Wednesday, May 22, 2013

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, Alaska.

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