[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 108 (Tuesday, June 5, 2012)]
[Notices]
[Pages 33213-33215]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-13431]


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ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY

[FRL-9681-3; EPA-HQ-ORD-2012-0358]


An Assessment of Potential Mining Impacts on Salmon Ecosystems of 
Bristol Bay, Alaska--Peer Review Panel Members and Charge Questions

AGENCY: Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

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ACTION: Notice of availability and public comment period.

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SUMMARY: EPA is announcing the peer review panel members assembled by 
an independent contractor to evaluate the draft document titled, ``An 
Assessment of Potential Mining Impacts on Salmon Ecosystems of Bristol 
Bay, Alaska'' (EPA-910-R-12-004a-c). EPA is also announcing a three 
week public comment period for the draft charge questions to be 
provided to the peer review panel. The assessment was prepared by the 
U.S. EPA's Region 10 Office (Pacific Northwest and Alaska), EPA's 
Office of Water, and EPA's Office of Research and Development. The U.S. 
EPA conducted this assessment to determine the significance of Bristol 
Bay's ecological resources and evaluate the potential impacts of large-
scale mining on these resources.

DATES: The public comment period begins June 5, 2012, and ends June 26, 
2012. Comments should be in writing and must be received by EPA by June 
26, 2012.
    Availability: Draft charge questions are provided below. Copies of 
the draft charge questions are also available via the Internet on the 
EPA Region 10 Bristol Bay Web site at www.epa.gov/bristolbay. The draft 
document ``An Assessment of Potential Mining Impacts on Salmon 
Ecosystems of Bristol Bay, Alaska'' is also available on the Internet 
on the EPA Region 10 Bristol Bay Web site at www.epa.gov/bristolbay. A 
limited number of paper copies of the draft charge questions are 
available from the Information Management Team, NCEA; telephone: 703-
347-8561; facsimile: 703-347-8691. If you are requesting a paper copy, 
please provide your name, your mailing address, and title, ``Peer 
Review Charge Questions on An Assessment of Potential Mining Impacts on 
Salmon Ecosystems of Bristol Bay, Alaska.''
    Comments on the draft charge questions may be submitted 
electronically via www.regulations.gov, by email, by mail, by 
facsimile, or by hand delivery/courier. Please follow the detailed 
instructions provided in the SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION section of this 
notice.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: For information on the public comment 
period, contact the Office of Environmental Information Docket; 
telephone: 202-566-1752; facsimile: 202-566-9744; or email: 
ORD.Docket@epa.gov.
    For technical information concerning the report, contact Judy 
Smith; telephone: 503-326-6994; facsimile: 503-326-3399; or email: 
r10bristolbay@epa.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

I. Information About the Project

    The U.S. EPA conducted this assessment to determine the 
significance of Bristol Bay's ecological resources and evaluate the 
potential impacts of large-scale mining on these resources. The U.S. 
EPA will use the results of this assessment to inform the consideration 
of options consistent with its role under the Clean Water Act. The 
assessment is intended to provide a scientific and technical foundation 
for future decision making. The Web site that describes the project is 
www.epa.gov/bristolbay.
    EPA released the draft assessment for the purposes of public 
comment and peer review on May 18, 2012. Consistent with guidelines for 
the peer review of highly influential scientific assessments, EPA asked 
a contractor (Versar, Inc.) to assemble a panel of experts to evaluate 
the draft report. Versar evaluated the 86 candidates nominated during a 
previous public comment period (February 24, 2012 to March 16, 2012) 
and sought other experts to complete this peer review panel. The twelve 
peer review panel members are as follows:

