In the wake of the Sept. 19 deadline to comment on proposed protections for the Bristol Bay watershed under the Clean Water Act, the Environmental Protection Agency has begun wading through thousands of responses.
The EPA needs to review all the comments before issuing its final determination before Feb. 4, 2015.
While the EPA is still counting the actual number of responses, the national conservation organization Trout Unlimited says nearly 20,000 Alaskans were among those weighing in to support the EPA’s proposed protections for the watershed, to prevent adverse effects from a large-scale metals mine.
Including some 625,000 comments estimated from this year, roughly 1.5 million comments have been sent to the EPA from around the country and across the political spectrum during the three-year public review process surrounding the proposed Pebble Mine.
“Alaskans and the rest of America have made it crystal clear that they support the EPA’s efforts to utilize the Clean Water Act to protect Bristol Bay’s unique and valuable natural resources,” said Tim Bristol, director of Trout Unlimited’s Alaska Program. “The science is in and the public has spoken. We hope to see the EPA finalize these protections as quickly as possible.
Sue Asplund, spokeswoman for the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association, urged the EPA to move quickly, “to ensure our fishermen can continue their businesses without this threat hanging over them.”
Supporters of the massive copper, gold and molybdenum mine, which would be located near the headwaters of the Bristol Bay watershed, have maintained that the mine and world-famous sockeye salmon fishery can co-exist in harmony.
The Pebble Limited Partnership in Anchorage has urged its supporters “to let the EPA know that their actions are not appropriate nor should anything be done by the agency at this time – other than wait for the Pebble Partnership to present a detailed mine plan, file for permits, and initiate the state and federal permitting process.”
The Pebble project is the principal asset of Northern Dynasty, a subsidiary of Hunter Dickinson Inc., a diversified global mining group headquartered in Vancouver, British Columbia, which holds indirect interests in mineral claims on state land in Southwest Alaska.