The proposed Pebble Mine would include a 550 foot high tailings dam that would hold roughly 30 billion cubic feet of mining wastes. But how a dam breach of any size might affect the Bristol Bay watershed is not included in the draft environmental impact statement now out for public review.

 “There are so many things that are not being considered in the draft EIS, so many holes that technical experts have identified. I just hope they is a way to point out the flaws so the US Army Corps of Engineers will have to restart this process because if these flaws are accepted then there’s going to be a mine plan that if executed, is not going to be modern, it’s not going to be safe, it’s not going to be environmentally friendly as the Pebble proponents would like us to think.”

March 28-30 in Kodiak

Melanie Brown is a Bristol Bay setnetter and spokesperson for the group Commercial Fishermen for Bristol Bay.

“The only modeling they did around a failure has to do with valve failures around mine waste water. It doesn’t even begin to represent the damage that would take place if a dam failed, whether partially or a full breach.”

Pebble opponents hired hydrology specialists to model the fallout should a breach occur in the upper Nushagak region that is part of the mine footprint. It shows tailings would flow all the way to the Bay with just a partial dam failure.

 “The reason that a private consulting firm had to do that is because that modeling of a catastrophic dam failure is not included in the draft EIS process. That alone is a huge flaw.”

The Corps’ report claims such a “catastrophic” release is “extremely unlikely.”

The 1,400 page document says impacts on fish and wildlife “would not be expected” and long-term changes to the health of Bristol Bay or Cook Inlet fisheries “would not be expected” during the 20 year life of the mine.

After the public comment period ends on May 31 a final impact statement and a record of decision will be issued, likely next year. That will go to the state of Alaska to challenge portions or sign off on it. Brown worries it could be a repeat of the Donlin Mine in western Alaska.

 “What happened with the Donlin gold project is that when the state received the record of decision from the NEPA process at the federal level they signed off on it the very same day it was received and they didn’t question any components. And after that they started moving ahead with the state permits.”

Modeling of dam breaks from Pebble will be shown next Friday at ComFish in Kodiak. Meanwhile, Brown urges people to stay engaged and send in comments.

“We have to keep the drum beat rolling and make sure people are involved in this process. Our hope is that the more people who are involved we can push back on this thing. I feel like that’s the only hope that we have.”

Find links here or send emails to —

Mailing address: Program Manager, US Army Corps of Engineers, 645 G St. #100-921 Anchorage 99501