EPA to allow public comments on new version of Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been revising its draft Bristol Bay watershed assessment and plans to release it for public and peer review sometime this spring. EPA had previously stated that the revision would be reviewed by scientists, but is responding to public interest by opening up another public input period for the document. The first public comment period, held during May through July 2012, garnered more than 230,000 comments.

EPA conducted the watershed assessment “to determine the significance of Bristol Bay’s ecological resources and evaluate the potential impacts of large-scale mining on these resources.” EPA has authority under the Clean Water Act to invoke a 404(c) ruling that could curtail or limit development in the area, which is one reason for the intense public, industry and environmental interest in the document.

EPA has said the watershed assessment will inform its decision on whether to proceed with such a ruling, and continues to state that it will make no judgment about using 404(c) authority until the final assessment is complete.

EPA was both lauded and criticized for the first draft of the watershed assessment, and received official comments through its online system, during public meetings, and through a peer review process that included 12 scientists.

Those same 12 scientists are being called on again to go over the latest revision to ensure it addresses their original concerns. The public will be able to submit comments at the same time.

EPA states it will carefully review comments when preparing the final document, which it plans on completing later in 2013.

EPA Bristol Bay watershed assessment website

Pebble Watch coverage of the EPA watershed assessment process

Pebble Watch guide to the draft assessment – May 2012

Public comment mixed at EPA watershed assessment hearing – June 2012

Dillingham, Naknek residents voice a resounding support for EPA assessment – June 2012

Pebble Watch guide to peer reviewer report – November 2012