Last week the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its final study on the impacts of large-scale mining, including the proposed Pebble Mine, on Alaska’s Bristol Bay.
This is big news! Alaska’s Bristol Bay supports the world’s largest wild salmon fishery, and the fate of this fishery now rests in the hands of the EPA and Obama Administration.
The science is complete, and it’s definitive. There’s simply no way to avoid severe impacts. Even under routine operation,
- 94 miles of salmon streams would be destroyed by the mine footprint (maximum size studied),
- 33 miles would be harmed by altered flows, and
- polluted water from the mine site could enter streams in spite of modern mining practices.
Not surprisingly, Northern Dynasty, the company behind the proposed Mine, has questioned the science. Yet, the study has undergone a rigorous review process with two full rounds of peer-review by a panel of twelve independent scientists. Contrast that with the typical Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process, with no scientific review.
In 2010, Alaska Native Tribes and commercial fishermen petitioned the EPA to use its authority under Section 404c of the Clean Water Act to restrict mine waste dumping in the rivers and streams that feed Bristol Bay.
Now, with the scientific study in hand, EPA can determine whether to use its 404c power.
“We owe them a response to the petition,” Dennis McLerran, EPA Regional Administrator said in the Anchorage Daily News. “This is an issue that has weighed heavily on people in the watershed, on all sides of the issue.”
In the meantime, U.S. Senator Begich (AK), who promised to follow the science, just took a position opposing the Pebble Mine saying, “Wrong mine. Wrong place. Too big.”
Everything is in place for the EPA to move forward to protect the fishery, and the 14,000 jobs that depend on it, including broad and diverse public support.
Join us in urging the EPA and President Obama to take immediate steps to protect Bristol Bay.