EARTHblog » Bonnie Gestring
June 8, 2012
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.
May 18, 2012
The science is out! The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its watershed assessment today on the risks of large-scale mining to Alaska's Bristol Bay watershed. There can be no doubt that this the salmon fishery is of global significance, and an economic power house. Here are just a few bullet points from the study:
- The Bristol Bay watershed supports the largest sockeye salmon fishery in the world.
- The Kvichak River produces more sockeye salmon than any other river in the world.
- Bristol Bay’s wild salmon fishery and other ecological resources provide at least 14,000 full and part-time jobs and is valued at about $480 million annually.
- The average annual run of sockeye salmon is about 37.5 million fish.
More importantly, the study concludes that large-scale mining is a threat to the long-term productivity and sustainability of the salmon fishery. The report concludes that at a minimum, large-scale mining would:
- cause the loss of spawning and rearing habitat, the direct loss of 87.5 -141 kilometers of streams,
- cause the loss of 10-17 square kilometers of wetlands,
- significantly diminish habitat quality to an additional 2-10 km of streams as a result of water withdrawals.
- result in significant impacts on fish populations in streams surrounding the mine site, as a result of development and routine operations.
At the heart of the debate is the proposed Pebble Mine, which UK-based Anglo American and canadian junior Northern Dynasty are proposing to develop at the headwaters of the watershed.
The EPA has the authority under 404c of the Clean Water Act to prohibit the disposal of mine waste into Bristol Bay's waterways. Alaska Native Tribes and commercial fishermen have petitioned the EPA to use its authority to protect the fishery, and we support them in this.
Please join us in sending a message to the EPA in support of Bristol Bay protection.