May 2013

30 May 2013

Comment periods still open for watershed assessment and harbor seal status

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.

Download the Pebble Watch guide to the revised assessment.

View the Pebble Watch guide online.

Go directly to Regulations.gov to submit your comments.

 

Lake Iliamna harbor seal status – Deadline: August 16, 2013

IliamnaLake sm

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.

Read the NOAA Fisheries news release.

Read more about Lake Iliamna harbor seals, including the original petition for endangered/threatened status.

Go directly to Regulations.gov to submit your comments.

 

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30 May 2013

Public comment period extended to June 30

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.

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29 May 2013

Public comment period for EPA assessment ends Friday

The public has EPAguide2013until Friday, May 31, to comment on the EPA's revised Bristol Bay watershed assessment. The EPA has received more than 150,000 comments on the document already. Read this Pebble Watch guide for public comment details, as well as a quick overview of major changes in this version of the assessment.

Download the Pebble Watch guide

View the Pebble Watch guide online

Go directly to Regulations.gov to submit your comments

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23 May 2013

Pebble Watch summary helps readers before May 31 EPA deadline

EPAguide2013Pebble Watch has a new resource to help those who are assembling comments for the EPA watershed assessment. Our latest publication is a four-page summary of EPA’s revised watershed assessment.

This guide outlines how EPA’s Bristol Bay watershed assessment has changed since it was last published. Use this to help you research your response before EPA’s public comment deadline (May 31).

We’ve included a description of major changes, a timeline of the watershed assessment process and links for submitting your own comments.

Click here to see our summary of the updated assessment and an assessment timeline

For easy reference, see the original EPA watershed assessment summary we wrote in May 2012.

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21 May 2013

New Pebble Watch guide covers science, permitting and public input

PWGcoverPebble Watch has compiled some of its most relevant articles and fact sheets from the last two years into one comprehensive publication. The Pebble Watch Guide is a resource for readers who want to understand more about the permitting process, public input opportunities and scientific topics related to the development of the proposed Pebble mine.

The Pebble Watch Guide is available in a convenient online magazine format (no need to download a PDF) and in hard copy by request to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. List of topics:

About Bristol Bay

History and culture, subsistence, economy

World-class fishery

Biodiversity

Influence of salmon

Land & tourism

About the proposed Pebble Mine

Who, what, why, when, where

The deposit

Mine design and construction

Permitting process

Permitting claims

Studying the environment

Bristol Bay studies

Peer review

EPA Watershed Assessment

Watershed assessment overview

PLP studies

Environmental Baseline Document

Keystone dialogue process

Soil & sediment

Geotechnical & seismic studies

Meteorology

Wetlands

Water quality

Hydrology

Water interactions

Fish & aquatic invertebrates

Fish habitat

Visual resources & recreation

Importance of landscape

Learn more

Adding your voice/public input

Pebble mine debate

Read more

17 May 2013

Resources

Pebble Watch

US EPA

404(c)

Watershed Assessment

Pebble Watch Watershed Assessment Summaries

 

Pebble deposit

Pebble Limited Partnership

Environmental Studies

Keystone Center science panels

Note: In 2007, Pebble Limited Partnership (PLP) contracted the non-profit Keystone Center to "conduct and independent stakeholder assessment dialogue feasibility study and, if feasible and desirable, design an independent stakeholders dialogue process to address issues raised in the assessment." The Keystone Center conducted the assessment. It also facilitated science panels that brought together independent scientists to review baseline environmental studies conducted by PLP and its contracted scientists. When Anglo American divested from the project in 2013, the contract with Keystone was not renewed. Since that time, the Keystone Center has changed its mission and no longer retains documentation of its role in the Pebble mine dialogue at its website. Pebble Watch covered some of the science panels in detail, and some videos of the panels still reside on YouTube. For readers interested in the baseline science published by PLP and reviews by independent scientists, these panels provide a wealth of information.

Permitting

Public Input

Alaska Congressional Staff

Agencies

Industry

Media

Legislation

State of Alaska "Bristol Bay Forever" public initiative, passed November 2014

Educational Resources

Fish

Watersheds

Research

  • Responsible Conduct of Research: Six free online courses from Columbia University on topics such as "Conflicts of Interest," "Responsible Authorship and Peer Review," and "Collaborative Science."

Pebble Watch newsletter extras

Links Policy

Pebble Watch, a project of Bristol Bay Native Corporation (BBNC), provides off-site links, at its discretion, solely as an educational and informational service for Pebble Watch readers. A link from the BBNC Pebble Watch site does not constitute endorsement or approval of any organization, program, or point of view, and BBNC and Pebble Watch are not responsible for the content of individual organization Web pages found at such links.

 

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10 May 2013

Keystone Center science panels finish up with lingering questions

keystone2Two 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."

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07 May 2013

Keystone Center science panels, May 6 and 7, Anchorage

The Keystone Center has scheduled additional science panels to discuss content from Pebble Limited Partnership's Environmental Baseline Document, with a focus on wetlands, vegetation, wildlife and threatened and endangered species.

The panels will be held in the Consortium Library on the University of Alaska Anchorage campus and will be open to the public. They will also be filmed and broadcast via web-stream live by KTOO for 360 North. Registration for the science panels is now open and space is limited.

Register online or call (866) 276-3074 to attend one or more of the panels.

The May 6-7 panel forum will complete the Keystone independent scientific review of the Environmental Baseline Document. Recommendations that are issued from the panels will be incorporated into a forthcoming report.

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07 May 2013

Wetlands, wildlife and birds discussed at Keystone science panels

DSC06577Wetlands 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

Wetlands

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.”

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06 May 2013

Keystone Center science panels, May 6-7, Anchorage

The Keystone Center has scheduled additional science panels to discuss content from Pebble Limited Partnership's Environmental Baseline Document, with a focus on wetlands, vegetation, wildlife and threatened and endangered species.

The panels will be held in the Consortium Library on the University of Alaska Anchorage campus and will be open to the public. They will also be filmed and broadcast via web-stream live by KTOO for 360 North. Registration for the science panels is now open and space is limited.

Register online or call (866) 276-3074 to attend one or more of the panels.

The May 6-7 panel forum will complete the Keystone independent scientific review of the Environmental Baseline Document. Recommendations that are issued from the panels will be incorporated into a forthcoming report.

Read more