09 August 2012

EPA peer review panel: assessment has good information on fish, big gaps in many other areas

The 12 peer review panelists reviewing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's draft Bristol Bay watershed assessment said Wednesday that, overall, the report is a good starting point to determine the agency's next steps regarding large-scale mining in the Bristol Bay region. The draft assessment did a good job at reviewing the potential affects that a large-scale mine would have on fish, especially salmon, but otherwise has several areas that should be addressed.

"This document is a good place to start, but is a work in progress," said William Stubblefield, a senior research professor in the Department of Molecular and Environmental Toxicology at Oregon State University and an expert in aquatic biology and ecotoxicology.

During the full-day meeting that was open to the public, reviewers said there are several gaps in the assessment. Several panelists noted the lack of consideration for any potential effects of climate change.

"I don't know how you can do any assessment without that," said Gordon Reeves, a research fish biologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Aquatic and Land Interaction program. "It's going to have a big impact, especially with combined with the changes with a mine. There are tools out there that can help with this process."

Several panelists said the assessment also failed to consider how regulatory agencies may curtail the various risks outlined in the report, and it omitted the effects to other wildlife.

The panelists were tasked to review 14 charge questions, each asking about the soundness of the science in the report. They also were asked for recommendations for other literature or data not referenced in the assessment.

Chairman Roy Stein, professor emeritus at the Ohio State University in Columbus and an expert in fisheries and aquatic biology, led the discussions. Stein read each question and panelists were free to offer their comments and suggestions, taking about a half-hour for each. Occasionally, scientists had technical discussions on a topic: one would ask a question and others would offer their expertise on the subject.

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08 August 2012

EPA peer review continues today

Twelve peer review scientists continue their meeting in Anchorage today to discuss the EPA’s draft Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment, which examines the potential impacts of large-scale mining in the Nushagak and Kvichak River watersheds.

Yesterday, more than 100 members of the public were granted three minutes each to comment on the scientific merits of the assessment, with testimony ranging from technical suggestions to emotional pleas. Today, the scientists’ deliberations continue without public comment. Preregistered members of the public may attend to observe; others may watch by live webcam. (Updates will also be provided at the Pebble Watch Facebook site.)

About the Peer Review team

The peer review team consists of independent scientists who are experts in areas ranging from mining and seismology to aquatic and wildlife ecology—chosen with input from the public by contractor Versar. EPA also sought public input to develop a list of 14 “charge questions” that will guide team deliberations. (Read EPA’s final Bristol Bay Charge Questions online.) Peer reviewers are charged with considering the comments; they have both a summary version and direct access to individual submissions.

Public participation has been high throughout the watershed assessment process. The assessment has been the most commented-on subject in his tenure, said EPA Region 10 Director Dennis McLerran, drawing more than 220,000 registered comments—90 percent of them generally supportive of the assessment. McLerran has been with the agency since February 2010.

Peer review meetings continue on Thursday, when the team will meet without members of the public present. Following the meetings, peer reviewers will prepare individual reviews; these will be compiled by Versar for release, first to EPA, then to the public by fall.

Photo: Joseph Chythlook, Bristol Bay Native Corporation, tells the peer review panel that the EPA has "done a good job" on its draft Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment. "The document confirms what I know as a subsistence fisherman."

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Public meeting with Watershed Assessment Peer Review Team

Deliberations of the peer review team for the EPA Bristol Bay Draft Watershed Assessment will be open to the public on August 7 and 8, 2012. For details, visit EPA's website.

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07 August 2012

Public meeting with Watershed Assessment Peer Review Team

Deliberations of the peer review team for the EPA Bristol Bay Draft Watershed Assessment will be open to the public on August 7 and 8, 2012. For details, visit EPA's website.

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02 August 2012

Pebble mine news roundup: August 3

Recent Pebble news focuses on the PBS Frontline documentary, Alaska Gold, and industry critics of the U.S. EPA's Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment.

"Pebble Mine Documentary: Comprehensive and Controversial" (July 25, 2012 - KTUU Channel 2 News)
Reporter Dan Fiorucci covers the PBS Frontline documentary on the Pebble debate, including commentary from Pebble Limited Partnership CEO John Shively and former Alaska State Sen. Rick Halford. According to Fiorucci, Shively called the documentary "flawed," while Halford said that it "outlined the serious issues at stake and did it well."
Read the entire article at KTUU Channel 2.

