The first salmon are arriving in Bristol Bay's rivers this week — just as the EPA is holding public hearings in communities throughout the region about the watershed assessment that the agency just completed on the threat of large-scale mining to the Bristol Bay fishery – the largest wild salmon fishery in the world.
Upwards of three hundred people packed the halls of the Dillingham gymnasium, and the testimony was unanimously in support of protecting Bristol Bay's fishery from the Pebble Mine. Over and over again, community leaders thanked the EPA for completing the study and urged it to move forward to protect the area's waters from mine waste disposal under 404c of the Clean Water Act.
The EPA has authority under Section 404c to restrict the disposal of mine waste into streams, lakes and wetlands, and Bristol Bay native tribes and commercial fishermen have asked the EPA to use its authority to protect the salmon fishery from the Pebble mine.
Fish come first!
The same message dominated every hearing in the region – Nak Nek, Levelock, Nondalton, Igiugig, and New Stuyahok.
The Bristol Bay watershed assessment makes a clear and compelling scientific case that developing the Pebble deposit will have severe and lasting consequences for salmon.
The EPA will be taking public comment on the watershed assessment until July 23rd.