30 May 2013
Two public comment opportunities related to development in Bristol Bay are currently open.
EPA Watershed Assessment – Deadline: June 30, 2013.
EPA released the revised version of its Bristol Bay watershed assessment in late April. It had not planned on a second public comment period initially, but opened one up in response to public interest. Just before the stated deadline of May 31, 2013, EPA also decided to extend this second commenting period another 30 days. The revised assessment has been both praised and criticized by different interest groups, and has garnered more than 330,000 comments to date.
Lake Iliamna harbor seal status – Deadline: August 16, 2013
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries) ruled on a petition that the Center for Biological Diversity had submitted last November, seeking an endangered or threatened species status for harbor seals that live in Iliamna Lake. NOAA Fisheries determined that there was enough scientific or commercial information to warrant further study on the seal population before making a determination. NOAA Fisheries is seeking public comment until August 16, 2013.
Since the comment period overlaps with the summer subsistence and commerical fishing season, NOAA Fisheries has extended the deadline in response to a request from Bristol Bay Native Association/Bristol Bay Marine Mammal Council.
However, the agency could not extend its November 2013 deadline for the completed status review, so is encouraging the public to submit comments as early as possible to allow NOAA Fisheries "more time to review and incorporate the submitted information where appropriate." Currently fewer than five public comments have been received on this topic.
If the harbor seal population is determined to be endangered or threatened, the designation would trigger additional requirements under the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) for any development that may impact them or their habitat.
Photo: Courtesy NOAA/Dave Withrow. Harbor seals basking on a sandbar, Iliamna Lake, Summer 2011.
30 May 2013
The public now has until June 30, 2013, to get in comments on EPA's revised draft Bristol Bay watershed assessment. The agency announced the 30-day extension Wednesday afternoon on its Bristol Bay information web page and by email.
EPA made the decision after receiving many requests, including some which asked them to maintain the 30-day comment period. The agency concluded that an extension of an additional 30 days to provide feedback was reasonable “given the complexity and length of the revised draft assessment."
The additional 30 days still falls short of requests made by some, like the Resource Development Council (RDC). In an open letter to EPA dated May 9, 2013, and posted on the RDC website, the organization asked for an extension of “at least 120 days to allow commenters ample time to provide feedback.” RDC’s letter also asked that EPA provide a detailed breakdown of changes made to the draft and expressed concern about the overall intent of the assessment.
Once the public comment period ends and EPA collects feedback from 12 peer reviewers, the Agency will proceed with finalizing the assessment in 2013, according to EPA’s announcement.
An EPA Fact Sheet provides an overview of the changes. Pebble Watch materials that may be helpful in understanding the assessment include our recent Pebble Watch Explores Special Edition about the newest revised draft and the Pebble Watch Guide, a collection of many past Pebble Watch articles in one place.
Comments about the revised draft assessment may be submitted online, by email or in writing. View the document, find links for sending comments and read additional information on the web at www.epa.gov/bristolbay.