U.S. Army Corps Upholds Pebble Decision, Rejects Pebble Partnership’s Appeal

One of the early blows to the Pebble Mine was the the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which initially was set to approve a version of the Bristol Bay-area project, then reversed course and announced it wouldn’t approve a permit. After the State of Alaska unsuccessfully called on the Supreme Court of the United States to intervene, Pebble’s parent companies appealed the decision and is pursuing legal action. And this week the U.S. Army Corps has rejected a Pebble Limited Partnership appeal.

Here’s more from the Anchorage Daily News:

The Environmental Protection Agency in 2023 invoked a little-used power under the Clean Water Act to veto the mine on the grounds that it would cause “unacceptable, adverse” harm to the valuable Bristol Bay salmon fishery.

The decision trumped the standard federal permitting process playing out before the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

A “decision has been rendered that the EPA veto is a controlling factor, and the application is denied without prejudice,” the Corps said in the statement.

Here’s the Corps’ full statement:

Notification of Appeal Remand Decision for Pebble Limited Partnership’s Application

The United States (U.S.) Army Corps of Engineers (Corps), Alaska District, in accordance with regulations pursuant to Section 404 of the Clean Water Act (Public Law 95-217, 33 U.S.C. 1344 et. seq.) and/or Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Appropriation Act of 1899 (33 U.S.C. 403) issue the below special public notice.

The Pebble Limited Partnership (PLP) submitted a Department of the Army (DA) permit application to develop an open pit mine and associated infrastructure for development of the Pebble Deposit in December of 2017, which triggered an Environmental Impact Statement level of review under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). After analysis and revisions to the project during the NEPA process, PLP submitted a final modified DA application in June of 2020. The Corps subsequently developed a Record of Decision in November 2020 which denied the issuance of a permit. PLP administratively appealed the decision to Pacific Ocean Division (POD) and on April 24, 2023, the Administrative Appeal Decision was rendered to the Alaska District. It was determined that specific elements of the Request for Appeal had merit and the permit decision was remanded back to the Alaska District for reconsideration, additional evaluation, and documentation sufficient to support the decision.

In January 2023, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued their Final Determination of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Pursuant to Section 404(c) of the Clean Water Act – Pebble Deposit Area, Southwest Alaska. With this 404(c) determination (also referred to as “veto”), the EPA, “[prohibited] the specification of and restrict[ed] the use for specification of certain waters in the Bristol Bay watershed as disposal sites for certain discharges of dredged or fill material associated with development of a mine at the Pebble deposit.”

The memo transmitting the April 2023 Corps Administrative Appeal Decision to the Alaska District specifically instructed the Alaska District to evaluate the EPA’s decision to determine its

effect on how the District proceeds with its reconsideration of issues in the Appeal Decision determined to have merit.

This Special Public Notice is to notify parties who commented or participated in the original review that technical evaluation of the Administrative Appeal Decision in light of the EPA veto has occurred, and a decision has been rendered that the EPA veto is a controlling factor, and the application is denied without prejudice.

District Commander
U.S. Army, Corps of Engineers

Reaction to the news starts with this statement from Trout Unlimited:


Anglers applaud the decision confirming rejection of the Pebble Mine.  

ANCHORAGE, AK – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers upheld its November 2020 decision to deny the Clean Water Act 404 permit to the proposed Pebble mine. The permit was denied because the proposed mine would cause significant degradation to Bristol Bay’s headwaters and was against the public interest. Pebble Limited Partnership filed the appeal in January 2021.  

“The Pebble Limited Partnership’s 2020 mine plan didn’t meet basic standards, was widely opposed by Alaskans, and posed significant risks,” said Nelli Williams, Alaska program director of Trout Unlimited. “The hunting and angling community, and leaders from across the political spectrum, widely applauded the permit denial in 2020 and we commend the Army Corps of Engineers for standing by its permit denial decision. We look forward to the next chapter for Bristol Bay: establishing permanent safeguards for the region so that we don’t have to keep fighting projects that compromise the area’s jobs and incredible fish and wildlife in the future.” 

Pebble Limited Partnership and the State of Alaska are currently attempting to overturn the region’s Clean Water Act safeguards in court. If Pebble Limited Partnership seeks litigation over this permit denial, Trout Unlimited is committed to defending Bristol Bay on behalf of the thousands of anglers, hunters, and recreational outdoor businesses who rely on its world-class fisheries.  

“The Army Corps of Engineers made the right decision. Alaskans and business owners in Bristol Bay have been clear that Pebble fails to meet the required standards to ensure clean water and healthy fish habitat,” said Tia Shoemaker, owner of Grizzly Skins of Alaska. “We are glad to close this chapter and look forward to securing durable protective measures for the fish and wildlife we depend on throughout the region to run our businesses.” 


Trout Unlimited is the nation’s oldest and largest coldwater fisheries conservation organization dedicated to conserving, protecting and restoring North America’s trout and salmon and their watersheds. In Alaska we have worked in the Bristol Bay region for almost two decades along with thousands of members and supporters including dozens of businesses that depend on the fishery of the region. Follow TU on Facebook and Instagram for all the latest information on trout and salmon conservation. For more information on the Save Bristol Bay campaign go to SaveBristolBay.org or tu.org.