The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Pacific Ocean Division announced on Wednesday that it has offered a permit to IPOP, LLC to dredge for gold in the Bonanza Channel estuary east of Nome.

Army Corps 'offers' IPOP a permit to dredge Bonanza Channel estuary

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Pacific Ocean Division announced on Wednesday that it has offered a permit to IPOP, LLC to dredge for gold in the Bonanza Channel estuary east of Nome.

The permit was awarded after IPOP adjusted its plan to reduce its environmental impact by about 33 acres, the Corps said in a press release.

The Nevada-based company’s initial plan would have impacted 192.5 acres of vegetated shallows and mudflats in Bonanza Channel and Safety Sound. Presumably the new plan will impact about 160 acres.

"The Corps is committed to protecting the Nation’s aquatic resources while allowing reasonable development," Brig. Gen. Kirk Gibbs, the division engineer for the Corps’ Pacific Ocean Division, said in a statement. "Given the facts and information available, I determined that the revised project is permittable and not contrary to the public interest.”

According to the Corps, the permit requires IPOP to monitor environmental resources during operations and for two years post-completion. It also requires the company to enact “adaptive management measures” to ensure the regrowth of aquatic vegetation.

Gibbs concluded that “while the estuary would likely recover from most impacts, monitoring and mitigation measures are necessary to safeguard fish, wildlife, and water quality and ensure estuary recovery.”

Local entities have voiced strong concern over how dredging in this area would impact the environment and subsistence activities. The Village of Solomon, the tribe closest to the impacted area, held a government-to-government consultation about the issue with the Corps in the January.

IPOP holds 32 state mining claims in the Solomon area, but it has been waiting on a federal permit from the Corps to begin operations. The agency regulates the discharge of dredge and fill materials under and Section 404 of the Clean Water Act. The Corps is also charged with protecting navigable waterways under Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act.

IPOP’s permit, which it first applied for in 2018, was denied by the Corps’ Alaska District in September 2022 on the grounds that the project did not present the least environmentally damaging alternative. The Alaska District had also determined IPOP would impact subsistence opportunities and that the application did not include substantive information or coherent plans. At the time the Corps said that very few proposals of this kind are denied, and that those that are rejected typically have refused to alter aspects of their plans.

After IPOP appealed that decision, the Pacific Ocean Division reopened the permit application for review.

In its appeal and lawsuits against the federal agency, IPOP alleged the Alaska District has shown bias in favor of Alaska Native tribes and corporations. In reconsidering IPOP’s proposal, Gibbs wrote in a memo last year that the “even the appearance of bias” was “concerning.”

The Corps did not immediately respond to the Nugget’s request for more information about IPOP’s altered plan and how it arrived at the decision.

The press statement said the Alaska District will administer this permit.

 

The Nome Nugget

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Phone: (907) 443-5235
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