by Shoren Brown
The Bristol Bay Native Corporation kept a tally of attendance and opinion at the EPA’s 8 public hearings to solicit comment on the agency’s Bristol Bay watershed assessment. BBNC’s numbers demonstrate strong support for the report and for action under the Clean Water Act to protect Bristol Bay. In the places where the impacts of a Pebble Mine would be felt most deeply – the rural towns and villages – 1,000 people attended and an overwhelming 93% of testimony opposed the Pebble project.
“This overwhelmingly positive turnout shows that the region appreciates and supports EPA’s effort and the appropriate urgency with which it is being handled,” said Jason Metrokin, president and chief executive officer of BBNC, in the story.
The Columbian newspaper in Vancouver, Wash., printed an editorial opinion, “Jeers: to a proposed mine in Alaska.” It highlights the deep economic ties between Bristol Bay and Washington state, as well as Sen. Maria Cantwell’s support for protecting the fishery jobs. An excerpt reads: “In 2008, Bristol Bay commercial fishing accounted for $113 million in economic activity in Washington, not including another $75 million in activity generated by recreational salmon fishing.”
A fisheries professor and a seafood processing manager teamed up in an opinion piece in Crosscut. Daniel Schindler and Norm Van Vactor give an overview of the historic ties between Bristol Bay and Washington state, and how Seattle is home to a large part of the Bristol Bay fleet. Of Bristol Bay, they write: “While paradise for salmon, this flowing groundwater will likely make containing mining contamination nearly impossible. Based on what we know about the hydrology of Bristol Bay and the process of this type of hard rock mining, it is not a question of if there will be impacts to water quality, but when — and how severe.”
A sport fisherman and a Bristol Bay commercial fisherman from Washington state registered their opinions with letters to the editor in the Seattle Times. Fisherman Ben Blakey wrote: “We can’t risk jobs, sustainable industries or 40 million sockeye for a mega-mine that will last 25 years or so and produce up to 10 billion tons of toxic waste. Thanks to EPA for getting this right. They should follow up by protecting the bay from massive metal mining by preventing mine waste in the clean waters.”
Shoren Brown is the Save Bristol Bay campaign director for Trout Unlimited.