EPA to release draft Bristol Bay assessment

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said it plans to release its draft revised assessment document of the Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment this spring and complete the assessment in 2013.

In a statement at the Alaska Forum on the Environment on Tuesday, EPA Regional Administrator Dennis McLerran spoke to the controversial watershed assessment, telling the audience what to expect as far as a timeline for releasing the draft document. The EPA plans to let peer reviewers have another look at the EPA’s revised document, McLerran said.

“Today, I am announcing that we will be releasing a draft revised assessment document this spring and will be seeking additional public comment on that draft,” McLerran said, according to a written copy of his speech released to press. “We are making arrangements to have the original 12 independent experts review the revised assessment and evaluate whether the revised draft has been responsive to their peer review comments. We intend to complete the assessment in 2013 after this additional round of review and comment is completed.”

The EPA, which launched the assessment of the potential impact from mining in the watershed of the rich fishing ground last year, has faced criticism from many, including Alaska’s lawmakers, who said the federal agency has overstepped its bounds. Today, the EPA critics also included those opposed to the Pebble Mine, a copper and gold mine prospect located in the headwaters of Bristol Bay.

Pebble opponents released several statements Tuesday calling on the EPA to quicken the pace of its action, and switch to a path that included limiting future mining development in the watershed area.

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