Corps of Engineers allows Pebble appeal for critical permit

State ruled ineligible to participate in appeals process

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officials have accepted a request from the Pebble Limited Partnership to appeal the Corps’ denial of a key environmental permit needed to develop the copper, gold and molybdenum mine in Southwest Alaska’s Bristol Bay watershed.

Northern Dynasty Minerals, the Canadian parent company of the PLP, contends that denial of the permit is contrary to law and fundamentally unsupported by the administrative record, including the Pebble project environmental impact statement.

Under the appeals process laid out by the Corps for permit denials, it could be months before a decision on the appeal is reached on the critical Clean Water Act permit needed for development of the mine project.

The state does not meet the definition of an affected party and therefore cannot be an authorized participant in the appeal conference, said U.S. Army Col. Kirk E. Gibbs, of the Pacific Ocean Division of the Corps. The affected party is defined as a permit applicant, a landowner, or a lease, easement or option holder who has substantial legal interest in the property, he wrote in a letter to state officials denying their appeal.

Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy called the appeal denial “another example of the federal government imposing a flawed decision that blocks Alaska’s ability to responsibly develop its land and resources,” Those rights are laid out in the Alaska Statehood Act and the Alaska Constitution, the governor said. “We will not stop fighting for Alaska’s economic prosperity,” he said.

The state will continue to pursue all options to have Alaskans heard in this process, he said.
Environmental and commercial fisheries interests said the Corps’ decision to review its denial of the PLP’s 404 dredge and fill application highlights an urgent need for permanent protections in the region for those dependent on Bristol Bay’s wild salmon runs, so they are not subject to further uncertainty.


Commercial Fishermen for Bristol Bay noted that the Corps denial of that permit application in November was based on the conclusion that it does not comply with Clean Water act guidelines and that the proposed mine is contrary to the public interest. The association sent a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency urging immediate use of its authority under Section 404(c) of the Clean Water Act to protect the waters of Bristol Bay, home of the world’s largest run of wild sockeye salmon.

“Until the EPA establishes protections in Bristol Bay from Projects like Pebble mine, our livelihoods and our nation’s premier wild salmon fishery will not be safe,” said Katherine Carscallen, director of Commercial Fishermen for Bristol Bay.

The Corps decision to hear the mining company’s appeal further indicates that now is the time for the EPA to step in and take action to reenact lasting protections for Bristol Bay, said Tim Bristol, executive director of SalmonState, a nonprofit environmental entity that works to ensure that salmon and the people who depend on them thrive in Alaska. “An EPA veto will stop this toxic project and put Pebble’s B.S. to rest,” Bristol said.