February 2011

14 February 2011

EPA to review proposed Pebble Mine project for water quality issues

Last week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced plans to conduct a scientific assessment of the Bristol Bay watershed in order to better understand how future significant development projects may affect the water quality and salmon populations. EPA stated its assessment was initiated after Native Tribes and others, including Bristol Bay Native Corporation (BBNC), petitioned EPA in 2010 to use its authority under the Clean Water Act, Section 404(c). BBNC asked EPA to "carefully tailor a prohibition of the discharge of dredged or fill material from the proposed Pebble mine," to prevent "an unacceptable risk of irreparable harm to water, fishery and wildlife resources."

EPA's assessment will focus primarily on the Nushagak and Kvichak watersheds. It will examine the effects of hard-rock mining projects, as well as consider the effects of large-scale development in general.

EPA has stated it will accept and consider public input during development of the watershed assessment. A public comment period usually lasts between 30 and 60 days; a public hearing is usually held during the comment period.

Check back for updates regarding timelines for public hearings and comment periods.

Read the press release from EPA.

Read an editorial about EPA's decision in The New York Times: The Risk to Bristol Bay.

Read an article about EPA's assessment in the Anchorage Daily News: EPA: Agency simply monitoring, not halting Alaska development.

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04 February 2011

Forum encourages conversation and curiosity

The Iliamna Development Corporation held a two-day meeting at the end of 2010 where people from Native villages Igiugig, Iliamna, Kokhanok, Newhalen and Nondalton assembled to discuss the particularly divisive Pebble mine project.

The prevailing them of the meeting turned out to be educational, as community members spent their time asking questions of the government agencies, Native corporations, and industry consultants in attendance, according to a November 18 Bristol Bay Times article that covered the gathering. Subjects discussed included information about permitting mines, how communities and other Native corporations are working with mining companies, and how citizens should use the permitting period to voice their comments and concerns.

"We are pleased to see this level of interest, which means the kind of discussion that needs to go on is happening," said Tiel Smith, Land and Resource Manager at BBNC, who attended the meeting.

While not a substitute for the voice of the board, Pebble Watch is BBNC's outreach to the community on the Pebble development. This resource was created to be an objective sharing of information, providing a clear, fact-based focus. We commend the community leaders for arranging this high-quality event and will be looking forward for another opportunity for more complete interaction with community members. Plans are underway to bring Pebble Watch to even more communities, as promised at the meeting.

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01 February 2011

BBNC video on Responsible Resource Development

'Pebble-Watch'-watchers may appreciate viewing the recently produced Bristol Bay Native Corporation (BBNC) video on responsible land and resource development, which has already been shown at some Pebble Watch meetings and other BBNC functions.

"Responsible Development: Our People, Our Land, Our Companies," explores BBNC's responsible development land-use policy. It features BBNC leaders and shareholders discussing the story of the past, present and future of the company and development of BBNC-owned lands in Southwest Alaska. Communities mentioned include Togiak and Kokhanok.

Though not about the mine project specifically, the video was inspired in part by many of the questions and conversations that have come up regarding the corporation's stance on Pebble Mine, confirms BBNC Communications Coordinator Amy DeBruhl. "We realized it is also a consistent way to showcase our views to the public," she says.

Land & Resources Manager Tiel Smith, who was among those interviewed, says the video "reflects very well just how thoughtful we have to be—and are being—as a people, as a region and as a corporation, as we confront the complexities that come with potential development."

In addition to showing the video at shareholder meetings, BBNC plans to mail out DVDs to village corporations and tribal councils and show it on GCI Channel 1 later this year. The video was produced by BBNC and Alaska Channel, and it is available to view at the BBNC website.

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