Dillingham and Naknek Residents Turn Out in Droves for Hearings
Over 600 attend EPA hearings – Strong support for Watershed Assessment
DILLINGHAM, AK – Yesterday EPA officials faced a throng of Southwest Alaskans in Dillingham and Naknek during public hearings on the agency’s recently released Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment. Of the approximately 400 in Dillingham and 300 in Naknek who attended the meeting, the vast majority of speakers voiced their opposition to the proposed Pebble Mine and thanked the EPA for stepping in. Only a handful spoke in favor of the project.
Leaders from Bristol Bay Native Corporation set a strong tone for the hearing, starting public testimony off with support for the draft assessment. In addition, this message continued as agency officials heard from Senate President Gary Stevens, Rep. Bryce Edgmon, former State Sen. Rick Halford, and former First Lady Bella Hammond.
“The message to EPA officials should be loud and clear – Bristol Bay residents need their help in protecting the future of this region,” said Sen. Halford. “It is time for the agency to invoke their 404(c) authority and stop large scale mining in Bristol Bay.”
In addition to elected officials and representatives of BBNC, the agency also heard from tribal leaders, commercial fishermen, and other stakeholders in the region. Many voiced concerns that Pebble would damage local salmon fisheries and could decrease the value of Alaska seafood on the global market.
“Wild salmon plays an integral role in the lives of Bristol Bay residents,” Sen. Halford explained. “Taking that away would destroy the local economy and threaten the reputation of Alaska’s seafood industry,”
This week the agency will continue their tour of Southwest Alaska with hearings scheduled in Levelock, Igiugig, Nondalton, and New Stuyahok.