Pebble Project protestors rally as Army Corp of Engineers scoping continues

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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - Outside an event meant to educate the public about the proposed Pebble Mine project in Alaska’s Bristol Bay region, protestors gathered to denounce the progress the project has made thus far.

"We need to stand strong as we speak up for the salmon," said Nondalton resident Danielle Stickman, "for clean water, for the last subsistence cultures in this country."

As the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ scoping process continues, the opportunity for the public to submit comments about issues that should be addressed in the upcoming Environmental Impact Statement remains. Corps officials said an early draft of that document should be released publicly by the end of January of 2019.

Pebble Ltd. Partnership spokesperson Mike Heatwole said in a written statement Thursday that "this is scoping, which is an identification process, not the time for opinions. That will come when we get the next comment period for the draft Environmental Impact Statement," he said.

The Corps of Engineers has garnered hundreds of comments from people around the state about the development of Pebble Mine.

"We've had about 580 that have been put directly into the computer, whether at meetings or in someone's home or public area," said Sheila Newman of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. "Our court reporters have had about 200 entered. And maybe 550 comments through our email system as well."

Those against the development of Pebble Mine, however, don't seem to find the efforts to mean much, particularly when the education on Pebble is being produced by Pebble Partnership personnel.

"It's a puff piece," said Rick Halford, an advocate for keeping the mine out of Bristol Bay. "It's designed to say all the good and none of the bad about what this proposal entails."

Opponents have primarily cited the adverse affects the mine could have on the local environment, well-known as a prominent fishing ground and fragile ecosystem comprising a variety of animals and natural resources.

The next step will be drafting the environmental impact statement, which U.S. Army Corps of Engineers spokespersons said will likely be done by January of 2019.