Alaska's Bristol Bay watershed is a complex system of rivers, lakes, streams and wetlands that support the most productive wild sockeye salmon fishery in the world. To protect the salmon, Sportsmen, Alaska tribes, native corporations and commercial fishermen and others have petitioned the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to use its authority under the Clean Water Act to restrict or prohibit the disposal of mine waste in Bristol Bay's pristine waters, including wetlands.
WHAT IS SECTION 404C OF THE CLEAN WATER ACT?
Section 404(c) authorizes EPA, after public hearings and a science review process, to protect rivers and wetlands that are important to for fish spawning and wildlife habitat. There are some places that are too important to risk with toxic mine waste and the Clean Water Act allows us to keep those places pristine.
WHY IS IT NEEDED?
The proposed Pebble Mine will generate up to 10 billion tons of toxic mine waste that will have to be treated for hundreds of years. Mine waste disposal in the Bristol Bay watershed is a direct threat to the tremendous wild salmon habitat that supports the Bristol Bay fishery, and supplies the world with a healthy and sustainable source of wild salmon. The salmon fishery is the economic engine of the region, generating an estimated $450 million in revenue each year, and supplying some 10,000 jobs.
WHAT IS THE TIMELINE?
In February 2011, the EPA announced that it initiated a watershed assessment to evaluate the suitability of large-scale mining in Bristol Bay. The results of this study formed the basis of an EPA decision, released February 28, 2014, to initiate the 404c process.
"The Bristol Bay watershed is essential to the health,environment and economy of Alaska." -- EPA Regional Administrator Dennis McLerran. On July 18, 2014 the proposed determination was released, which limits the scope of mining in the Bristol Bay region in order to still have healthy salmon habitat. The announcement launched a 60-day public comment period, in which over 670,000 Americans contacted the EPA to tell them to finalize this process and protect Bristol Bay. Over 99% of the comments received by the EPA were in favor of strong protections for the watershed. The EPA is now reviewing the public comments and has stated that a 'Recommended Determination' will be released no later than February 4, 2015. Click here to view a description of the EPA's 404(c) process.
WHO HAS ASKED THE EPA TO INITIATE THE 404C PROCESS?
9 Bristol Bay Tribes, The Bristol Bay Native Corporation (a multi-billion dollar developer and the largest land-owner in the Bristol Bay region representing 8,700 native shareholders), Bristol Bay Native Association (a non-profit corporation and tribal consortium serving the 31 federally recognized tribes in the Bristol Bay region), Commercial fishing interests represented by Alaska Independent Fishermen’s Marketing Association and Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association, The National Council of Churches, 355 Sportfishing and hunting organizations from Alaska to Washington DC and over 200 Chefs and restaurant owners.
ITS TIME TO ADD YOUR VOICE TO THE LIST. The EPA comment period has closed, but it is still important that your elected leaders know that you support comprehensive and prompt protections for Bristol Bay. Click here to send a letter to your elected officials.