The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced Monday that it will conduct a study of Alaska’s Bristol Bay watershed to assess the potential impact of development projects on the area’s commercial sockeye salmon fishery.
The agency said it decided to perform the scientific review after being petitioned by the Bristol Bay Native Corp. and nine Alaska native tribes, which voiced concerns over the Pebble Mine development project.
The proposed gold, copper, and molybdenum mine would be located between two of the region’s major salmon spawning streams and just west of the state’s largest lake.
“By 2006 estimates, the open pit mine would be two miles wide and produce up to 2.5 billion tons of acid-generating waste rock and discharged chemicals,” the Bristol Bay Native Corp. said in requesting the study, according to seattlepi.com.
Opponents of the prospect also say the mine would have a footprint covering 15 square miles, and that its accompanying network of roads and power lines would effectively transform the landscape and locals’ way of life, AP reports.
John Shively, chief executive of Pebble Limited Partnership, called the review premature, saying the proposal is still in the planning stages. Gov. Sean Parnell also said he thought it would be better to wait for the permit applications, AP reports.
Republican Alaska Rep. Don Young slammed the EPA’s decision on Monday, saying the agency is “blatantly circumventing” the state’s permit process.
“Gathering data and getting public input now, before development occurs, just makes sense,” said EPA Regional Administrator Dennis McLerran. “Doing this we can be assured that our future decisions are grounded in the best science and information and in touch with the needs of these communities.”