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Subsistence And Economic Impacts Top Comments On Donlin Draft EIS

The USACE presenting the Donlin Gold EIS in Nunapitchuk.
Anna Rose MacArthur

Two weeks remain to comment on the Donlin Gold mine draft environmental impact statement, or EIS. Most comments so far focus on subsistence and economic impacts, according to Keith Gordon, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers project manager overseeing the over 5,000 page document.

Last Monday the Army Corps and AECOM wrapped up several months of traveling the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta and other areas of the state to present the draft to affected communities and to collect public testimony.

The U.S. Army Corps is the lead federal agency on the draft EIS, and AECOM is the international engineering and environmental firm contracted to write the document. Gordon presented the draft at every public meeting.

“Common comments and questions [on the draft EIS] related largely to subsistence impacts, potential impacts to barging, impacts to salmon in the rivers, [and] a variety of comments and questions regarding socio-economic impacts and jobs,” Gordon said.

Gordon says the closer the community sits to the mine site the greater that community emphasized subsistence concerns. Support for economic benefits, however, remained evenly advocated for throughout the region. But those observations, Gordon says, are anecdotal, because the Army Corps is not statistically analyzing the comments.

With the public comment meetings completed, Gordon says the Army Corps is working to resolve issues with the draft EIS brought up between the document’s cooperating agencies, who are demanding varying levels of analysis and detail.

The Army Corps is continuing to collect comments on the draft EIS through April 30. Gordon says the Corps has received 200 comments so far in addition to the meeting comments.

Gordon says most comments on draft EIS’ arrive on or near the final comment day, and projects of Donlin’s scale usually receive tens to hundreds of thousands.

Some entities like the Bethel City Council are requesting the Army Corps extend the comment period to allow individuals more time to absorb and testify on the document. The Army Corps has not released its decision on that request.