Permit Decision Delayed for Toxic Pebble Mine; Mitigation Plan Required
In late August, the Corps of Engineers announced
that the toxic open-pit Pebble Mine project, in its currently proposed form, cannot be permitted under Clean Water Act Section 404. This followed the Corps' late July release of a deeply flawed Final Environmental Impact Statement for the project - widely opposed
by many WPN members - that would devastate Alaska's Bristol Bay watershed. Now, the Corps has delayed its permitting decision for the massive copper and gold mine, requiring Pebble to submit within 90 days
a compensatory mitigation plan to "offset the identified unavoidable adverse impacts to aquatic resources and overcome significant degradation at the mine site." While this is a major victory in delaying Pebble Mine, it does not necessarily stop the project from moving forward if the Corps decides to approve a permit after Pebble submits a compensatory mitigation plan. Many - including many WPN member organizations, Native Alaskan tribes, and Members of Congress - are now focused on urging EPA to use its Clean Water Act Section 404(c) veto authority to stop the Pebble Mine project.
- Press release from the US Army: Army finds Pebble Mine project cannot be permitted as proposed
- Letter from the Corps to Pebble Limited Partnership, requiring Pebble to submit a compensatory mitigation plan within 90 days and delaying the Corps' permitting decision until that time.
- Bloomberg News: Trump Administration Said to Turn Away From Pebble Mine Support
- Technical comment letter to the Corps about the Final Environmental Impact Statement, from Trustees for Alaska on behalf of 12 organizations including WPN members Defenders of Wildlife, National Wildlife Federation, NRDC, and Sierra Club
- Technical comment letter to the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation opposing Clean Water Act Section 401 Water Quality Certification for Pebble, from Trustees for Alaska and WPN member Sierra Club on behalf of 16 organizations including WPN members Defenders of Wildlife, Friends of the Earth, National Wildlife Federation, NRDC, and Sierra Club
- Letter to EPA from 36 House Democrats, urging the EPA to use its Clean Water Act 404(c) authority to stop Pebble Mine.
- Letter to the Corps from 104 conservation, social justice, and civic organizations opposing Pebble Mine last year.
- Wild Salmon Center: Pebble Delay: What Happened, What’s Next
- NRDC: Stop the Pebble Mine, Save Bristol Bay
- Corps of Engineers: Pebble Project Environmental Impact Statement website, including the Final EIS documents.
Water Resources Development Act Update
On July 29, the House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to pass its version of the 2020 Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) bill (H.R.7575)
. The bill includes a number of good provisions on Water Protection Network priorities - including directing the Corps to implement the Principles, Guidelines, & Requirements (PR&G) and mainstreaming use of natural infrastructure. In June, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee unanimously passed its version of WRDA (S.3591)
but it has not yet gone to the Senate floor. The House and Senate are conferencing the bill behind-the-scenes this month.
In August, many Water Protection Network members joined a group sign-on letter led by the Clean Water for All Coalition supporting federal water infrastructure provisions, including those that advance the use of natural infrastructure, additional water infrastructure funding and availability of federal funding to frontline communities. Click here to see the final letter
Click here to see another letter with 64 groups
led by WPN members Southern Environmental Law Center and American Rivers, opposing an amendment that would have eliminated a key component of mitigation for the Corps of Engineers' Savannah Harbor Deepening Project and set a terrible precedent for civil works project mitigation in general. Please stay tuned for additional information and potential sign-on letters as WRDA advances through conferencing toward final passage.
- Click here for more information on the House WRDA bill.
- Click here for more information on the Senate WRDA bill.
- Click here to read about Water Protection Network WRDA priorities.
Other Selected News & Resources
- Hurricane Laura: E&E News: No safe drinking water for many in La, NPR: Millions Of Pounds Of Extra Pollution Were Released Before Hurricane Laura's Landfall, HuffPost: Hurricane Laura Hit The Oil And Gas Industry When It’s Down. But Don’t Expect A Reckoning.
- Remembering Katrina, and more extreme weather: NOLA.com: 15 years after Katrina, New Orleans levees are in the best shape ever. Experts say it's not enough, Vox: 2020’s “extremely active” hurricane season, explained, and The Atlantic: America Is Being Pummeled by Disasters.
- National Environmental Policy Act rollback updates: From WPN member Center for Biological Diversity: Documents: Trump Administration Waiving Rules for Oil Drilling, Mining: 50 Major Projects Could Be Exempted From Key Environmental Laws, and from The Hill: Major drilling projects among dozens fast-tracked after Trump order and 21 states sue White House over rollback of bedrock environmental law.
- Nationwide Permits: We expect to see the Corps of Engineers' Proposal to Reissue and Modify Nationwide Permits (that's the pre-publication version) published in the Federal Register soon, followed by a 60-day comment period. Here's the Corps' announcement.
- #VoteForCleanWater: First, check your voter registration status or register to vote today at VOTE411.org. Then, spread the word - with resources from the Choose Clean Water Coalition and the Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed's Civic Engagement Toolkit - now and on September 22, National Voter Registration Day, to encourage your members and supporters to make their voices heard around the year and on Election Day.
