Donlin Gold Project, Alaska (1996-Ongoing): 3PPI is mapping all Waters of the U.S., including wetlands, for the proposed Donlin Gold project near Aniak, Alaska. The total study area includes over 300,000 acres, though due to changes in project energy alternatives, the client reduced the final mapping area in the most current agency submittal to approximately 277,976 acres.
In late 1996, 3PP (predecessor to 3PPI) began an advanced identification mapping project at the Donlin Creek Prospect near Aniak, Alaska. In March of 1998 3PP produced a draft report for Placer Dome U.S. Inc., including field verified wetland mapping for approximately 9,300 acres. After a lapse of years, Placer Dome returned to the project site and hired 3PP to resume mapping of additional watersheds and drainages.
Since 2003, our field teams have field-verified nearly 290,000 additional acres of mapping and collected approximately 5,000 more field verification data points. This work was facilitated by our custom database. The complementary spatial data set developed for the project includes imagery data sets, LIDAR and contour layers, feature classes, and data collected in the field. These data have been used to develop a mapping base upon which over 106,000 polygons have been heads-up digitized and manually coded for relevant vegetation and wetland jurisdictional status information. This project has required 3PPI scientists and technicians to closely coordinate field and mapping efforts to ensure that adequate data are collected for the mapping process.
The field data and mapping products were the foundation of the comprehensive preliminary jurisdictional determination (PJD) report and the Section 404 permit application prepared by 3PPI that served to trigger the official National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process for the project in 2012. 3PPI is also leading the compensatory mitigation planning effort using a watershed based approach, and coordinating with other study leaders and the third-party environmental impact statement (EIS) contractors who can benefit from our extensive data set.
To better understand project impacts to wetlands and provide a comprehensive baseline for regulators, 3PPI's 2013 task is to complete functional assessment ratings for all mapped wetlands within the anticipated impact areas. This semi-automated, part manual review process of available data in the general vicinity of the assessment area will result in a detailed ratings map that can be reviewed in a variety of ways: function-by-function, grouped function, or summary score basis. The results of this and other functional assessment work will be provided to regulators in a comprehensive report in late 2013. 3PPI work on the Donlin Gold Project has been based out of our Anchorage office with support from the entire team during large field programs.