The federal Environmental Protection Agency said Monday that it will review the consequences of large-scale development projects, such as the proposed copper and gold Pebble mine, in the Bristol Bay watershed.
The EPA said it is launching the review in response to petitions last year from several Southwest Alaska tribes, commercial fishing groups and other organizations opposed to Pebble. Those groups are worried about the potential impact of large-scale mining on Bristol Bay's world-class salmon runs.
The EPA, however, did not give the petitioners what they had requested. The agency declined to formally consider blocking mining waste disposal in waterways downstream of the Pebble deposit. The agency said it might -- or might not -- consider taking that step in the future.
"The Bristol Bay watershed is essential to the health, environment and economy of Alaska," said EPA Regional Administrator Dennis McLerran.
"Gathering data and getting public review now, before development occurs, just makes sense. Doing this we can be assured that our future decisions are grounded in the best science and information and in touch with the needs of these communities," McLerran said.
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