- Yazoo Pumps: From WPN member Audubon: Mississippi's Big Sunflower River Named #3 on 2020 America’s Most Endangered List
- Clean Water Act inspiration on fire: Outside Online: 51 Years Later, the Cuyahoga River Burns Again.
- Ecosystem services: U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC): A proposed ecosystem services analysis framework for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
- Flooding and buyouts: The New York Times: U.S. Flood Strategy Shifts to ‘Unavoidable’ Relocation of Entire Neighborhoods.
- Mining impacts to watersheds and public lands: From WPN member National Wildlife Federation, along with Trout Unlimited and Backcountry Hunters & Anglers: Critical Minerals Report: A Conservation Perspective.
- Natural infrastructure and resilience: The Revelator: Walls or Wetlands? How Southeast Cities Are Grappling With Rising Seas, and FEMA: Building Community Resilience with Nature-Based Solutions: A Guide for Local Communities.
- Water infrastructure: American Society of Civil Engineers: The Economic Benefits of Investing in Water Infrastructure: How a Failure to Act Would Affect the US Economic Recovery
If you would like to share news, resources, or something else in future WPN Updates, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Recent Public Notices
This is a non-comprehensive list of Corps of Engineers public notices from the Federal Register and Corps district websites, and select notices from other federal agencies. Please visit FederalRegister.gov, Corps division and district websites, and other federal agencies' websites for additional public notices. Click here for examples of comments and letters submitted to the Corps by WPN members.
Corps of Engineers Notices
- Published 9/02: Proposed Plan (PP) recommendation for future cleanup activities at the former Manassas Air Force Communications Facility (MAFCF), VA (Virtual public meeting on 9/22; comment deadline 10/02)
- Published 9/01: Table Rock Lake Oversight Committee; Meeting Notice (Meeting on 9/23)
- Published 9/01: Joint Notice from the Corps, EPA, USFWS, USDA NRDC, Ohio EPA and Department of Natural Resources: Guidelines for Wetland Mitigation Banking and In-lieu Fee Programs in Ohio, Version 2.0 (Details on virtual public meeting to be posted)
- Published 9/01: Scoping for Biscayne Bay and Southeastern Everglades Ecosystem Restoration (BBSEER) Feasibility Study, FL (Virtual public scoping meetings on 9/15 and 9/16; comment deadline 10/01)
- Published 8/28: Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement II for the Mississippi River and Tributaries (MR&T) Project, Mississippi River Mainline Levees (MRL) (Details on virtual public meeting to be posted; comment deadline 10/13)
- Published 8/27: Comment period extension for the Northshore Mine Milepost 7 tailings basin progression project, MN (Comment deadline 9/26)
- Published 8/27: Fordyce Briggs Plant mine application to fill wetlands adjacent to the Guadalupe River, Blue Bayou, and Spring Bayou in Victoria County, TX (Comment deadline 9/28)
- Published 8/27: Los Angeles District proposal to reissue Regional General Permit (RGP) 97 for hydroelectric power projects within the eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains, CA (Comment deadline 9/27)
- Published 8/26: Jacksonville District proposal to reissue Regional General Permit SAJ-105 (SAJ-105) in the West Bay watershed, FL (Comment deadline 9/24)
- Published 8/26: Draft Environmental Assessment for proposed water and sewer improvement project, Isle, MN
- Published 8/24: Manatee County Federal Shore Protection Project Supplemental Environmental Assessment, FL (Comment deadline 9/23)
- Published 8/24: Feasibility Study for San Francisco Waterfront Coastal Storm and Flood Risk Management, CA (Virtual public meetings on 9/16 and 9/17; comment deadline 10/21)
- Published 8/24: New Orleans District Section 404 General Permit for residential construction and discharge of fill materials, LA (Comment deadline 9/24)
- Published 8/21: Bald Eagle State Park Recreational Expansion Draft Finding of No Significant Impact and Environmental Assessment, PA (Comment deadline 9/21)
- Published 8/20: Early Scoping for the San Francisco Waterfront Flood Resiliency Study, CA (Comment deadline 10/21)
- Published 8/20: Notice of Intent To Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement for construction of the Proposed Delta Conveyance Project, Sacramento, San Joaquin, Contra Costa, and Alameda Counties, CA
- Published 8/18: Ala Wai Flood Control Project Engineering Documentation Report for new recommended plan, HI (Public input opportunities to be posted)
- Published 8/14: Upper Mississippi River draft master plan for the Twin Cities to Lock and Dam 10 in Guttenberg, IA (Comment deadline 9/17)
- Published 8/13: John W. Flannagan and North Fork of Pound River Lakes Master Plans Revision, VA (Comment deadline 10/08)
- Pre-publication version posted 8/03: Proposal to Reissue and Modify Nationwide Permits (60-day comment period will begin after the notice is published in the Federal Register)
Other Agency Notices