December 1, 2022
SEATTLE – On December 1, 2022, EPA Region 10 Regional Administrator Casey Sixkiller transmitted to EPA’s Office of Water Assistant Administrator Radhika Fox, a Clean Water Act Section 404(c) Recommended Determination to prohibit and restrict the use of certain waters in Alaska’s Bristol Bay watershed as disposal sites for certain discharges of dredged or fill material associated with developing the Pebble Deposit.
After evaluating an extensive record, including scientific and technical information covering nearly two decades, and after considering public comments received on the 2022 Proposed Determination, EPA Region 10 determined that these discharges would be likely to result in unacceptable adverse effects on salmon fishery areas in the South Fork Koktuli River, North Fork Koktuli River, and Upper Talarik Creek watersheds of Bristol Bay.
“EPA Region 10’s action represents the third step in EPA’s four-step Clean Water Act Section 404(c) review process,” said EPA Region 10 Administrator Casey Sixkiller. “If affirmed by EPA’s Office of Water, this action would help protect salmon fishery areas that support world-class commercial and recreational fisheries and that have sustained Alaska Native communities for thousands of years, supporting a subsistence-based way of life for one of the last intact wild salmon-based cultures in the world.”
The Recommended Determination proposes to prohibit the specification of certain waters of the United States in the South Fork Koktuli River and North Fork Koktuli River watersheds as disposal sites for the discharge of dredged or fill material for the construction and routine operation of the mine plan described in Pebble Limited Partnership’s June 8, 2020 CWA Section 404 Permit application, as well as future proposals to construct and operate a mine to develop the Pebble Deposit that would result in the same or greater levels of loss or change to aquatic resources. The Recommended Determination also proposes to restrict the use of certain waters of the United States in the South Fork Koktuli River, North Fork Koktuli River, and Upper Talarik Creek watersheds as disposal sites for the discharge of dredged or fill material associated with future proposals to develop the Pebble Deposit that would result in adverse effects similar or greater in nature and magnitude to those associated with the 2020 Mine Plan.
EPA’s Office of Water will now review the Recommended Determination and the administrative record supporting Region 10’s decision, as well as any information provided by the United States Army Corps of Engineers, the owners of record, and the applicant about their intent to take corrective action to prevent unacceptable adverse effects, before issuing a Final Determination affirming, modifying, or rescinding the Recommended Determination.
EPA’s regulations do not require public notice of Recommended Determinations and EPA is not seeking additional public comment. Given the considerable interest in this process, an informational copy of the Recommended Determination is available on EPA’s Bristol Bay website at: http://www.epa.gov/bristolbay.
In May 2022, EPA Region 10 released for public review and comment, a revised Proposed Determination under Clean Water Act Section 404(c) to prohibit and restrict the use of certain waters in the Bristol Bay watershed as disposal sites for the discharge of dredged or fill material associated with mining the Pebble Deposit.
Bristol Bay’s salmon resources have significant nutritional, cultural, economic, and recreational value, both within and beyond the region. The total economic value, including subsistence uses, of the Bristol Bay watershed’s salmon resources was estimated at more than $2.2 billion in 2019. The Bristol Bay commercial salmon fishery generates the largest component of this economic activity, resulting in 15,000 jobs and an economic impact of $2.0 billion in 2019, $990 million of which was in Alaska.