USACE accepting comment on Pebble DEIS through June 29

Norm Van Vactor, executive director of the Bristol Bay Economic Development Corp. in Dillingham, speaks for opponents of the Pebble mine at a rally in Anchorage. Photo by Margaret Bauman for the Cordova Times

A U.S. Army Corps of Engineers decision to extend the public comment period on the Pebble Limited Partnership draft environmental impact statement 30 days, from May 30 to June 29, is being greeted with a decided lack of enthusiasm on both sides.

“A 30-day extension of a very failed process is a small victory,” said former Alaska Senate President Rick Halford. “They should start over with a real economic analysis of its feasibility, scientific proof of their proposal and objective analysis of alternatives, including the obvious conclusion that investors have made after hundreds of millions of dollars in lawsuits that the only options is to say ‘no.’ ”

“While the decision is unfortunate, we are pleased it was for only 30 days,” said Mike Heatwole, spokesman for the PLP. “This does push the comment period into June when most Alaskans are out enjoying summer.”

The Corps’ decision came in the wake of urging from Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, to extend the comment period for another 30 days.

Bristol Bay harvesters had sought a 270-day comment period.

If the Army Corps was actually serious about including Bristol Bay’s fishing industry in the EIS process, then they would have granted the request for a 270 day comment period instead of ending it during the busiest month of the year,” said Ben Blakey, of Northline Fisheries, one of several processors who were preparing to again harvest the wild salmon harvest of Bristol Bay.


“Anyone who understands Alaska knows that June is when Bristol Bay’s fishermen, seafood processors and local residents are focused on getting our boats, nets and plants ready for the return of 40 million sockeye salmon. We are all slammed,” he said.

“It’s time for Murkowski to choose,” said Lindsey Bloom, a Bristol Bay harvester and manager of Commercial Fishermen for Bristol Bay. “She doesn’t have to be for or against the Pebble mine. She either has to represent Alaskans or Pebble, and by not demanding a higher standard of quality on the EIS she is doing Pebble’s bidding.”

The Corps’ announcement on May 3 also came in the wake of a report from environmental non-profit Cook Inletkeeper, which compiled data from the Senate Lobbying Disclosure Act showing that since 2007, the PLP has spent millions of dollars lobbying in Washington D.C. on behalf of the project.

The report, online at, contends that since the beginning of the Trump administration, Pebble has paid $4.43 million to in-house and external lobbyists.