The region is speaking loud and clear and saying NO to Pebble Mine at a series of EPA hearings on the agency's watershed assessment of Bristol Bay. In Levelock, a crowd of 60 was unanimous in opposition to Pebble, with not a single person speaking for the mine. People also treated the EPA officials to some of the subsistence foods they catch and harvest, including salmon.
In Igiugig, 75 people attended the meeting, and 22 out of 25 speakers opposed Pebble mine. Many are asking the EPA to use its 404c Clean Water Authority to restrict the dredging permits that Pebble would require.The first speaker was an elder who addressed the EPA officials in Yupik and had someone translate her words. In a real show of generational opposition to Pebble, she was followed by a 5-year-old boy.
Alaska observers say this level of unity and rural support for federal help to stop inappropriately large mining is unprecedented.
Large crowds turned out in Dillingham and Naknek to express fierce opposition to Pebble Mine and support for the EPA’s scientific assessment of the Bristol Bay watershed. Representing commercial fishermen, Alaska Natives, seafood processors, subsistence fishermen, Bristol Bay Native Corporation and many others, the speakers overwhelmingly asked for federal government intervention to protect the region’s fisheries and natural resources from large scale hard rock mining. There were a total of about a half dozen speakers at both meetings representing a pro-Pebble point of view.
In Dillingham, a fired up crowd of 350 to 400 drove home the deep regional support for EPA action to protect Bristol Bay. Sen. Gary Stevens spoke in support of the assessment and Bristol Bay’s unrivaled sockeye fishery. Folks made comments on the assessment and thanked the EPA for its diligent scientific analysis. Many also asked that the EPA not extend its comment period by 120 days, as folks at Pebble and the State of Alaska have requested, and said it was a stalling tactic tantamount to a filibuster.
In Naknek, another strong group estimated at around 300, including many in blue shirts that say, “Save Our Wild Salmon, Bristol Bay,” brought a lot of emotion to discussing the salmon, their livelihoods and way of life. Bristol Bay Native Corporation Chair Joe Chythlook was first, and set the tone with his strong support for EPA, and statement that Watershed Assessment confirms what traditional knowledge has told Bristol bay residents -- salmon and Pebble cannot co-exist.
Many BBNC board and staff spoke eloquently, followed by impassioned remarks from Bella Hammond, Alaska's former first lady, and strong support from Rep. Bryce Edgmon. There was little hope for EPA's facilitator to suppress the applause in Naknek.
These hearings followed a big meeting in Anchorage where about 900 people came to speak their minds on Pebble. Seattle kicked off the hearings with a crowd of 350, filled with commercial fishermen, sportsmen and conservationists.
If you were one of the people who wanted to make comments but did not get a turn at the microphone, please submit written comments through this easy form.
Thank you so much to everyone who attended and generated this tremendous wave of support and momentum.
The science is in and it says we would lose salmon streams and habitat even without leaks or a major catastrophe from Pebble. And, now the people have spoken resolutely too. There should be no more questions for the Alaska delegation, the White House or the EPA – it’s time to protect Bristol Bay.