a series of community outreach efforts in Alaska.
The EPA, along with officials from the Alaska Department of Natural Resources, will also be in Newhalen June 2 and Dillingham on June 3 to talk about their regulatory roles in the mining permitting process. Topics will include mining fundamentals, environmental concerns, regulations, and how tribes and community members can be involved.