EPA releases new Proposed Determination that recommends protections for Bristol Bay

Public comment period is open through July 5, 2022.

Today the EPA released an anticipated revision to a 2014 Proposed Determination, a step in a revived regulatory process that would completely prohibit discharges of dredge and fill material within the footprint of the 2020 Pebble mine plan. This area is shown in gray in EPA’s map below.

The Proposed Determination also outlines additional restrictions on dredge and fill activities in the surrounding watersheds. The “Defined Area for Restriction,” shown in red in the map below, is approximately 40 square miles larger than what was proposed in 2014.

If finalized, these prohibitions and restrictions would provide protections for Bristol Bay watersheds near the mine site and make it essentially impossible to develop the project.

(Find full maps with legends in Executive Summary of the 2022 Proposed Determination, pp 14-15.)

Map of restricted and prohibited area from the EPA Region 10’s 2022 Proposed Determination. The proposal would prohibit and restrict the use of certain waters in the South Fork Koktuli River, North Fork Koktuli River, and Upper Talarik Creek watersheds (shown in red) as disposal sites for the discharge of dredged or fill material associated with mining the Pebble deposit in Southwest Alaska. The Pebble deposit is shown in yellow. View the Proposed Determination for a full map with legend.

Public Comment Period is now open

EPA is taking public comment on the 2022 Proposed Determination through July 5, 2022. It will also hold hearings in person on June 16 in Dillingham, Alaska, on June 17 in Newhalen, Alaska and during an online webinar on June 16.

Adverse effects

The EPA determined that restrictions and prohibition are necessary in order to avoid adverse effects the agency says would be caused by development of Pebble mine. In fact, the 2022 Proposed Determination finds more adverse effects than the 2014 Proposed Determination.

Estimated adverse effects from discharge of dredge or fill material at the Pebble deposit

From the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s 2014 Proposed Determination and 2022 Proposed Determination for the Pebble deposit area in Bristol Bay, Alaska. Documents available at https://www.epa.gov/bristolbay.

The 2022 Proposed Determination (339 pages) takes into account new information, including more than 670,000 comments from the public on the 2014 Proposed Determination, new scientific and technical publications, and information included in documents and agency coordination processes associated with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers review of Pebble developers permit application. A permit application and mine plan had not yet been submitted by developers when EPA published its 2014 Proposed Determination. (Note that this EPA process is separate from the process that led to Pebble developers receiving a Clean Water Act permit denial in 2020 from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Developers appealed that negative decision and the appeal is ongoing.)

Read more

21-page 2022 Proposed Determination Executive Summary

See a map of mining claims in the Pebble deposit area

EPA’s 404(c) process

Pebble Watch chart of EPA 404(c) process in Bristol Bay

Timeline of events related to EPA, Bristol Bay and 404(c) protections (through 2019)