Wednesday, April 3, 2019

May 30 Deadline for Pebble Draft EIS Comments

Public hearings are underway in the Bristol Bay region and Southcentral Alaska in advance of a May 30 deadline for public comment on the draft environmental impact statement (EIS) for the proposed Pebble mine adjacent to the Bristol Bay watershed in Southwest Alaska.

There is still no word from the US Army Corps of Engineers on whether that deadline will be extended, but pressure is mounting from the fishing industry for that extension.

The Alaska House Resources Committee heard this past week from Bristol Bay residents, fisheries leaders and scientific experts about the economic, social and environmental values of the Bristol Bay watershed and their concerns about the Corp’s draft EIS.

Norm Van Vactor, chief executive officer of the Bristol Bay Economic Development Corp. told legislators “If Pebble goes in, the Bristol Bay Sockeye brand and the entire Alaska seafood brand will be tarnished. The State of Alaska has invested millions into building these brands and establishing Alaska as a premium brand in the marketplace. That brand is based on pristine habitat, sustainability, and high quality, not open-pit mining districts and acid mine drainage.”

“Alaskans should be dismayed; Alaska’s leaders should be outraged,” said Daniel Schindler, a professor in the University of Washington’s School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences. “The Army Corps of Engineers should be ashamed of themselves and embarrassed if they are going to put this environmental impact statement forward as a piece of credible science. It is not. The EIS is a bit of a farce. I hate to use that term, but it does not have scientific credibility and it distinctly underestimates risks.”

Meanwhile, in Kodiak on March 29 several dozen harvesters marched to the site of a forum on the Pebble mine at a downtown hotel, waving signs in opposition to the mine and others urging Alaska Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan to take a stand against the mine. Inside the hotel, Melanie Brown of Commercial Fishermen for Bristol Bay and Ryan Spies, a consultant with Lynker Technologies, discussed problems they had identified with the draft EIS.

The Lynker Technologies report, published online by Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association, can be found at

The analysis is based on 28 actual failures at tailings storage facilities worldwide and a detailed hydrological model that estimates how much material would be deposited downstream across a range of failure scenarios.

The ComFish forum occurred on March 29, the same day as the Corps’ public hearing at New Stuyahok in the Bristol Bay region, where Martin Speak, a Bristol Bay fisherman from Seattle, Wash., told the Corps "It is a complete folly to think you can contain these proposed massive tailing ponds. Murphy's law, if something can go wrong it will go wrong. Earthquakes, large storms, human error. Just look at Mount Polley. To date, nobody is being held responsible for that disaster, and they're telling us this time they're getting it right."

Preliminary figures showed that at the first five Bristol Bay hearings a total of 305 people attended the Corps’ hearings, with 83 testifying in opposition to the mine, 23 in support of the mine and 17 neutral.

All comments on the draft EIS must be postmarked by May 30 and mailed to USACE Alaska District, Attn: DA Permit Application 2017-271, Pebble Limited Partnership, 645 G Street Suite 100-921, Anchorage, Alaska 99501.

Further information is available at

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