The Trump administration has determined that a proposed mine in Alaska would not impact salmon harvests in the area, reversing an Obama-era determination that it would.
“There would be no measurable change in the number of returning salmon,” said the new assessment of the environmental impacts of the controversial Pebble Mine.
It also said the project “would not be expected to have a measurable effect on fish numbers and result in long-term changes to the health of the commercial fisheries in Bristol Bay. “
The Bristol Bay area where the mine would be located is the world’s largest commercial sockeye salmon-producing region and opponents of the mine fear its discharges could contaminate local waters.
The assessment notes that wetlands and streams will see impacts from the mine. It’s expected to permanently affect between 2,226 and 2,261 acres of wetlands and other waters, including between 104.1 and 105.8 miles of streams.
Completing an evaluation of the project means the mine, the largest of its kind in North America, is now one step closer to construction.
Critics of the assessment said that it underestimated the potential for harm to water and fish.
“The Army Corps is jamming this through without regard for science or what the public wants—and they know it,” said a statement from Joel Reynolds, a senior attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council.
“To stick to its accelerated schedule, the agency has ignored major fatal flaws in its proposed review—from data gaps to environmental risks to social impacts,” he added, also vowing to challenge the mine “at every step.”
The EPA proposed under the Obama administration to preemptively veto a permit for the mine. The Trump administration reversed this action last year.