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EPA Says Pebble Mine’s environmental impact lacks important information and likely underestimates the risk to water quality and fish habitat in the Bristol Bay watershed



July 03, 2019
Wednesday PM

(SitNews) - The official comment period for the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed Pebble Mine closed July 1st and last week the Environmental Protection Agency's General Counsel Matthew Z. Leopold released a memo directing EPA Region 10 to resume its consideration whether to withdraw the 2014 Proposed Determination to restrict the use of the Pebble Deposit Area as a disposal site under CW A section 404(c).

Revoking the Proposed Determination would provide some protections for Bristol Bay after the Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment determined that the risk of a mine like Pebble to the fishery and the region was great. 

Aerial view of braided wetlands and tundra that is typical of the Bristol Bay watershed in Alaska.  Upper Talarik Creek (shown here) flows into Lake Iliamna and then the Kvichak River before emptying into Bristol Bay.
Photo Courtesy EPA

The Environmental Protection Agency released its formal 100 page comment on the draft Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed Pebble Mine on Monday. In its comments the EPA states the mine’s environmental impact lacks important information and likely underestimates the risk to water quality and fish habitat in the Bristol Bay watershed.

Water discharges from the pit lake following mine closure would require water treatment in perpetuity, quoting a recent comments from the EPA to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Alaska District. (pdf)

"Given the substantial potential impacts and risks of the proposed project and weaknesses in the DEIS, the DEIS likely underestimates adverse impacts to groundwater and surface water flows, water quality, wetlands, fish resources, and air quality. Therefore, conclusions that the project will not violate applicable water quality and air quality standards should be further supported," wrote Chris Haladick, EPA Regional Administrator. Download & read: EPA Comments on U.S. Army Corps February 2019 Draft EIS

In EPA comments to the Army Corps of Engnerrs regarding the Corps' public notice for a Clean Water Act Section 404 Permit to the Pebble Limited Partnership, the EPA wrote they have concerns regarding the extent and magnitude of the substantial proposed impacts to streams, wetlands, and other aquatic resources that may result, particuLarly in light of the important role these resources play in supporting the region’s valuable fishery resources.

Alaskans from around the state fear their voices are not being heard according to opponents of the project.

“As salmon return to Bristol Bay, people in this region should be thinking about filling smokehouses, freezers, nets and teaching their children and grandchildren how to fish - not wondering if all of the work to collect data, study the impacts of the Pebble Mine, and participate in the public process will mean anything, “ said Kendra Kloster, Executive Director, Native Peoples Action.

“We will continue to protect our traditional way of life and ensure Alaska will remain a culture and salmon rich state for our future generations,” said Kloster.

“From the beginning, it was clear that the permitting process for the Pebble Mine was corrupt and that the huge investments Pebble Limited Partnership put in to lobbying the Trump administration were paying off.  This latest move by the EPA just confirms that,” said Carly Wier, Executive Director of Cook Inletkeeper, “But as Alaskans, we have weathered many storms and we will not stop fighting for what we know is right.”

“It's understandable why so many Alaskans are frustrated.  We’ve spoken up again, and again, and again in opposition Pebble Mine,” said Polly Carr, Executive Director of the Alaska Center, “It is time for our Alaskan leaders to step up and stand with Alaskans.  This is our home, and we will not stop until they do.”

“Alaskan communities will not stop fighting to defend the health of the land, the water and the future generations. This comment period on Pebble Mine may have ended, but the fight to defend the rights of Mother Earth and the rights of indigenous peoples will continue on,” said  Shawna Larson, Regional Director, Native Movement.

The Pebble Limited Partnership (PLP) proposes to develop the Pebble copper, gold, and molybdenum ore deposit in southwest Alaska. The Pebble deposit lies within the Nushagak and Kvichak watersheds, which together account for more than half of the land area in the Bristol Bay watershed.

The proposed project includes an open-pit mine, tailings storage facilities (TSFs), water management ponds, a mill facility, a natural gas-fired power plant, and other mine site facilities. Approximately 1.3 billion tons of ore would be processed at a rate of 180,000 tons of ore per day, over the proposed mine operating life of 20 years. The initial surface disturbance footprint is approximately 8,086 acres and the 608-acre pit would have a maximum pit depth of 1,970 feet. Potentially acid generating (PAG) tailings and non-PAG bulk tailings would be disposed in two tailings facilities that would cover a total of approximately 3,867 acres.

The proposed project also includes development of a 188-mile natural gas pipeline across Cook Inlet and Lake Iliamna and two compressor stations used to transport natural gas from the Kenai Peninsula to the mine site. The proposed transportation network would include construction of: 77 miles of new roads, including mine and port access roads and spur roads to communities; ferry terminals on the north and south shores of Lake Iliamna for use by an ice-breaking ferry; and the Amakdedori Port on Cook Inlet.



On the Web:

EPA Comments on U.S. Army Corps February 2019 Draft EIS  - July 1, 2019 (pdf)

EPA's comments to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) dated July 1, 2019, regarding the Corps' Public Notice (POA-2017-00271) for a Clean Water Act Section 404 Permit to the Pebble Limited Partnership. (pdf) July 01, 2019



Reported & Edited by Mary Kauffman, SitNews


Source of News:

Native Peoples Action

Cook Inletkeeper

Alaska Center

Native Movement




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