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Bristol Bay

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

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Report Information

[UPDATE] In March 2014, EPA released a response to public comments on the 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.

Background

Cover of the Bristol Bay, Alaska Draft 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 (USEPA) 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. The USEPA 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; the USEPA 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 2011EPA launches the Bristol Bay Assessment.
Aug 2011Draft assessment approach and conceptual models presented to Intergovernmental Technical Team.
Feb 2012EPA 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 2012On May 18, EPA announced the release of the draft report, An Assessment of Potential Mining Impacts on Salmon Ecosystems of Bristol Bay, Alaska, (Press Release May 18, 2012) for public review and comment. [Federal Register May 25, 2012]
Jun 2012EPA announced an independent scientific peer review panel that will review the draft Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment. In addition, EPA announced the draft charge questions, which will help guide the panel's consideration of EPA's assessment. The public has an opportunity to comment on these draft charge questions during a public comment period, which begins on June 5 and ends on June 26, 2012. [Federal Register Notice Jun 5, 2012]
Jul 2012EPA announced the external peer review meeting for the review the draft report that would be open to the public. [Federal Register Notice Jul 6, 2012]
Aug 2012EPA convened a panel of experts, then organized and conducted an independent expert external peer review meeting on August 7-9, 2012 in Anchorage, Alaska, to review the draft report entitled An Assessment of Potential Mining Impacts on Salmon Ecosystems of Bristol Bay, Alaska (EPA/910/R-12/004/a-d).
Nov 2012EPA released the final peer review report from the independent expert external peer review meeting held in August .
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]
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) and EPA's Response to Peer Review Comments document. [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

Dec 2012: EPA is updating the assessment in response to over 230,000 public comments and the comments received from expert peer reviewers. EPA plans to have a group of qualified experts review the revised draft assessment prior to completion of the assessment. The Agency is working to determine the schedule, scope, and methodology of this additional review. No deadline for completing the assessment has been set.

Additional Information

Note on PRINTING VOLUMES 1 - 3: We recommend that you save the larger files (volumes) to your pc for printing rather than from the web site. We have had reported errors when trying to print directly from the links.

CHARGE: Comments on the draft charge 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-2012-0358 (for the docket ID). This docket is open from June 5 - 26, 2012.

REPORT: 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-2012-0276 (for the docket ID). This docket is open from May 18 - July 23, 2012.

Citation

U.S. EPA. An Assessment of Potential Mining Impacts on Salmon Ecosystems of Bristol Bay, Alaska (First External Review Draft). U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, DC, EPA 910-R-12-004a-d, 2012.

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