Bonanza Channel

Local entities unite in opposition to IPOP, call for congressional intervention

Six local entities have signed a joint letter calling for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to overrule a “flawed” decision to award a mining permit to IPOP.
The Nevada-based company was just given federal permission for a controversial project to dredge for gold in the Bonanza Channel near Solomon.
The letter opposing IPOP was sent on Monday to the region’s state and national representatives, said Kirsten Timbers, president of the Village of Solomon—the tribe whose homelands are closest to the proposed mining site.
“For the protection of the pristine environment and subsistence resources of the Bonanza Channel and Safety Sound Estuary, we urge your intervention,” the letter said.
In addition to the Village of Solomon, the letter was signed by Solomon Native Corporation, Kawerak, Inc., Bering Straits Native Corporation, Sitnasuak Native Corporation and Norton Sound Economic Development Corporation.
Last month, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Pacific Ocean Division awarded the permit to IPOP after the company amended its application to slightly reduce the footprint of its impact, from 192.5 acres down to 159.4 acres.
IPOP’s success in obtaining a permit came as a surprise because it reversed a previous decision by the Corps’ Alaska District. In denying the permit in 2022, the Alaska District determined IPOP’s project would have significant impacts to the environment and subsistence opportunities and would not be in the public’s interest.
The new decision by the Pacific Ocean Division “fails to consider the opposition of local testimony and comments, is contrary to actions requested during Tribal Consultation with the Village of Solomon, and ignores the recommendations of the US Fish and Wildlife Service and NOAA,” the joint letter said.
The organizations that signed the letter had previously submitted comments asking IPOP’s permit be denied when the application was first under consideration. When this application was being reconsidered more recently during the appeal process, the Village of Solomon met with representatives of the Pacific Ocean Division to express their concerns.
The letter expressed concerns about potentially irreversible impacts on the local aquatic ecosystem and fisheries resources, as the Bonanza Channel is an important place for fish and wildlife to produce young and seek shelter from predators. The signees also noted the area’s importance for subsistence.
“There are approximately 10 Native Allotments and over 100 campsites all along the Bonanza Channel area due to its prime location for hunting, fishing, and gathering, helping to ensure food security,” the joint letter said.
The letter noted that the southern Seward Peninsula is in the midst of a salmon crisis.
“The majority of salmon that enter the Bonanza Channel and Safety Sound Estuary come through the easternmost outlet just past the Bonanza Bridge,” the letter said. “If IPOP is allowed to dredge and mine these waters, their operations will impact salmon migration, further exacerbating salmon declines.”
The groups additionally note that Safety Sound has been documented “as an important rearing and growth habitat for juvenile chum salmon as they migrate to the ocean.”
The organizations said they are requesting congressional intervention as well as an Engineer Inspector General Report “on the process that led to the reversal of the [Corp’s] thoroughly and publicly considered initial permit denial.”
They are also asking the Corps’ Headquarters in Washington, D.C., to overrule the Pacific Ocean Division’s “flawed reversal of the Alaska Division’s original permit denial.”
As of press time, the Nugget was still waiting for a Freedom of Information Act request to be fulfilled for more documents related to the Corps’ decision. Thus far, the Corps has declined to provide more information about how it decided to award IPOP a permit.

 

The Nome Nugget

PO Box 610
Nome, Alaska 99762
USA

Phone: (907) 443-5235
Fax: (907) 443-5112

www.nomenugget.net

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