Bill would remove 404 (c) from Clean Water Act

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Legislation introduced in the U.S. House to amend the Federal Water Pollution Control Act proposes to eliminate compensatory mitigation under the Clean Water Act, a section that has been key to environmental protection of wetlands.

H.R. 4149, introduced on Dec. 1 by Rep. Tom Rice, R-S.C., would amend Section 404 of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act to eliminate Section 404 (c ), Trout Unlimited, Commercial Fishermen for Bristol Bay and United Tribes of Bristol Bay said in a statement issued Dec. 10.

H.R. 4149 ignores a broad cross section of Alaska Natives, fishermen, hunters and anglers, and business owners, as well as more than one million Americans, who have asked the federal government for immediate Clean Water Act protection for Bristol Bay, they said. The bill would eliminate a section of the Clean Water Act that enables the Environmental Protection Agency to evaluate development proposals like the Pebble Mine to determine whether such a project would pose "unacceptable adverse impact on one or more of various resources, including fisheries, wildlife, or recreational areas, they said.

An inquiry to Rice's office regarding the legislation was not answered.

Alannah Hurley, executive director of United Tribes of Bristol Bay, said that the bill "directly attacks the section of the Clean Water Act that Bristol Bay Tribes asked to be applied to protect our salmon and region from the impacts of mines like Pebble."

This bill indicates that lawmakers are listening more to foreign mining companies instead of Americans who depend on the wild sockeye salmon of Bristol Bay, said Nelli Williams, director of Trout Unlimited's Alaska program.

"We hope our leaders prioritize Alaskans jobs and the clear desires of their constituents to protect this region and not support legislation that is out of touch with what is important to Americans," said Melanie Brown, speaking fr Commercial Fishermen for Bristol Bay.

The Bristol Bay salmon fishery annually provides some 14,000 jobs and an economy valued at $1.5 billion. In a peer-reviewed scientific report issued in February 2014, the EPA said the proposed Pebble mine could threaten the Bristol Bay salmon resource critical to that region's economy.

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