EPA to review proposed Pebble Mine project for water quality issues

Last week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced plans to conduct a scientific assessment of the Bristol Bay watershed in order to better understand how future significant development projects may affect the water quality and salmon populations. EPA stated its assessment was initiated after Native Tribes and others, including Bristol Bay Native Corporation (BBNC), petitioned EPA in 2010 to use its authority under the Clean Water Act, Section 404(c). BBNC asked EPA to “carefully tailor a prohibition of the discharge of dredged or fill material from the proposed Pebble mine,” to prevent “an unacceptable risk of irreparable harm to water, fishery and wildlife resources.”

EPA’s assessment will focus primarily on the Nushagak and Kvichak watersheds. It will examine the effects of hard-rock mining projects, as well as consider the effects of large-scale development in general.

EPA has stated it will accept and consider public input during development of the watershed assessment. A public comment period usually lasts between 30 and 60 days; a public hearing is usually held during the comment period.

Check back for updates regarding timelines for public hearings and comment periods.

Read the press release from EPA.

Read an editorial about EPA’s decision in The New York Times: The Risk to Bristol Bay.

Read an article about EPA’s assessment in the Anchorage Daily News: EPA: Agency simply monitoring, not halting Alaska development.