EPA moves to protect world's largest salmon fishery from Alaska mine

Sponsored by


WASHINGTON, DC, Feb. 28, 2014 -- Under the Clean Water Act (CWA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is initiating a process to identify appropriate options to protect the world's largest sockeye salmon fishery in Bristol Bay, Alaska, from the potentially destructive impacts of the proposed Pebble Mine.

The Pebble Mine has the potential to be one of the largest open-pit copper mines ever developed and could threaten a salmon resource rare in its quality and productivity. During this process, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers cannot approve a permit for the mine. This action, requested by EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, reflects the unique nature of the Bristol Bay watershed as one of the world's last prolific wild salmon resources and the threat posed by the Pebble deposit, a mine unprecedented in scope and scale.

EPA is basing its action on available information, including data collected as a part of the Agency's Bristol Bay ecological risk assessment and mine plans submitted to the Securities and Exchange Commission. Today, Dennis McLerran, EPA Regional Administrator for EPA Region 10, sent letters to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the State of Alaska, and the Pebble Partnership initiating action under EPA's Clean Water Act Section 404(c) authorities.

"Bristol Bay is an extraordinary natural resource, home to some of the most abundant salmon producing rivers in the world. The area provides millions of dollars in jobs and food resources for Alaska Native Villages and commercial fishermen," McLerran said. "The science EPA reviewed paints a clear picture: Large-scale copper mining of the Pebble deposit would likely result in significant and irreversible harm to the salmon and the people and industries that rely on them."

Based on information provided by The Pebble Partnership and Northern Dynasty Minerals, mining the Pebble deposit may involve excavation of a pit up to one mile deep and over 2.5 miles wide -- the largest open pit ever constructed in North America. Disposal of mining waste may require construction of three or more massive earthen tailings dams as high as 650 feet. The Pebble deposit is located at the headwaters of Nushagak and Kvichak rivers, which produce about half of the sockeye salmon in Bristol Bay.

The CWA generally requires a permit under Section 404 from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers before any person places dredge or fill material into wetlands, lakes and streams. Mining operations typically involve such activities and must obtain CWA Section 404 permits. Section 404 directs EPA to develop the environmental criteria the Army Corps uses to make permit decisions. It also authorizes EPA to prohibit or restrict fill activities if EPA determines such actions would have unacceptable adverse effects on fishery areas.

See also: "EPA Regional Focus: Spotlight on the Pacific Northwest"

###



Sponsored by

TODAY'S HEADLINES

Water sector groups announce Water Week 2015 taking place in April

Next month, a diverse group of major U.S. water sector organizations will come together and join forces in Washington, D.C., to support Water Week 2015.

Xylem appoints new senior vice president, president of Emerging Markets

Xylem announced that it has appointed Steven Leung as senior vice president and president of Emerging Markets for the company -- a newly created position -- effective Wednesday, April 1, 2015.

Badger Meter officially named platinum sponsor of ACE15

For the third consecutive year, Badger Meter has been named the Platinum Sponsor of American Water Works Association's 134th Annual Conference and Exposition, taking place June 7-10 at the Anaheim Convention Center in the city of Anaheim, Calif.

Central Basin, Park Water extend partnership for recycled water project

Park Water Company recently announced that it has been awarded a two-year extension for its current contract to operate and maintain Central Basin Municipal Water District's E. Thornton Ibbetson Century Water Recycling Project.

FOLLOW US ON SOCIAL MEDIA