by Shoren Brown
As Anchorage prepares for a public hearing tonight hosted by the EPA on its watershed assessment, a multitude of stories are circulating about the Seattle hearing held on Thursday, May 31. Throughout the three-hour hearing, a crowd of 350 attended, and more than 80 were able to share public comments with the agency. A KPLU radio story that aired on NPR shared commercial fishermen’s deep concerns with the Pebble Mine proposal, and an AP story about the hearing traveled far and wide.
The vast majority staunchly opposed the Pebble Mine's potential impacts on the Bristol Bay watershed and fisheries. They were a diverse group of speakers representing all sorts of points of view - commercial fishermen, sportsmen, Alaska Natives, religious leaders, former engineers with the Army Corps, businesses with ties to Bristol Bay, representatives of the Bristol Bay Native Corporation and plenty of concerned citizens.
Sen. Maria Cantwell hosted a press conference in Seattle on Wednesday, May 30, covered by several news stations and the Seattle PI. Cantwell also sent a letter to the EPA asking the agency to carefully weigh Washington jobs and economic benefits derived from Bristol Bay’s sockeye and other fisheries. “We want them to protect the fishing industry in the Northwest, and all the ancillary businesses based on catching wild salmon. I want to make sure the EPA takes into consideration in the final assessment the impact on our jobs and our economy,” Sen. Cantwell told the Puget Sound Business Journal.
Letter writers in Colorado, Pennsylvania, Montana and Washington made clear their support of the watershed assessment and opposition to development of the Pebble Mine. “I join with hunters and anglers across the U.S. in supporting EPA action to protect Bristol Bay. It is simply too important of a natural resource,” wrote Brian Wagner of Nazareth, Penn. In addition, a strong number of opinion pieces in Alaskan publications also called on the EPA to follow up its science with a regulatory act to protect the region’s natural resources.
Shoren Brown is the Save Bristol Bay campaign director for Trout Unlimited.