Agency blames October's government shutdown for creating delays; says final version of the study will be out "the first part of next year."
DILLINGHAM: The EPA’s Region 10 office in Seattle told KDLG News Friday that it will not be publishing the final version of the Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment before the end of the year, as long promised.
A spokeswoman said that October's two-week federal government shutdown has delayed the agency's efforts, but that EPA intends to release the document by the “first part of next year.”
The agency has not said whether or not it will issue a decision about the Pebble Mine at that time, though many believe the Obama Administration will use the study's findings to preemptively veto the permits that would be required by Pebble. The agency has the authority to do so under the Clean Water Act.
EPA had originally intended to finish the watershed assessment before the end of 2012, but delayed that after last year's "peer review" came back highly critical of the study. Many of the groups leading the fight against the Pebble Mine have expressed their frustration with the EPA's delays.
This past week a group of religious leaders in Alaska sent a letter to McCarthy, urging her to have the agency finish the assessment this year.
McCarthy visited the region in August, making stops in Dillingham and Iliamna. McCarthy took no questions from reporters during the visit, though EPA Region 10 head Dennis McLerran told us his office would take as much time as needed to make sure they "get the science right" in the assessment.