Strong Coalition Applauds EPA Announcement Not to Extend Deadline
DILLINGHAM, AK – Commercial and sport fishermen from Alaska and all over the country are applauding the Environmental Protection Agency’s decision against extending the public comment period on their draft scientific assessment of the Bristol Bay watershed. The agency’s 60-day comment period is already longer than usual and allows ample time for public participation.
Released in mid-May, the science-based assessment recognized Bristol Bay as an unmatched global fishery for sockeye salmon that would be jeopardized by proposals to develop hard rock mines on a massive scale. Following the release, EPA conducted a number of public hearings that attracted more than 1,000 participants. Countless others have submitted comments either electronically or via mail, and may continue to do so until July 23.
"It was the right thing for EPA to stay with their original timeline. There is overwhelming support for the Watershed Assessment in the region. There was no doubt during the public hearings when over 1000 local residents came by cars, trucks, four wheelers, airplanes, you name it, to express their support. This issue is as critical as it gets for the people here," stated State Rep. Bryce Edgmon, who represents the region in the Alaska State Legislature.
“The EPA came to hear from Alaskans and what they heard was loud and clear – Bristol Bay residents need their help to protect the future of this region,” said Rick Halford, a former president of the Alaska State Senate. “It is time for the agency to invoke their 404(c) authority and stop large-scale mining in Bristol Bay.”
In the wake of the assessment, TU and hundreds of other hunting, fishing and shooting organizations called on EPA to use its power under the Clean Water Act’s section 404(c) to protect Bristol Bay from future large-scale mining developments. This action, which gives the agency full authority to prohibit the issuance of a 404 dredge and fill permit before, during, or after an application for such a permit has been submitted. Since 1972, when the Clean Water Act became law, the EPA has used this authority 13 times.
"For years many businesses that depend on healthy salmon runs have operated with the what-ifs of what might happen if Pebble moves forward at the back of their minds. It’s great to see the EPA moving forward to efficiently address an issue that may affect so many small business owners and residents in the region," said Nanci Morris Lyon, a long-time resident of King Salmon and owner of Alaska Sportsman's Bear Trail Lodge.
“This region provides thousands of local, renewable commercial and sport fishing jobs, and generates over $300 million of annual in-state revenue,” said Lindsey Bloom, a Bristol Bay permit holder and representative of Trout Unlimited. “To risk all of that so we can satisfy far-away mining company shareholders is short-sighted and irresponsible.”