    Mr. David Atkins, Watershed Environmental, LLC.--Expertise in 
mining and hydrology.
    Mr. Steve Buckley, WHPacific/NANA Alaska--Expertise in mining 
and seismology.
    Dr. Courtney Carothers--Expertise in indigenous Alaskan 
cultures.
    Dr. Dennis Dauble, Washington State University--Expertise in 
fisheries biology and wildlife ecology.
    Dr. Gordon Reeves, USDA Pacific NW Research Station--Expertise 
in fisheries biology and aquatic biology.
    Dr. Charles Slaughter, University of Idaho--Expertise in 
hydrology.
    Dr. John Stednick, Colorado State University--Expertise in 
hydrology and biogeochemistry.
    Dr. Roy Stein, Ohio State University--Expertise in fisheries and 
aquatic biology.
    Dr. William Stubblefield, Oregon State University--Expertise in 
aquatic biology and ecotoxicology.
    Dr. Dirk van Zyl, University of British Columbia--Expertise in 
mining and biogeochemistry.
    Dr. Phyllis Weber Scannel--Expertise in aquatic ecology and 
ecotoxicology.
    Dr. Paul Whitney--Expertise in wildlife ecology and 
ecotoxicology.

    The peer review panel will be provided with draft charge questions 
to guide their evaluation of the draft assessment. These draft charge 
questions are designed to focus reviewers on specific aspects of the 
report. EPA is seeking comments from the public on the draft charge 
questions and welcome input on additional charge questions consistent 
with the objectives of the assessment. The draft charge questions are 
as follows:
    (1) The assessment brought together information to characterize the 
ecological, geological, and cultural resources of the Nushagak and 
Kvichak watersheds. Was this characterization accurate? Was any 
significant literature missed that would be useful to complete this 
characterization?
    (2) A formal mine plan or application is not available for the 
porphyry copper deposits in the Bristol Bay watershed. EPA developed a 
hypothetical mine scenario for its risk assessment. Given the type and 
location of copper deposits in the watershed, was this hypothetical 
mine scenario realistic? Has EPA appropriately bounded the magnitude of 
potential mine activities with the minimum and maximum mine sizes used 
in the scenario? Is there significant literature not referenced that 
would be useful to refine the mine scenario?
    (3) EPA assumed two potential modes for mining operations: A no-
failure mode of operation and a mode outlining one or more types of 
failures. The no-failure operation mode assumes best practical 
engineering and mitigation practices are in place and in optimal 
operating condition. Is the no-failure mode of operation adequately 
described? Is the choice of engineering and mitigation practices 
reasonable and consistent with current practices?
    (4) Are the potential risks to salmonid fish due to habitat loss 
and modification and water quantity/quality changes appropriately 
characterized and described for the no-failure mode of operation? Does 
the assessment appropriately describe the risks to salmonid fish due to 
operation of a transportation corridor under the no-failure mode of 
operation?
    (5) Do the failures outlined in the assessment reasonably represent 
potential system failures that could occur at a mine of the type and 
size outlined in the mine scenario? Is there a significant type of 
failure that is not described? Are the assumed risks of failures 
appropriate?
    (6) Does the assessment appropriately characterize risks to 
salmonid fish due to a potential failure of water and leachate 
collection and treatment from the mine site? If not, what suggestions 
do you have for improving this part of the assessment?
    (7) Does the assessment appropriately characterize risks to 
salmonid fish due to culvert failures along the transportation 
corridor? If not, what suggestions do you have for improving this part 
of the assessment?

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    (8) Does the assessment appropriately characterize risks to 
salmonid fish due to pipeline failures? If not, what suggestions do you 
have for improving this part of the assessment?
    (9) Does the assessment appropriately characterize risks to 
salmonid fish due to a potential tailings dam failure? If not, what 
suggestions do you have for improving this part of the assessment?
    (10) Does the assessment appropriately characterize risks to 
wildlife and human cultures due to risks to fish? If not, what 
suggestions do you have for improving this part of the assessment?
    (11) Does the assessment appropriately describe the potential for 
cumulative risk from multiple mines?
    (12) Does the assessment identify the uncertainties and limitations 
associated with the mine scenario and the identified risks?
    The preferred method to submit comments on the draft peer review 
charge is through the docket, which is described below. This docket is 
separate from the docket collecting public comments on the draft 
assessment itself. The EPA will evaluate comments received on these 
draft charge questions. Charge questions will be finalized and provided 
to EPA's independent contractor, Versar, Inc., who will convene the 
expert panel for independent external peer review.
    The external peer review panel meeting is scheduled to be held in 
Anchorage, AK on August 7, 8, and 9, 2012. The public will be invited 
to attend on August 7 and 8, 2012. Further information regarding the 
external peer review panel meeting will be announced at a later date in 
the Federal Register.

