Two days of Keystone Center science panels concluded this Tuesday with a focus on the transportation corridor study area and a final wrap-up of reviewer comments and discussion points that ranged from detailed to philosophical. Questions by the independent scientists involved in the review included basics, such as "What is baseline data?" and "What is the purpose of this document?"
The panels were held May 6 and May 7 at the Consortium Library on the University of Alaska Anchorage campus to review portions of the Pebble Limited Partnership’s (PLP) Environmental Baseline Document (EBD). Panels were structured to allow a dialogue between contracted scientists who had written portions of the EBD, independent scientists who reviewed specific chapters, and members of the public.
Several reviewers noted that while the existing work is voluminous and well-done, it is insufficient as a baseline study. Phil North, recently retired from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and participating as a member of the public, summed it up: "We've heard in all of these sessions that this is very good survey work. There’s a lot more work that still needs to be done, more information that needs to be collected. I want to suggest that the inventory work is probably exceptional, but it’s not very useful without linking it to an ecosystem."
Wetlands work drew measured praise, while wildlife and bird studies were found lacking at Keystone Center science panels held at the Consortium Library on the University of Alaska Anchorage campus, May 6 and May 7 to review portions of the Pebble Limited Partnership’s (PLP) Environmental Baseline Document (EBD). The two-day session covered wetlands, wildlife, trace elements, and threatened and endangered species.
Panels were structured to allow a dialogue between contracted scientists who had written portions of the EBD, independent scientists who reviewed specific chapters, and members of the public, who could ask questions in person or by email.
Summary of Day One
Consultant Christopher Wroble, of HDR, presented an overview of studies conducted to identify wetlands in the mine study area and the transportation corridor. Scientists determined that 33.4 percent of the mine study area and 16 percent of the transportation corridor study area consists of wetlands or water bodies. These determinations were based on characteristics including vegetation, soil and hydrology.
Wroble explained the methodogy and results of the studies in detail, and showed a sample image from the database where the data on vegetation and soils are contained.
Independent reviewers Larry Gough, Ph.D and Robert Naiman, Ph.D. had praise for the wetlands study, with a few clarifying questions. Gough, an emeritus Research Botanist with the U.S. Geological Survey, said the study was well done and showed that the consultants were objective and competent. Naiman, an expert in aquatic ecology and watershed management, said that the scientists used established protocols and methods and did an excellent job.
“I know how complicated and how much effort went into these kinds of investigations,” said Naiman. “You are creating an accounting sheet of what you have out there in one point in time. It takes tremendous effort, but now the hard work begins.” He went on to explain that the types of characterization and inventories produced for the EBD do not reflect related issues, such as water quality, and resistance or resilience to disturbances that come with development. “These are outside the scope of the original objectives, but the hard work is to assess these.”
The final series of Keystone Center science panels will be held in Anchorage on May 6 and 7. These panels are designed to give the public an opportunity to attend a discussion related to information presented in the Pebble Limited Partnership's (PLP) Environmental Baseline Document (EBD), released in January 2012.
Can I attend the science panels?
Yes. Members of the public can register to attend in person, but availability is limited. (Register online or call 866- 276-3074.) Panels will also be webcast online. Visit the Keystone Center web site on May 6 and May 7 to view the proceedings live. During the panels, members of the public will have opportunities to ask questions, either in person or by email.
Who are the panelists?
Panelists are independent scientists with experience in the fields related to the panel topics. They have volunteered to review the EBD chapters and participate in the panels. View panelist bios.
It's the last week to submit your comments on the Alaska Department of Natural Resources (DNR) draft revisions to the 2005 Bristol Bay Area Plan (BBAP). These revisions have been out for public review since January, and DNR representatives have traveled to several villages to explain the proposed changes and answer questions.
In an interview with Pebble Watch, DNR's Bruce Phelps said the meetings were generally well attended, with up to 50 people participating at some meetings. He explained that the proposed revisions to BBAP are not all encompassing - in fact, they are limited just to those specific items DNR agreed to address as a result of litigation over the document.
About Pebble Watch
Pebble Watch is an impartial, educational and fact-based initiative of the BBNC Land Department to disseminate information regarding the proposed Pebble Mine project to BBNC shareholders and interested parties.