Alaskans to elected decision makers: proposed Bristol Bay protections have never been more important

Wednesday July 3, 2019

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact:
Alannah Hurley, United Tribes of Bristol Bay, (907) 843-1633 or ahurley@utbb.org
Jenny Weis, Trout Unlimited Alaska Program, (952) 210-7095 or jweis@tu.org

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Alaskans to elected decision makers: proposed Bristol Bay protections have never been more important

DILLINGHAM, AK -- In response to comments by the U.S. EPA stating major insufficiencies in Pebble’s plan and the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), and in the wake of last week’s news that the EPA will resume the withdrawal process for the 2014 proposed determination that would protect the headwaters of the Bristol Bay watershed, a diverse coalition of Alaskans released the following statement:

“Our diverse coalition formed after six Bristol Bay Tribes petitioned the EPA in 2010 for help protecting the water and land that sustains our communities. The request was quickly supported by commercial and sport fishing groups, and our broad collection of Tribes, Alaska Native Corporations, commercial fishermen, sportfishing businesses and enthusiasts and Alaska-based conservation groups. Together, we seek to protect the world-class treasure that is the Bristol Bay salmon fishery from the proposed Pebble mine.

Since this request was made, major financial backers have abandoned the project, a twice-peer reviewed study found that mining the Pebble deposit would have unacceptable adverse impacts to the fishery, and the majority of Alaskans have continually opposed the project. Now, the EPA has said Pebble’s permit application confirms its prior finding: Pebble mine cannot safely coexist with the fishery.

The EPA's multi-year public process and the resulting proposed determination included every stakeholder group – our organizations, state government representatives, scientific experts, Bristol Bay residents, and the Pebble Partnership all had seats at the table.

However, the major review now being conducted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers falls short of that standard set by the EPA. The timeline is expedited, making it difficult for those who would be impacted by this project to weigh in; the plan under review is incomplete; and sound science has been pushed aside to make room for less rigorous analyses. We need our leaders to push back on this and call for a halt in Pebble’s permit review. This region demands nothing less than the utmost rigor and care.

The EPA’s comments on the DEIS are clear: Pebble’s application is severely lacking in detail, the process underway now is not the science-based undertaking that is called for in this situation, and the project would jeopardize the fishery. It is time for our elected leaders to take note and stop this process.

Bristol Bay is a unique and valuable treasure that cannot be put at risk by the proposed Pebble mine, not when the culture and livelihoods of so many are on the line. We look to agencies and elected leaders to respect our wishes and ensure our industry and cultural values are not upended due to a shoddy and politically-motivated mine review. The Pebble Partnership cannot guarantee the safety for Alaska’s most productive salmon fishery. This was first proved in the EPA’s 2014 Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment, confirmed by Pebble’s conduct since 2010, and further defined in the DEIS. EPA’s own comments on the DEIS emphasize this.

The need to uphold EPA’s work and the proposed determination have never been more evident. Pebble’s review process has failed us, leaving Alaskans who depend on the Bristol Bay fishery for our culture and livelihood at risk. To remove long-sought protections without even consulting the Tribes or communities jeopardized by this action would be unacceptable and a grave loss for the culture and economy of Alaska and the nation.

We cannot replace politics with science. Our state, our people, and the resources upon which we depend for our cultures and livelihoods deserve the protections laid out in the proposed determination. To withdraw it, or for Alaska’s elected decision makers to fail to act in accordance with its findings and with the EPA’s most recent conclusions, would devastate Bristol Bay.”

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Bristol Bay Native Association represents 31 Bristol Bay tribes & is the regional nonprofit tribal consortium providing social, economic, and educational opportunities to tribal members.  
 
Bristol Bay Economic Development Corporation represents 17 CDQ communities & exists to promote economic growth and opportunities for Bristol Bay residents through sustainable use of the Bering Sea fisheries.   

Commercial Fishermen for Bristol Bay is a coalition of over 100 fishing organizations and thousands of individual fishermen around the country working to protect the 14,000 jobs, more than $500 million in annual income, and over half the world’s wild sockeye salmon provided by Bristol Bay’s sustainable fishery.  Learn more at fishermenforbristolbay.org

Trout Unlimited is the nation’s oldest and largest coldwater fisheries conservation organization. In Alaska, we work with more than 100 angling businesses and thousands of individual sportsmen and women to ensure the state’s trout and salmon resources remain healthy through our local chapters and offices in Anchorage and Juneau. Follow TU on Facebook and Twitter, and visit us online at tu.org and savebristolbay.org.

Katmai Service Providers represents more than 50 recreation businesses, including lodges, guides, outfitters and travel operators in the Katmai/Bristol Bay region. Find more at https://katmaipark.org/members.htm.
 
United Tribes of Bristol Bay is a tribal consortium representing 15 Bristol Bay tribal governments (that represent over 80 percent of the region’s total population) working to protect the Yup’ik, Dena'ina, and Alutiiq way of life in Bristol Bay.