US Army Corps extends comment period on Pebble’s draft EIS

A base camp at the site of the proposed Pebble Mine. (Photo by Isabelle Ross/KDLG)

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has extended the public comment period on its draft environmental review of the proposed Pebble Mine. The final day to submit comments is now June 29. The comment window was originally scheduled for 90-days, ending May 30.

The move comes a week after Senator Lisa Murkowski asked the Army Corps to extend the period by 30 days. Senator Dan Sullivan has also expressed concern that the original comment period was too short.

Since the draft was published in February, opponents of  the mine have repeatedly called for more time to weigh in on the 1,668-page draft, which also has 1,550 pages of appendices. But some are unsatisfied – not only with the length of the extension, but with the process itself. Tyson Fick is a spokesperson for Commercial Fishermen of Bristol Bay.

“We don’t need another 30 days to tell us that this EIS is fatally flawed, and they should go back to the drawing board,” he said.

Those sentiments were echoed by Lindsay Layland, deputy director of the United Tribes of Bristol Bay. According to her, offering a 30-day extension is insufficient.

“We’re at the busiest time of year for the people of Bristol Bay and major stakeholders who are coming in for their salmon season,” she said.

Layland’s group and others have called for a 270-day comment period.

Parties on the other side of the issue aren’t happy, either. Pebble spokesperson Mike Heatwole says they are disappointed with the decision, and that prolonging the process is serving no one.

“You get to a point in a public comment window where you start to wonder, ‘How much more time is really necessary for folks to weigh in?’” he said.

However, Heatwole commended the Army Corps for what he sees as a transparent review process.

While the comment period for the draft review of Pebble’s permit application is extended, the comment period for the application itself is not. According to an Army Corps spokesperson, that window ends May 30. The 404 permit is part of the Clean Water Act. It would allow dredged and fill materials to be discharged in waters and wetlands.