360 nationally renowned scientists back EPA’s Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment; urge Clean Water Act protections for Bristol Bay
Scientists outline concerns in letter sent to EPA Administrator McCarthy
ANCHORAGE – Today, EPA Region 10 Administrator Dennis McLerran received a letter from 360 nationally renowned scientists, researchers, and university professors commending EPA’s recently completed Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment. The letter also urges EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy to implement Clean Water Act protections for the world’s greatest wild salmon fishery. The letter was released during the Alaska Forum on the Environment, which will feature presentations from both McLerran and Pebble Limited Partnership CEO John Shively.
From the letter: “We applaud EPA for its effort to establish a solid, science-based assessment from which to evaluate likely impacts to Bristol Bay from large-scale mine development. The preponderance of evidence presented in the Watershed Assessment indicates that large-scale hard rock mining in the Bristol Bay watershed threatens a world-class fishery and uniquely rich ecosystem, and we urge the Administration to act quickly to protect the area. Therefore, we urge EPA to use its authority under the Clean Water Act to take the necessary next steps to protect Bristol Bay.”
The EPA’s Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment was based on three years of scientific study, which also included two separate rounds of scientific peer review. The study concluded that mining on the scale of the proposed Pebble Mine could destroy up to 94 miles of salmon-spawning streams and 5,350 acres of wetlands, lakes, and ponds in the region. In addition, failure of a likely tailings storage dam, releasing only a partial volume of the stored tailings, would result in catastrophic effects on fishery resources, as well as the cultures and economies that depend upon the fishery.
Comments from scientists who signed the letter are below.
Jack Williams: Senior Scientist, Trout Unlimited: "The breadth of the science behind EPA's watershed assessment is impressive" according to Jack Williams, TU's Senior Scientist. "EPA has not only made the devastating impacts of large-scale mining in the Bristol Bay watershed crystal clear but their scientific peer review of the assessment was remarkable and sets a high standard for other government agencies. Therefore, the science is clear and we urge EPA to use its authority under the Clean Water Act to protect Bristol Bay. "
Daniel Schindler, Professor of Fishery and Aquatic Sciences at the University of Washington: “It is no coincidence that Bristol Bay fisheries, with their local- to global significance, are supported by vast and fully functioning watersheds. In the lower 48, we are beginning to appreciate what we have lost in salmon habitat by developing watersheds, and now realize how incredibly difficult, if not impossible, it is to restore proper system functioning once it has been degraded.”
Tom Lovejoy, Professor Environmental Science&Policy at George Mason University: “The assessment should not be a surprise but it is quite clear: mining versus salmon at Bristol Bay represents a clear choice: short term enrichment of a few vs. maintaining a natural resource for the local community with benefits for many in perpetuity.”
David Chambers: Founder and President, Center for Science in Public Participation in Bozeman, MT: “EPA’s Watershed Assessment not only properly characterizes the importance of Bristol Bay, but conservatively underscores the possible impacts large scale mining would have on Bristol Bay. The analysis of the risks due to this type of mining in the Watershed Assessment is much more thorough than that which would be analyzed in an EIS under the permitting process.”
The full letter can be found by clicking here.