Army Corps railroads public process in hasty review of Pebble proposal
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Army Corps railroads public process

Last month, Trustees submitted comments on the proposed Pebble mine on behalf of our client Nunamta Aulukestai. We pointed out to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that the proposed mine would destroy salmon habitat at the headwaters of Bristol Bay. Yet, the Army Corps railroads public process in order to do a hasty review.

Bristol Bay has provided food to Alaskans for thousands of years. Salmon runs now feed people around the world. Photo by Bob Waldrop.

The mine would threaten the world’s largest sockeye salmon fishery, disturb wildlife, destroy wetlands, and permanently alter the wild salmon runs that make up the primary diet and cultural foundation of many people in the region.

The harms would reach beyond the headwaters

The proposed mine imperils not just the headwaters of a thriving fishery, but also the fish and wildlife of surrounding areas. The proposed transportation corridor and industrial loading facility at Amakdedori Bay would imperil Cook Inlet, for example.

Science, traditional knowledge, and public input irrefutably demonstrate the unacceptable harms the proposed mine would have on fish, wildlife and habitat, as well as to the social, economic, and cultural health of the people of Bristol Bay and Alaska.

Pebble hasn’t done its homework

As the lead agency, the Army Corps must ensure the review process complies with the National Environmental Policy Act and the Clean Water Act, two laws that protect the water and land that nourish our food and communities.

The Bristol Bay watershed produces some of the world’s largest runs of salmon. Photo by Carl Johnson.

We also noted in our comments the many ways in which the Army Corps and Pebble Limited Partnership have undermined the review and public process:

  • The Army Corps has rushed the review process, despite Pebble’s inadequate and incomplete application.
  • The Army Corps has precluded the public from meaningful participation.
  • The Army Corps has allowed Pebble to make dramatic and significant changes to its mine plan halfway through the scoping process—despite Pebble providing no meaningful details on those changes.
Fish, jobs, and community health will suffer from a hasty review

The Army Corps has set a furious pace for its review of the project. That haste means cutting corners when looking at the impacts on food, water and community, the very things we rely on to stay alive and healthy.

The Army Corps says it will release a draft of the Environmental Impact Statement in January 2019, and record a decision in early 2020, a process that usually takes 3-5 years for a project of this size. This estimate also ignores the lack of foundational technical documents for the project.  In short, the Corps intends to ramrod through a permitting process for a project that would be catastrophic to the largest wild sockeye salmon run in the world.

Railroading a process to meet an arbitrary timeline and pander to industry interests rather than the public’s disrespects science, traditional knowledge, and hundreds of thousands of public comments. Gov. Bill Walker is right. This process needs to be stopped in its tracks.