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Alaskan Sportsmen applaud EPA’s assessment of Bristol Bay, Alaska

Call for swift action to protect world-class fishery under the Clean Water Act

 

ANCHORAGE, AK – Today commercial and sport fishing groups across Alaska announced their support the Environmental Protection Agency’s scientific assessment of Bristol Bay. The assessment recognizes Bristol Bay as a singular, unmatched global fishery for sockeye salmon that would be jeopardized by proposals to develop hard rock mines on a massive scale.

“We welcome EPA’s science-based look at the potential threat of large scale mining in the Bristol Bay watershed,” said Trout Unlimited’s Alaska Program Manager, Tim Bristol. “The agency’s actions are based on the requests of multiple stakeholders from the Bristol Bay region and provide decision makers the information they need to determine its future.”

Conclusions of the assessment include:

·         Bristol Bay has the largest salmon runs in North America (up to 40 million sockeye return to the watershed every year).

·         The Bristol Bay Watershed ecosystem is intact, with clean water, very large salmon stocks and other abundant wild foods.

·         Bristol Bay, including the Nushagak and Kvichak river watersheds, hosts one of the few remaining vital, sustainable indigenous cultures relying on wild salmon in the U.S. and perhaps the world.

These world class resources, which provide the foundation for a culture and serve as a source of thousands of sustainable jobs, could be at risk if the proposed Pebble Mine was allowed to move forward.  According to documents submitted to the State of Alaska by mine developer Northern Dynasty and mine design plans posted to Northern Dynasty’s website, Pebble could become North America’s largest open-pit mine and produce up to 10 billion tons of mine waste, some of which will become toxic and would have to be treated and stored in perpetuity. A majority of Alaskans worry a project of this magnitude would threaten the future of Bristol Bay fisheries.

With the release of the watershed assessment, TU and hundreds of other hunting, fishing and shooting sports organizations s are calling 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 only 13 times.

“This region provides thousands of local, renewable commercial and sport fishing jobs, and generates over $300 million of annual in-state revenue,” said Bristol. “To risk all of that so we can satisfy far away mining company shareholders is both short-sighted and irresponsible.”

In June EPA officials will take comments from the public during a series of hearings in both Anchorage and Bristol Bay.

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