Senior scientist summarizes Donlin EIS comments

by Sophie Evan on May 31, 2013

Taylor Brelsford, Senior Scientist Donlin EIS

Taylor Brelsford, Senior Scientist Donlin EIS

The Army Corps of Engineers just finished the first round of gathering public comments on the proposed Donlin Gold mining project. The senior scientist working on the Environmental Impact Statement, or EIS, recently summarized what was heard during the three months he traveled within the Yukon Kuskokwim region.

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Taylor Brelsford is the senior scientist working with the Army corps of engineers in putting together the EIS. His team of four, including a Yup’ik translator, gathered 300-letters, and over 25-hundred comments. Brelsford says there are 431 common themes.

“the scoping process was quite successful in allowing a lot of people to teach us about the concerns in the region,” says Brelsford, “very often people in the communities would talk about the importance and the value of traditional knowledge of traditional understandings of land and animals.”

Brelsford says the main concerns expressed included air and water quality, above and below ground, hazardous chemicals leaching into the surrounding environment, the barge traffic, new people competing for local resources, noise pollution, and social economic concerns to name a few.

“and those could affect the spawning grounds, or fish migrations, that’s the open question that people want us to look into, displacing existing users in the river, so the commercial fisheries in the lower part of the river, or subsistence fishing all up and down the river, people are saying how is this all going to fit together?” says Breslford, “elders can speak from their heart, about the importance of their children and future children growing up in the richness of Yup’ik culture.”

Brelsford added that some comments were directed at how local people could change how they think about nature.

“a big development project could change ideas, a lot of new people in the region could look differently at the natural world and this could become a pressure for rapid cultural change,” says Brelsford.

The draft EIS report will be out for public comment by August 2014. Then people will have until November 2014 to make additional comments or corrections, and another round of public hearing will begin. A newsletter will be mailed out this June, and the scoping project report will be online in July. Tribes can still request a government-to-government consultation. For KYUK, I’m Sophie Evan.

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