There are two major opportunities during the EIS process for the public to ask questions, identify concerns, and offer other ideas: Scoping and Draft EIS.
What is Scoping?
Scoping is a formal process where the Corps reaches out to interested parties early in the development of the EIS to identify areas of concern that should be fully addressed in the EIS. The scoping process for the Donlin Gold Project EIS provided opportunities for people who would be affected by the proposed action to express their views and concerns, and offer suggestions, including alternatives to consider in the development of the Draft EIS. An important part of scoping was holding public meetings. The project area includes 66 Tribes and other communities. Scoping was conducted January through March 2013 and has now been concluded. A Scoping Report has been prepared and describes issues of concern that were identified during the scoping process. These issues will be carried forward for analysis into the preparation of the Draft EIS. Issue Summaries from each scoping meeting are also available here.
What was heard during Scoping?
During scoping, the Corps advertised and sent newsletters to about 1,000 stakeholders and 7,500 mailboxes in the Yukon-Kuskokwim region. The Corps received letters, emails, and verbal comments from almost 500 attendees at scoping meetings. Out of approximately 2,600 comments received there were about 42 broad issue topics raised. Issues raised were related to barge traffic, subsistence traditions, mercury, water, fish, wildlife and birds, impacts to people and local communities, public health, suggestions for project alternatives and monitoring and mitigation. The issues raised were summarized in the Scoping Report that can be downloaded here.
Next Opportunities to Comment
The Draft EIS is currently in the early stages of preparation and is expected to be available for public review in the fall of 2014. During the preparation of the Draft EIS, scientists will address issues provided during scoping and describe potential impacts that construction, operation, closure and post-closure of the project could have on the physical, biological, and social environments. The Draft EIS will address long-term cumulative effects, consider a reasonable range of alternatives consistent with the Corps' legal mandates, and analyze a range of practical mitigation and monitoring measures to protect public health, water quality, wildlife, and subsistence resources. During the Draft EIS review period, the Corps will seek input through public testimony, written comments, and electronic comments.