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

Dozens of people filed into the stands in the Alice Witte Gymnasium to give their comments

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.

Community members submit comments about the Draft EIS for the proposed Pebble Mine to the Army Crops of Engineers through computers set up at an April 11, 2019 public hearing at Homer High School in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)

Community members submit comments about the Draft EIS for the proposed Pebble Mine to the Army Crops of Engineers through computers set up at an April 11, 2019 public hearing at Homer High School in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)

More in News

Dr. Katherine Ortega Courtney speaks during the 100% Alaska Community Town Hall on Saturday, June 3, 2023, at Peninsula Center Mall in Soldotna, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
100% Alaska survey results, state of services discussed at town hall

Change 4 the Kenai leads conversation about access to mental health, housing, transportation

Soldotna High School senior Josiah Burton testifies in opposition to a proposed cut of Kenai Peninsula Borough School District theater technicians while audience members look on during a board of education meeting on Monday, March 6, 2023, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Awaiting state funding, board of ed works to bring back staff positions

Alaska lawmakers this session passed a budget bill that includes $175 million in one-time funding for Alaska’s K-12 schools

David Brighton (left) and Leslie Byrd (right) prepare to lead marchers from the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex to Soldotna Creek Park as part of Soldotna Pride in the Park on Saturday, June 3, 2023 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
‘Nobody Can Drag Us Down’: Soldotna celebrates LGBTQ+ pride

The event featured food trucks, vendors and a lineup of performers that included comedy, drag and music

Judges Peter Micciche, Terry Eubank and Tyler Best sample a salmon dish prepared by chef Stephen Lamm of the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank at Return of the Reds on Saturday, June 3, 2023, at the Kenai City Dock in Kenai, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai celebrates ‘Return of the Reds’ in food bank fundraiser

Chefs competed for best salmon recipe; fresh-caught fish auctioned

A freshly stocked rainbow trout swims in Johnson Lake during Salmon Celebration on Wednesday, May 10, 2023, at Johnson Lake in Kasilof, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Excellent lake fishing, good halibut and slow salmon

Northern Kenai Fishing Report for June 1

Map via Kenai Peninsula Borough.
Assembly to consider emergency service area for Cooper Landing

Borough legislation creating the service area is subject to voter approval

Peter Micciche (center) listens to the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly certify the results of the Feb. 14, 2023, special mayoral election, through which he was elected mayor of the Kenai Peninsula Borough, on Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2023 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Thousands respond to borough services survey

Many of the survey questions focused on the quality of borough roads

Two new cars purchased by the Soldotna Senior Center to support its Meals on Wheels program are parked outside of the center in Soldotna, Alaska, on Wednesday, March 30, 2022.(Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion file)
Soldotna budget defunds area senior center

The unanimous vote came after multiple people expressed concerns about how the center operates

An Epidemiology Bulletin titled “Drowning Deaths in Alaska, 2016-2021” published Wednesday, May 31, 2023. (Screenshot)
Health officials say Alaska leads nation in drowning deaths, urge safe practices

A majority of non-occupational Alaska drownings occur in relation to boating, both for recreation and for subsistence

Most Read