We are working together to protect this world-class renewable resource.
The Bristol Bay watershed is important for many reasons. Sportsmen, Alaska Native tribes, Alaska Native corporations and commercial fishermen, chefs and thousands of others are working to put protections in place for these renewable resources.
There are two key avenues that can help protect Bristol Bay from the Pebble Mine proposal.
There are a number of "levers" at the state level that Alaska's Department of Natural Resources and State Administration can pull to ensure the wild salmon and clean water of the Bristol Bay region are protected against mining. Pebble will need to secure dozens of permits to move forward with their project, and many of them are at the state level. This is why it is critical for Alaskans to continue to stand up and contact members of our State Administration and Agencies to say they are not in support of Pebble Mine.
THE CLEAN WATER ACT
In 2010, Alaska Native tribes, commercial and sport fishing groups 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 waters and wetlands. Section 404(c) authorizes EPA, after public hearings and a science review process, to protect rivers and wetlands that are important for fish spawning and wildlife habitat. In 2011, the EPA conducted an extensive scientific assessment and found that mining the Pebble deposit would indeed harm the fisheries. In 2014, the EPA decided to initiate a 404(c) action that would restrict mine waste from being disposed of in certain waters in Bristol Bay. Despite over 1.6 million comments of support for these Clean Water Act protections, including over 20,000 Alaskans, final action that would protect Bristol Bay from Pebble is delayed due to lawsuits filed by the Pebble Partnership that have yet to be resolved.
In February 2011, the EPA announced that it would initiate 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.
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 began reviewing the public comments and originally stated that a 'Recommended Determination' would be released no later than February 4, 2015, however this step is held up by lawsuits brought by the Pebble Limited Partnership that have yet to be resolved. Click here to view a description of the EPA's 404(c) process.
WHO HAS ASKED THE EPA TO INITIATE THE 404C PROCESS?
Nine 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 Sport fishing and hunting organizations from Alaska to Washington, D.C. and over 200 Chefs and restaurant owners.
Improve Management Guidelines
In addition to working to protect Bristol Bay salmon through the Clean Water Act we are working with a diverse coalition to ensure fish come to first on state land in Bristol Bay. Read about the Bristol Bay Area Plan.
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.
Header image by Pat Clayton