II. How to Submit Technical Comments to the Docket at 
www.regulations.gov

    Submit your comments, identified by Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-ORD-2012-
0358, by one of the following methods:
     www.regulations.gov: Follow the on-line instructions for 
submitting comments.
     Email: ORD.Docket@epa.gov. Include the docket number EPA-
HQ-ORD-2012-0358 in the subject line of the message.
     Fax: 202-566-9744.
     Mail: Office of Environmental Information (OEI) Docket 
(Mail Code: 28221T), Docket  EPA-HQ-ORD-2012-0358, U.S. 
Environmental Protection Agency, 1200 Pennsylvania Avenue NW., 
Washington, DC 20460. The phone number is 202-566-1752. If you provide 
comments by mail, please submit one unbound original with pages 
numbered consecutively, and three copies of the comments. For 
attachments, provide an index, number pages consecutively with the 
comments, and submit an unbound original and three copies.
     Hand Delivery: The OEI Docket is located in the EPA 
Headquarters Docket Center, Room 3334, EPA West Building, 1301 
Constitution Avenue NW., Washington, DC. The EPA Docket Center Public 
Reading Room is open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through 
Friday, excluding legal holidays. The telephone number for the Public 
Reading Room is 202-566-1744. Deliveries are only accepted during the 
docket's normal hours of operation, and special arrangements should be 
made for deliveries of boxed information. If you provide comments by 
hand delivery, please submit one unbound original with pages numbered 
consecutively, and three copies of the comments. For attachments, 
provide an index, number pages consecutively with the comments, and 
submit an unbound original and three copies.
    Instructions: Direct your comments to Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-ORD-
2012-0358. Please ensure that your comments are submitted within the 
specified comment period. Comments received after the closing date will 
be marked ``late,'' and may only be considered if time permits. It is 
EPA's policy to include all comments it receives in the public docket 
without change and to make the comments available online at 
www.regulations.gov, including any personal information provided, 
unless a comment includes information claimed to be Confidential 
Business Information (CBI) or other information whose disclosure is 
restricted by statute. Do not submit information that you consider to 
be CBI or otherwise protected through www.regulations.gov or email. The 
www.regulations.gov Web site is an ``anonymous access'' system, which 
means EPA will not know your identity or contact information unless you 
provide it in the body of your comment. If you send an email comment 
directly to EPA without going through www.regulations.gov, your email 
address will be automatically captured and included as part of the 
comment that is placed in the public docket and made available on the 
Internet. If you submit an electronic comment, EPA recommends that you 
include your name and other contact information in the body of your 
comment and with any disk or CD-ROM you submit. If EPA cannot read your 
comments due to technical difficulties and cannot contact you for 
clarification, EPA may not be able to consider your comments. 
Electronic files should avoid the use of special characters and any 
form of encryption and be free of any defects or viruses. For 
additional information about EPA's public docket visit the EPA Docket 
Center homepage at www.epa.gov/epahome/dockets.htm.
    Docket: Documents in the docket are listed in the 
www.regulations.gov_index. Although listed in the index, some 
information is not publicly available, e.g., CBI or other information 
whose disclosure is restricted by statute. Certain other material, such 
as copyrighted material, will be publicly available only in hard copy. 
Publicly available docket materials are available either electronically 
in www.regulations.gov or in hard copy at the OEI Docket in the EPA 
Headquarters Docket Center.

    Dated: May 30, 2012.
Darrel A. Winner,
Acting Director, National Center for Environmental Assessment.
[FR Doc. 2012-13431 Filed 6-4-12; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 6560-50-P