The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to take public comment on proposed Pebble Mine in April

Mar 21, 2018

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is asking for public input on the controversial Pebble Mine Project. In April, the federal agency will be holding meetings in Bristol Bay, Anchorage and Homer to hear the public’s views and concerns about the project.

Media visit to a Pebble exploratory drill rig. A 2012 KDLG file photo
Credit Jason Sear/ KDLG

April 3, 2018 update: A ninth scoping meeting will be held in New Stuyahok on April 13. Locations and times of all meetings can be found here

March 23, 2018 update: USACE has announced an eighth scoping meeting. At the April 18 meeting in Igiugig, the public will be able to offer comment through public testimony, by computer, or through a court reporter.

Original article, March 21, 2018:

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced its estimated timeline for preparing an Environmental Impact Statement on the Pebble Mine Project.

The Pebble Limited Partnership submitted its federal permit application in December for an open pit copper, gold and molybdenum mine in Bristol Bay, near Iliamna Lake and Lake Clark. The Corps of Engineers is the lead agency responsible for reviewing the permit application, and the Environmental Impact Statement is a key piece of that review process.

The EIS incorporates public input and scientific study to identify potential environmental impacts on land, water, animals and communities. It also identifies and evaluates potential alternatives to the plans laid out in the permit that could mitigate negative impacts. The EIS findings of potential benefits and environmental impacts of the Pebble Project will weigh heavily in the final decision of whether or not to issue a permit for the proposed mine.

Next month, the Corp of engineers will hold a 30-day scoping period, starting April 1. The scoping period is an opportunity for the public to weigh in on the proposed mine.

“We will be holding public scoping meetings in seven venues currently, with the intent of soliciting comments from the public and interested parties to help inform our alternatives analysis as well as resource and other issues of concern,” said Shane McCoy, the program manager for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers regulatory program.

Those meetings will be held in:

  • King Salmon, April 9
  • Kokhanok, April 10
  • Homer, April 11
  • Iliamna, April 12
  • Nondalton, April 16
  • Dillingham, April 17
  • Anchorage, April 19

Computers and court reporters will be available to take comments at all those meetings. There will be an opportunity for public testimony in King Salmon, Kokhanok, Iliamna and Nondalton. Because the Corps of Engineers is expecting high turnout in Dillingham, Homer and Anchorage comments at those meetings will be taken by computer, handwritten comment and court reporter only.

The public can also submit comments remotely online and by mail.

McCoy stressed that comments that are specific in their views or concerns will be especially helpful as the Corps of Engineers incorporates public input into the EIS.

“As opposed to being general comments associated with preference for the project or against the project, if individuals could identify resources of concern or potential alternatives other than what the applicant is proposing that will help inform us as to what direction and the level of analysis on some of these resources that we will be considering,” McCoy said.

Some groups opposed to the Pebble Mine have expressed concern that a one-month scoping period will not provide adequate opportunity for testimony.

“The scoping piece of permitting is the public’s opportunity to help the Army Corps figure out what areas they should be considering and what impacts this type of project could have on our people,” said Alannah Hurley, executive director of the United Tribes of Bristol Bay. “We’re almost at the end of March right now. We have less than a month to prepare for these hearings that are going to be happening in the region. More than 30 days is what the people of Bristol Bay need.”

Times and locations of the April public scoping meetings will be announced later this month.

The Corps of Engineers plans to release a draft of the environmental impact statement in January of 2019. After that it will hold another round of public meetings and solicit public comments.

The Corps of Engineers estimates that it will finalize the environmental impact statement by the end of 2019. It anticipates making a decision about whether or not to issue a permit to the Pebble Mine Project shortly afterward, in early 2020.

Contact the author at avery@kdlg.org or 907-842-5281.