Updates to Pebble-related events and issues

In its January newsletter, Pebble Watch reported on legislative happenings and events related to the development of the proposed Pebble mine. Here are updates to those issues:

Keystone science panels

The Keystone Center is still finalizing plans for its next set of science panels on vegetation, wetlands, wildlife and endangered species. Originally planned for late April in Dillingham, the panels will likely now be held in Anchorage due to travel restrictions for government personnel. Pebble Watch will give updates as details are finalized.

Protection for Iliamna Lake seals

The Center for Biological Diversity petitioned the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries Service for threatened or endangered species protection for harbor seals that live in Iliamna Lake. NOAA Fisheries usually takes 90 days to determined whether further review is warranted, but has not completed a ruling on this issue. A spokesperson for NOAA Fisheries said is would likely come out in mid-April.

Alaska House and Senate Bills

Gov. Sean Parnell introduced bills in January that were designed to streamline the permitting process, and both are moving swiftly through the legislative process.

House Bill 77 and Senate Bill 26 address land exchange issues and provide authority to the Alaska Department of Natural Resources commissioner to issue general permits for state land rather than requiring individuals to obtain separate permits. Status: Passed the House.

Read more in the Alaska Journal of Commerce.

House Bill 78 and Senate Bill 27 would allow the state of Alaska to assume control of the 404 Wetlands permitting process, thereby bypassing federal NEPA requirements. Status: Passed the senate.

Read more in the Juneau Empire.

Bristol Bay Area Plan

Bristol Bay Area Plan is a legal document that determines how land in the Bristol Bay area can be used. The state of Alaska has revised a portion of the 2005 plan and is seeking public comment through April 4, 2013. A “Citizen’s Alternative” to the plan has been drafted by six tribal councils in  Bristol Bay, Trout Unlimited and the Alaska Independent Fisherman’s Marketing Association. As reported by KDLG-Dillingham radio, the alternative version of the plan includes language prohibiting metallic sulfide mining in the Nushagak and Kvichak Watersheds.

Read more in the Cordova Times or at KDLG radio.