EPA Withdraws Proposed Pebble Mine Restrictions: By Brian Beaton

The Bristol Bay watershed is home to world-class commercial and recreational fisheries that include sockeye, Chinook, coho, chum, and pink salmon. The status of Pebble Mine, a massive open-pit mine proposed in the watershed, has ebbed and flowed for years. But a recent decision by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has brought renewed focus on the project, particularly from commercial and recreational anglers.

On July 30, 2019, EPA Region 10 withdrew proposed restrictions for Pebble Mine. Issued in 2014, its proposed restrictions sought to limit discharge of dredged and fill material.The restrictions served as a substantial obstacle to the project because of the importance of tailings storage and discharge management to mine operations.

As part of the announcement, the Regional Office’s administrator stated that the 2014 determination on restrictions was “issued preemptively and is now outdated.”  He added that “[t]oday’s action does not approve Pebble’s permit application or determine a particular outcome in the Corp’s permitting process. Instead, it allows EPA to continue working with the Corps to review the current permit application and engage in the National Environmental Policy Act process.”

While the mine developers move forward with plans for the project, opponents are pursuing legislative options and working to ensure that EPA’s previous review comments are incorporated into the remaining permitting process that will be largely managed by the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers. These include EPA’s concerns that earlier environmental reviews underestimated potential impacts and lacked detailed plans about project operations and mitigation efforts. For all involved in this project, especially anglers concerned about the indigenous fisheries of the Bristol Bay watershed, the stakes have never been higher.



Author Bio: Brian Beaton is a friend of T&T who shares our love of fishing and conservation.  In addition to being a passionate angler, he is a lawyer and writer who periodically shares interesting conservation-related topics with us.   

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