A long-awaited federal report released Wednesday concludes that a large gold and copper mine in the Bristol Bay area poses significant risks to the region's thriving sockeye salmon runs and its people -- an assessment praised by environmental, fishing and Native groups as sound science and sharply criticized by the group trying to develop the proposed Pebble mine as rushed and flawed.
The Environmental Protection Agency has spent three years studying the potential impacts on salmon of a large, open pit mine in the Bristol Bay region, where half of the world's sockeye salmon are produced. The final report comes after two drafts, 1.1 million public comments and two reviews by an independent 12-member panel of experts.
Among EPA's findings, just building the mine would destroy between 24 to 94 miles of salmon-supporting streams and 1,300 to 5,350 acres of wetlands, ponds and lakes, depending on the mine's size.
"There are clear losses of habitat from the mine footprint and from the mining activities themselves," Dennis McLerran, administrator for EPA's Seattle-based region 10, said in an interview Wednesday. The lost habitat means "significant risks to fish and wildlife and the cultures that are there."