Alaska mine project submits wetlands impact reduction plan
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — The Pebble Partnership has submitted a draft plan for reducing the open-pit mine project’s impact on wetlands and salmon-bearing streams in Alaska’s Bristol Bay region.
The mitigation plan includes cleaning beach debris, improving fish passage in compromised waters and upgrading water treatment systems in area villages, The Alaska Journal of Commerce reported Wednesday.
The proposed mine and its associated infrastructure would include 65 miles (105 kilometers) of roads, ports and a gas pipeline of about 180 miles (290 kilometers) from the Kenai Peninsula to help power the operation.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers published the plan Jan. 27. The Clean Water Act mandates the wetlands mitigation and the Army Corps of Engineers oversees wetlands fill permitting.
The Corps holds the final authority over how Pebble must mitigate its wetlands impacts and could amend the company’s proposal.
Pebble expects to disrupt about 5 square miles (13 square kilometers) of wetlands and water bodies under federal jurisdiction.
The plan anticipates 3 square miles (8 square kilometers) will be permanently impacted and more than 70% of that would be at the mine site.
The plan indicates Pebble’s first mitigation initiative is upgrading water treatment facilities in the villages of Newhalen, Nondalton and Kokhanok. Demand on the wastewater treatment systems exceeds the handling capacity in all the communities, the plan said.
The company also plans to restore salmon access for up to 8.5 miles (14 kilometers) of habitat primarily around Dillingham, the largest community in the Bristol Bay region.
Nondalton Tribal Council President George Alexie said his council has opposed Pebble “from day one.”
The mitigation plans do not do enough to offset damage to large areas of spawning and rearing habitat at the mine site, Alexie said.