FAIRBANKS — Alaska’s two Republican senators are concerned over the release of a draft environmental impact statement on the proposed Pebble Mine project. 

The Army Corps of Engineers published the draft EIS last week, sparking comment from both Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Sen. Dan Sullivan. 

Murkowski said she has not made it all the way through the EIS but has started digging into the 1,400 page document. 

“I have begun to do so and encourage all Alaskans to do the same, because it is critical for us to understand the potential impacts of this project,” Murkowski said. “As I have said before, we must have confidence that Bristol Bay’s world-class fisheries are fully protected, and I expect the Army Corps process to remain fair, rigorous and transparent as Alaskans provide their views.”

Murkowski has been hesitant about the Pebble Mine since the beginning of the scoping period, continuously noting that Alaska’s fishing industry is vital and she will only support the mine project if the two can coexist without damaging the fishery.

Sullivan met with reporters last week in Juneau, telling them he felt that 90 days is too short for a comprehensive comment period. 

“It’s a very legitimate request from my perspective to have more time to do the due diligence on a project of this size,” Sullivan said, noting that he would likely ask to extend the comment period. 

An inquiry Wednesday into whether Sullivan had made a move on this claim was not responded to by the senator’s office. Alaska Republican Rep. Don Young did not respond to a request for comment. In the past, Young has voiced support for the project but only if it would not damage fisheries in the process.

The proposed copper and gold mine set to be situated near Bristol Bay headwaters has been a source of controversy since its original conception years ago. Former Alaska Gov. Bill Walker was staunchly against the proposal, citing concerns over possible damages to one of Alaska’s most prominent fisheries

The public comment period for the draft EIS will begin March 1 and end May 30, according the Pebble project website. 

Public hearings will be held in nine different communities between March 25 and April 16.

The full schedule is as follows: 

• Naknek from 3:30-7:00 p.m. March 25 at Naknek School.

• Kokhanok from 3:30-7:00 p.m. March 26 at the Bingo Hall. 

• Newhalen from 3:30-7:00 p.m. March 27 at Newhalen School.

• Iguigig from 3:30-7:00 p.m. March 28 at Iguigig School.

• New Stuyahok from 1:00-5:00 p.m. March 29 at the Community Building.

• Nondalton from 3:30-7:00 p.m. April 8 at the Tribal Center.

• Dillingham from 4:00-9:00 p.m. April 9 at the elementary School.

• Homer from 3:30-9:00 p.m. April 11 at Homer High School.

• Anchorage from 12:00-8:00 p.m. April 16 at the Dena’ina Center.

The hearing schedule notes that those testifying at the Dillingham, Homer and Anchorage meetings should expect time limits but did not specify what those limits would be.

Those unable to testify in person can email drafteis@comments.pebbleprojecteis.com or send testimony by mail to: 

Program Manager, Regulatory Division, US Army Corps of Engineers, 645 G St., Suite 100-921, Anchorage, AK 99501.

Barring any complications or delays, the final EIS is estimated to be released in early 2020.

Contact staff writer Erin McGroarty at 459-7544. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMPolitics.