Lieutenant Colonel Penny Bloedel addresses a crowd of people at an April 11, 2019 public hearing hosted by the Army Corps of Engineers to take public comments on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed Pebble Mine, held at Homer High School in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)

Lieutenant Colonel Penny Bloedel addresses a crowd of people at an April 11, 2019 public hearing hosted by the Army Corps of Engineers to take public comments on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed Pebble Mine, held at Homer High School in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)

Homer community weighs in on Draft EIS for Pebble Mine

People from the Homer community and beyond flocked to Homer High School last Thursday to testify on the proposed Pebble Mine project, as well as the draft environmental impact statement (EIS) put forward by the Army Corps of Engineers, which is tasked with evaluating a permit application from Pebble Limited Partnership.

Dozens of people filed into the stands in the Alice Witte Gymnasium to give their comments at the public hearing hosted by the corps. Others sat down at tables near the back of the room to submit their comments electronically.

The Army Corps of Engineers has authority over:

• The discharge of fill material for construction of the road system and the proposed port

• Working in navigable waters

It does not have authority over the proposed mine plan for operations with respect to how the minerals will be extracted, how they’ll be transported, or how the mine will deal with tailings dams. All of those operations would have to be approved through permits by different state agencies.

While much of the testimony presented at the hearing was either vague or not related to the corps’ EIS, some who gave public comments did address the document, saying it was lacking and incomplete. Commenters said the document downplays the consequences of mine activity to the ecology of the area, and several said they were disappointed that it did not take a deeper look at the social and economic impacts to the Bristol Bay area.

Many who testified urged the corps to scrap the Draft EIS and start it over, saying that would be the only way for them to get it right.

Part way through the meeting, community members went outside the school to join a rally organized by Cook Inletkeeper, which had its own agenda and speakers. At the end of the rally, protesters marched into the building with the intention of marching into the hearing in the gymnasium whilst chanting and playing musical instruments. They were met at the door to the gym, where a member of the public who was also there to testify against the mine told them the demonstration was making it difficult to hear the testimony being given inside.

Over and over again, members of the public told the corps to reach the same conclusion: “No action.” This refers to the option the corps has, after the final EIS, to deny the Pebble Mine permit application. The other option would be to approve the application, with or without special conditions attached to it.

Others at the meeting urged the corps to extend the public comment period for the draft document, saying the deadline of May 30 is not enough time. During an interview before the public hearing, Sheila Newman, deputy chief of the corps’ Regulatory Division, said a decision of whether or not to extend the deadline for a comment period is not typically made before two thirds of the way through the current comment period.

That means the corps hasn’t reached that point yet. Public comment periods are required to be at least 45 days. The current comment period has been extended to 90 days.

“The public can expect a decision on that toward the end of April, more like at day 60 of 90-day comment period,” Newman said. “I can tell you that we’ve had requests for extension, (and) we’ve had requests to not extend from a variety of audiences.”

Newman said a team of about five people from the corps, as well as a third-party contractor with a group of about 20-30 people, are responsible for looking at and analyzing public comments on the EIS.

“We gather all the comments first, and we review all of them, and put them in categories for resource concerns,” she said. “Then we develop what’s called statements of concerns, based on those comments, and we respond to those statements of concern in the final EIS.”

She emphasized that pubic hearings are not the only way for people to submit comments on the document. People can send public comments by emailing them to drafteis@comments.pebbleprojecteis.com or mailing them to:

Program Manager

US Army Corps of Engineers

645 G St.

Suite 100-921

Anchorage, AK 99501

To download and read the Draft EIS, visit www.pebbleprojecteis.com.

Reach Megan Pacer at mpacer@homernews.com.

Protesters stand in the Homer High School Commons at the end of a rally held by Cook Inletkeeper at the same time as a April 11, 2019 public hearing hosted by the Army Corps of Engineers to take comments on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed Pebble Mine, held at the high school in Homer, Alaska. The protesters marched from their rally outside the school into the commons with the intention of marching into the hearing. (Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)

Protesters stand in the Homer High School Commons at the end of a rally held by Cook Inletkeeper at the same time as a April 11, 2019 public hearing hosted by the Army Corps of Engineers to take comments on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed Pebble Mine, held at the high school in Homer, Alaska. The protesters marched from their rally outside the school into the commons with the intention of marching into the hearing. (Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)

More in News

COVID-19. (Image CDC)
Case count dips after 5 record days of positive cases

Alaska has had 1,338 cases of the disease since the state began tracking the pandemic in March.

Courtesy photo | Colleen Torrence
                                Marcella Livemond (left) and her niece, Colleen Torrence, pose in an undated photo.
‘A death that wasn’t theirs’: Local woman says Juneau COVID-19 death incorrectly counted

Deceased was listed as Juneau resident, her niece says she never lived here.

Homer Farmers Market: Options abound for fresh local food

July is upon us with all the regular harvest surprises. The Wednesday… Continue reading

A member of the Homer Senior Citizens Center float marches in the July Fourth parade on Thursday, July 4, 2019 on Pioneer Avenue in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)
Some July fourth events continue on southern peninsula

Amid the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic in Alaska, celebrating Independence Day is… Continue reading

Barbara Howard (top left), Matt Clarke (top right), Kate Finn (center left), Andrea Browning (center right) and Aaron Weisser (bottom left) listen to Homer city manager candidate Rob Dumouchel (bottom right) speak during an interview with the City Manager Hiring Committee on Monday, June 29, 2020 via Zoom in Homer, Alaska. (Screenshot by Megan Pacer/Homer News)
Hiring committee recommends candidate for city manager

After hearing what he had to say, members of the City Manager… Continue reading

Gov. Mike Dunleavy speaks at a press conference on June 30, 2020, in Anchorage, Alaska. (Photo by Austin McDaniel/Governor’s Office)
‘Don’t get complacent,’ governor says of pandemic

As Alaska saw one of its highest single-day increases in new positive… Continue reading

Homer City Hall. (Homer News file photo)
Relief grants for small Homer businesses now available

Using a portion of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES)… Continue reading

Registered Nurse Cathy Davis (left) and Chief Nursing Officer Dawn Johnson (right) work at a table to get COVID-19 tests ready for the public Friday, May 29, 2020 at the Boat House Pavilion on the Homer Spit in Homer, Alaska. South Peninsula Hospital is now offering free COVID-19 testing for asymptomatic people with no appointments necessary at the Boat House Pavilion through June 6. (Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)
3 cities, 3 testing strategies

Peninsula communities take different approaches to COVID-19 testing.

Most Read