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Pebble Mine Update

Tim Smith

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I think a lot of us are following this issue.

From the AFS newsfeed:

    Pebble panels identify gaps in baseline study

    Posted 10/15/2012

    by - <mailto:mbauman@thecordovatimes.com> Margaret Bauman


    A second week of science panels, aimed at better informing stakeholders
    about whether a massive mine in Southwest Alaska can co-exist with the
    world's largest sockeye salmon fishery, is revealing the gaps in research by
    mine proponents.

    The research has not answered the question "what fraction of the Bristol Bay
    resources will be affected," said panelist Hal Geiger (AFS member, '03), a
    retired biologist and biometrician who spent years with the Alaska
    Department of Fish and Game.

    "We are lost in the details and we need to have this explained to us in a
    way that is easier to understand and gives us some confidence."

    Geiger, who now heads a fisheries research group in Southeast Alaska, is one
    of more than a dozen panelists from all over the United States participating
    without pay on panels dealing with a range of topics from geology and
    geochemistry to fish, wildlife and habitat. Each of four separate panels is
    being facilitated by The Keystone Center, a Colorado based organization
    hired by the Pebble Limited Partnership to present the mine proponents' case
    to the public. The panelists are serving without pay, with their travel and
    expenses covered, through Keystone, by the Pebble Limited Partnership. They
    are tackling sections of the 27,000 page environmental baseline study
    compiled by the PLP.

    The whole idea behind the panel discussions, spread over a total of six days
    at the University of Alaska Anchorage campus, is to help stakeholders make
    better-informed decisions about the critical choices before them, according
    to Keystone.

    The majority of residents of the Bristol Bay region are strongly opposed to
    the mine, which they feel would be destructive to the multi-million dollar
    commercial, sport and subsistence fisheries.

    Geiger was part of the panel on fish, wildlife and habitat Oct. 9-10, along
    with Stanley (Jeep) Rice of the Alaska Fisheries Center Auke Bay
    Laboratories, Charles (Si) Simenstad (AFS member, '11), a research professor
    at the University of Washington's School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences;
    and Mike Stone (AFS member, '80) , retired chief of fisheries for the
    Wyoming Game and Fish Department.

    Geiger, who has served as president of the Alaska chapter of the American
    Fisheries society, began his career with the Alaska Department of Fish and
    Game as a biometrician in 1982, and served as the chief biometrician for the
    Division of Commercial Fisheries in the late 1990s.

    Geiger said he was critical of the way Pebble scientists estimated abundance
    of salmon in the mine study area. "They produced index counts and neither I
    nor anyone else can explain what the relationship is between those index
    counts and the true number of salmon in the affected area," he said. "What
    Pebble needs to do is find a way to estimate the number of salmon who spawn
    in the affected area.

    "If Alaskans are going to make tradeoffs between mineral resources and
    salmon resources, I've tried to focus on the question 'has Pebble really
    provided the information to understand what those tradeoffs are. I don't
    think we have the information to understand those tradeoffs," he said.

    Each of the panel discussions has begun with an overview of the particular
    area of the baseline study from Pebble scientists. Then the panel of
    scientists gets into the discussion, asking a lot of questions of Pebble's
    scientists, and then the public physically present and listening over an
    Internet connection, are invited to ask questions of the panelists.

    The last of the panels, on socioeconomic and cultural dimensions, was slated
    for Oct. 10-11.

    Among the key critics of Pebble's baseline study is Carol Ann Woody, a
    prominent Anchorage-based fisheries scientist who has done a great deal of
    field work in the Bristol Bay watershed, including the area where the Pebble
    Limited Partnership proposes to build the mine.

    After assessing the salmon escapement studies in Pebble's document, Woody
    had several concerns about how salmon spawning and escapement were
    determined in that report.

    She questioned the approach, data quality and intended uses of the data.
    "Total spawning salmon or escapement was determined using intermittent
    aerial helicopter surveys in main stem rivers and select tributaries; most
    tributaries were not surveyed," she wrote in her assessment of the document.
    "Aerial surveys are unreliable methods for estimating total salmon
    escapement due to bias (undercounting of fish) and low precision (high

    "Total salmon escapement is not estimated," she said. "No detailed methods,
    models, assumptions or results are presented for total escapement

    Keystone's Todd Bryan, who is overseeing the series of panels in Anchorage,
    said the panel discussions are identifying places in the baseline studies
    that need to be improved, and also confirming things about the baseline
    studies that Pebble consultants have done well. He said he does not think
    the panel discussions have tipped the balance one way or the other.

    John Shively, Pebble's chief executive officer, said he expects the panel
    discussions will have some impact. "We have had a lot of recommendations and
    we will look at them," he said. "That's why we are doing this.

    "Sometimes people confuse methodologies to get at the science. Because we
    are using one methodology and there is another methodology, that doesn't
    mean we are using the wrong one," he said.

    The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which produced its own draft
    environmental assessment of potential impact of mining on the Bristol Bay
    watershed, has already held public hearings and had a peer review by an
    independent panel of scientists. The EPA's final report is anticipated to be
    complete by year's end.

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Never been to Alaska, but I sure am against this mine. I mean look at Prudoe Bay, it hasn't been the same since that oil spill way back when. All it takes is one major disaster to wipe out a fishery and many years to try and recover.

"you can always beat the keeper, but you can never beat the post"

There are only three things in life that are certain : death, taxes, and the wind blowing at Capps Creek!

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