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Environmental Assessment

An Assessment of Potential Mining Impacts on Salmon Ecosystems of Bristol Bay, Alaska (Second External Review Draft)

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Report Information

[UPDATE] In March 2014, EPA released a response to public comments on the second draft document, "An Assessment of the Potential Mining Impacts on Salmon Ecosystems of Bristol Bay, Alaska" (see downloads). In Jan 2014, EPA released a response to peer review comments on this draft report as well.

The Bristol Bay watershed in southwestern Alaska supports the largest sockeye salmon fishery in the world, is home to 25 federally recognized tribal governments, and contains large mineral resources. The potential for large-scale mining activities in the watershed has raised concerns about the impact of mining on the sustainability of Bristol Bay’s world-class commercial, recreational and subsistence fisheries and the future of Alaska Native tribes in the watershed who have maintained a salmon-based culture and subsistence-based way of life for at least 4,000 years. The purpose of the assessment is to provide a characterization of the biological and mineral resources of the Bristol Bay watershed, increase understanding of the potential impacts of large-scale mining on the region’s fish resources, and inform future governmental decisions related to protecting and maintaining the physical, chemical and biological integrity of the watershed. As a scientific assessment, it does not discuss or recommend policy, legal or regulatory decisions, nor does it outline or analyze options for future decisions.

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Judy Smith
  • by phone at:   503-326-6994
  • by email at:  smith.judy@epa.gov

Background

Cover of the Second Draft of the Bristol Bay Assessment Report The Bristol Bay watershed in southwestern Alaska supports the largest sockeye salmon fishery in the world, is home to 25 federally recognized tribal governments, and contains large mineral resources. The potential for large-scale mining activities in the watershed has raised concerns about the impact of mining on the sustainability of Bristol Bay’s world-class fisheries, and the future of Alaska Native tribes in the watershed who have maintained a salmon-based culture and subsistence-based lifestyle for at least 4,000 years. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) launched this assessment to determine the significance of Bristol Bay’s ecological resources and evaluate the potential impacts of large-scale mining on these resources. EPA will use the results of this assessment to inform the consideration of options consistent with its role under the Clean Water Act. The assessment is intended to provide a scientific and technical foundation for future decision making; EPA will not address use of its regulatory authority until the assessment becomes final and has made no judgment about whether and how to use that authority at this time.

History/Chronology

Feb 2012USEPA invited the public to nominate qualified experts to be considered for the external peer review panel. [Federal Register Notice Feb 24, 2012] and [Federal Register Notice Mar 8, 2012]
May 2012USEPA released the first external review draft, An Assessment of Potential Mining Impacts on Salmon Ecosystems of Bristol Bay, Alaska (EPA/910/R-12/004a-d), for public comment and scientific peer review.
Aug 2012USEPA convened a panel of experts, then organized and conducted an independent external peer review meeting which culminated in a public peer review meeting on August 7-9, 2012 in Anchorage, Alaska. [Federal Register Notice Jul 6, 2012]
Nov 2012USEPA released the final peer review report from the independent external peer review.
Apr 2013USEPA released the second external draft assessment, An Assessment of Potential Mining Impacts on Salmon Ecosystems of Bristol Bay, Alaska (EPA/910/R-12/004Ba-c) for public review and comment. [Federal Register Notice Apr 30, 2013]
May 2013EPA extended the public comment period for the revised Bristol Bay Assessment an additional 30 days. The public comment period now ends June 30, 2013.
Jan 2014On January 15, 2014, EPA released the final report entitled An Assessment of Potential Mining Impacts on Salmon Ecosystems of Bristol Bay, Alaska (EPA 910-R-14-001A-C,ES). [Federal Register Notice Jan 21, 2014]
Jan 2014EPA released two new documents related to the peer review of the Bristol Bay Assessment (BBA). The first document, EPA’s Response to Peer Review Comments document, presents an overview of the BBA’s peer review process; all of the peer reviewers’ comments on both the May 2012 and April 2013 drafts of the assessment; and EPA’s responses to the peer reviewers’ comments. The second document, Peer Review Follow-on Comments on the April 2013 Draft Bristol Bay Assessment, presents the follow-on reviews EPA received from the 12 independent expert peer reviewers. These follow-on reviews address whether each reviewer felt the April 2013 draft of the BBA was responsive to their comments on the May 2012 draft.
Mar 2014EPA released two new documents related to comments received from the public on the review of the Bristol Bay Assessment (BBA). The first document, EPA’s Response to Public Comments document (Apr 2013 BBA Draft), presents EPA's response on the public comments from the April 2013 draft, the second document contains the comments received from the May 2012 draft of the assessment.

Next Steps

It is EPA’s goal to finalize the assessment in 2013, after carefully considering additional public comments, conducting tribal consultations, and assessing input from the expert peer reviewers.

Additional Information

Note on PRINTING: To print these files, we recommend that you save the larger files (particularly the full volumes) to your computer for printing rather than printing from the web site. Some of the chapters contain oversize pages. If you do not have access to a printer that can print 11 x 17 pages, please be sure to set page scaling to “shrink to printable area” or “fit to printable area” when printing, which will allow all pages to print on 8.5 x 11 pages. If you have access to a printer that can print 11 x 17 pages, select “choose paper source by PDF page size”, which will allow oversize pages to print at full size.

Note on Comments: Comments on the assessment may be submitted and reviewed using the e-Government Regulations.gov Web site. From the site, select Environmental Protection Agency and the key word EPA-HQ-ORD-2013-0189 (for the docket ID).

Citation

U.S. EPA. An Assessment of Potential Mining Impacts on Salmon Ecosystems of Bristol Bay, Alaska (Second External Review Draft). U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, DC, 910-R-12-004Ba-c, 2013.

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