"Partner in Pebble mine fires back at EPA report" (July 31, 2012 - PBS.org)
Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd. and the Pebble Limited Partnership both have responded critically to the U.S. EPA's draft Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment.
Read the entire article on the PBS web site.

PBS articles complementing the Alaska Gold documentary
PBS has published articles that focus on different aspects of the Pebble debate:

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01 August 2012

Can’t make the EPA peer review meeting? Watch the webcast

For those who can't make the meeting, you may watch the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency peer review panel via webcast. The EPA panel is set to meet in Anchorage Aug. 7-9 to discuss the science and research in the draft Bristol Bay watershed assessment, as well as listen to public comments on the issue.

Webcasts will be available to the public for the first two days.

Instructions for watching the webcasts: When you click the webcast links, you will be prompted to sign in to an Adobe Connect webinar session. 

  • Select Enter as a Guest
  • Enter your name in the Name field (or leave it blank)
  • Select Enter Room

Information about the meeting and peer review panelists is published in the Federal Register. Read the Federal Register notice.

The peer review panel will base its review on questions that were developed with public input. Final Peer Review Charge Questions (PDF).

For other infomation on the EPA draft Bristol Bay watershed assessment, see the EPA site.

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25 July 2012

Watershed assessment comments, transcripts available from EPA

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has made available public comments submitted on its draft Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment. More than 208,000 individuals from within and outside the United States submitted comments. The majority of comments consisted of duplicate letters sent by individuals in mass mailing campaigns organized by advocacy groups. EPA also received 3,657 individual comments, as well as oral testimony taken during public hearings.

Each comment is available in PDF format; a list of all comments can be downloaded in spreadsheet format.

View public comments

Comments from individuals who spoke at public hearings in June 2012 are included in transcripts from each meeting.

Additional transcripts from five other public hearings in Alaska are still being processed by the EPA and will be available online at a later date.

Next steps: The EPA Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment peer review panel will be meeting in Anchorage from August 7-9. Individuals who signed up in advance may attend and make comments on August 7 and may observe proceedings on August 8. Meetings are closed to the public on August 9.

Need more info? Visit EPA's Bristol Bay website.


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23 July 2012

Public input deadline - Watershed Assessment

Today is the deadline for submitting public comment on the draft scientific study of the Bristol Bay Watershed and its natural resources.

There are several ways to submit your comments:

  1. Submit them online at regulations.gov, follow the online instructions for submitting comments to Docket # EPA-HQ-ORD-2012-0276.
  2. Send an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ; include docket #EPA-HQ-ORD-2012-0276 in the subject line of the email.
  3. Fax them to: 202-566-1753; include the docket # EPA-HQ-ORD-2012-0276 in the subject line of the fax.
  4. Send a letter to the EPA Bristol Bay docket at:
Office of Environmental Information (OEI) Docket (Mail Code: 2822T)
Docket # EPA-HQ-ORD-2012-0276
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
1200 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W.
Washington, DC 20460

For additional information, including links to the Watershed Assessment itself, please visit http://yosemite.epa.gov/R10/ECOCOMM.NSF/bristol+bay/bristolbay or the Pebble Watch Website at http://www.pebblewatch.com.

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Frontline features Pebble mine vs. Bay fishing debate

The PBS public affairs series Frontline turns its focus this week to the controversial issue of mining at Pebble and the potential risks to fishing in Bristol Bay. Read the PBS Frontline report, "Treasure Hunt: The Battle Over Alaska's Mega Mine," then watch "Alaska Gold," schedule to air Tuesday, July 24, on PBS stations. Both pieces detail the controversial issue of mining at Pebble vs. fishing in Bristol Bay.

Frontline travels to Alaska to "investigate the fault lines of a growing battle between those who depend on this extraordinary fishery for a living, the mining companies who are pushing for Pebble, and the political framework that will ultimately decide the outcome."

Read Treasure Hunt: The Battle Over Alaska's Mega Mine.

See the trailer for Alaska Gold. Air times on KAKM (Check your local listings for other stations and times).:

  • Tuesday, July 24, from 9 to 10 p.m. Tuesday
  • Wednesday, July 25, starting at midnight
  • Sunday, July 29, starting at 1 a.m.



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20 July 2012

Last chance to comment on EPA assessment

Monday, July 23, is the final day to submit comments on EPA's Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment. It is also the deadline to sign up to observe or comment during meetings held by the EPA's peer review team.

Submit comments on the watershed assessment.

Sign up to observe or comment at peer review meetings.

Read more about the assessment and peer review meetings.


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