U.S. Army Corps Extends Donlin DEIS Comment Period One Month

by Anna Rose MacArthur on April 27, 2016

Donlin runway and camp site in summer 2014. Photo by Dean Swope / KYUK.

Donlin runway and camp site in summer 2014. Photo by Dean Swope / KYUK.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has granted a one-month extension on the comment period for the Donlin Gold mine draft environmental impact statement, or EIS.

The comment period, originally set to end Saturday, now will close May 31. The extension stretches the comment period for the more than 5,000 page document from five months to six—a time much shorter than many wanted.

Two Kuskokwim communities and three public interest groups requested a six-month extension to fully analyze and comment on the draft EIS. One of those communities, the Native Village of Napaimute, is a cooperating agency on the document. And one of those groups, the Alaska Community Action on Toxins, had collected over 160 signatures on a petition asking for a half-year extension when the Corps announced their decision Tuesday.

Keith Gordon with the Corps says the managers had already granted a longer than normal comment period initially and they consider an extra month sufficient time to review the material. Plus, he says, most people don’t read the whole draft.

“The vast majority of people who are commenting on these documents are commenting on a component of it. There are extremely few people who are attempting to go through the entire document and comment on everything,” Gordon said.

Gordon says the Corps has received more than 200 comments on the draft EIS, not including testimony collected at public meetings. How many of those comments request an extension, the Corps has not tallied. But Gordon says two federal cooperating agencies—the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service—have requested additional time.

Anyone requesting an extension beyond the one granted would need to supply, Gordon says, “substantial justification for why it’s necessary.”

The draft EIS is meant to be an unbiased disclosure of known or anticipated impacts from Donlin Gold’s proposed open pit gold mine, set about 10 miles north of the village of Crooked Creek and the Kuskokwim River.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misidentified the Iditarod Trail Committee’s personal conduct policy as a barrier to Iditarod mushers commenting on the Donlin project. The story has been corrected and the error removed. 

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