By Shoren Brown
Bristol Bay Campaign Director
The numbers are in – more than 200,000 people submitted comments on the EPA’s draft Watershed Assessment of Bristol Bay and an astounding 98% support EPA’s work and call for a Clean Water Act 404c decision on Pebble mine.
The national public comment period on EPA's 339-page scientific assessment of the Bay came to a close on Monday night. The Assessment concludes that Bristol Bay’s wild salmon fishery and other natural resources provide at least 14,000 full and part-time jobs and is valued at about $480 million annually. The EPA also found that even at its minimum size, mining the Pebble deposit would eliminate or block 55 to 87 miles of salmon streams and at least 2500 acres of wetlands – key habitat for sockeye salmon and other fishes. Are you concerned yet?
In addition to written comments, more than 2,300 people attended eight hearings held by the EPA on the Assessment over the past 2 months. Public testimony overwhelmingly favored protection of Bristol Bay by more than 90 percent in the Bristol Bay region, and more than 80 percent overall.
The public comment period also generated support for protecting Bristol Bay from 700 businesses; more than 700 hunting and angling groups; the National Council of Churches and hundreds of congregations across the country; more than 200 chefs and restaurant owners; leading jewelers including Tiffany&Co.; 77 commercial fishing groups from Alaska to New Hampshire; and editorial boards of leading newspapers including The New York Times. Pebble has also been criticized by former Alaska Governor Jay Hammond, the late Sen. Ted Stevens and North Carolina Republican chairman Robin Hayes.
All of this begs one important question. What more does the Obama Administration need before they move forward with a 404c action to protect Bristol Bay?