Some Y-K Delta residents are worried over the final Donlin EIS

People started trickling into a meeting May 31, 2018 to voice concerns about the final Environmental Impact Statement from the Army Corps of Engineers for the proposed Donlin gold mine. (Photo by Krysti Shallenberger/Alaska’s Energy Desk)

About 25 residents from the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta met on May 31 to air concerns about the final Environmental Impact Statement issued last month for the proposed Donlin gold mine.

Also attending the meeting were two representatives from the Stand For Salmon ballot initiative. David Cannon, a fish biologist who worked for the Kuskokwim River Watershed Council and lives in Aniak, spearheaded the gathering. He is trying to educate the Y-K Delta about what he sees as the dangers of the proposed mine.

“And I was involved early on in this process,” Cannon said. “A lot of people, at least early on and I think there are still some people today, that think if a project like this goes through this study, there’s going to be no impacts.”

Lindsey Bloom, a fishing advocate based in Juneau and one of the members of the Stand for Salmon initiative, urged the people in the room to protect the salmon in the Kuskokwim Delta. The final EIS isn’t the last decision in the lengthy permitting process.

“If you organized and vocal, I think that this administration, the Walker administration, will, you know, they are very receptive to hearing from Alaskans,” Bloom said. “And I think that It’s critical to reach out and voice your concerns.”

The meeting triggered emotions as one by one, people shared what the Kuskokwim River means to them. Bev Hoffman, a Bethel resident, says that the mine has divided close communities in the Y-K Delta.

“And it’s really, um, hard when you are fighting your own people about the health of this river and the health of the communities that live along it and we’re fighting money for a way of life,” Hoffman said.

The final EIS wrapped up its comment period for a section of the study at the end of May. The Army Corps of Engineers is scheduled to roll out its Record of Decision in August which will choose whether or not to issue a federal permit for the mine.