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Sen. Cantwell presses Army Corps to add Pebble hearings in Washington state

WASHINGTON — Sen. Maria Cantwell wants the Army Corps of Engineers to expand its public meetings discussing the potential scope of Pebble mine to include events in her state, Washington.

Cantwell wrote a letter to Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works R.D. James on Thursday asking for additional meetings in Washington so that her constituents can weigh in on the proposed gold and copper mine planned for the headwaters area of Bristol Bay.

Advocates for blocking the controversial mine plan worry that it could irrevocably damage Bristol Bay salmon spawning waters and the industry that thrives on them. The Pebble Partnership, which is now applying for a permit for the mine, argues that the company can find a way to build the massive mine without damaging the surrounding environment.

Cantwell said her constituents should have a say in the ongoing environmental review of the project because many of them have interests and livelihoods tied up in Bristol Bay.

"Pacific Northwest fishermen, shipbuilders, suppliers, sportsmen and restaurants have built an economy around this one-of-a-kind sustainable fishery," the letter said.

The Army Corps said it plans to complete an environmental impact statement in 2019, and offer a decision on the project in 2020.

Cantwell said that schedule is too fast, "grossly insufficient, and does not allow my constituents the opportunity to participate in the permitting process in person."

"The stakes are too high to leave out these important voices," Cantwell wrote.

The Army Corps extended the comment period to 90 days from 30 days upon the request of Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski. The time to submit comments by mail or online ends June 29, and the Corps planned community meetings that ended in Anchorage on April 19.

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