As an environmental consultant, I collected environmental baseline data at the proposed Pebble mine site 15 years ago and learned firsthand about the pristine environment that needs to be protected. I submitted comments on the Pebble Project draft environmental impact statement after reviewing it and other documents the EIS incorporated regarding baseline water quality, hydrology, and fish habitat in the watersheds that would be affected by mine development. The draft EIS is woefully inadequate because it relies on qualitative, subjective and unsupported conclusions.
I am not alone in my concerns about the draft EIS, as was well-stated in career biologist Phil Brna’s ADN op-ed on Sept. 26. Numerous state and federal agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency, National Marine Fisheries Service, Alaska Department of Fish and Game and the National Park Service have all stated that the draft EIS lacks critical information about the proposed project and is missing important modeling, analyses, monitoring and mitigation plans and environmental baseline data. More than 56 million salmon returned to Bristol Bay this year and it was the most lucrative season in 135 years of recorded history in the world’s largest sockeye salmon fishery.
So I’m very concerned that the proposed open-pit gold and copper mine — including its huge tailings dams containing more than a billion tons of toxic waste and the untested water treatment plant — will significantly impact miles of downstream, pristine fish habitat. I continue to follow the draft EIS process, and I’m astonished at the number of changes to this controversial project that have occurred since the draft EIS public comment period ended. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is rushing the process under a political timeline rather than taking a sound scientific, fact-based approach. Bristol Bay is a unique and valuable treasure that cannot be put at risk by the proposed Pebble Mine.
— Molly Welker
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