Bristol Bay residents and experts detail impacts of Pebble Mine

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASEFebruary 19, 2018Bristol Bay residents and experts detail impacts of Pebble MineJUNEAU, AK – A diverse group of Bristol Bay leaders and top scientists testified to the Alaska House Resources Committee today regarding the overwhelming impacts the Pebble Mine would have on the local watershed, cultures and economy.Listen to the testimony by clicking here.Bristol Bay leaders and scientists in JuneauThroughout two hours of testimony, the speakers were unified and clear: Pebble poses a threat to the Bristol Bay watershed and all it sustains. Now that the project is in the federal permitting process, regional leaders are calling upon the state to stop this toxic project.The Pebble Mine would be an unprecedented project in Alaska, with plans outlining the removal and elimination of anadromous waters throughout the project area. The company’s thousand-plus page application describes a massive mining project larger than the size the EPA already found poses unacceptable impacts for Bristol Bay. The region’s renowned fishery has sustained indigenous cultures since time immemorial, and supports 14,000 fishing jobs and $1.5 billion in economic activity each year. During the hearing, leaders and scientists were clear: Bristol Bay will not trade its salmon for gold.United Tribes of Bristol Bay Deputy Director Lindsay Layland:The people of Bristol Bay have opposed this project from the beginning. Regardless of how the Pebble Partnership spins it, this deposit rests under and in the wetlands, streams, and surface and ground waters that are responsible for Bristol Bay salmon and for sustaining the traditional way of life in the region. Science and history have shown us time and again that this project is the wrong mine in the wrong place.Bristol Bay Economic Development Corporation CEO Norm Van Vactor:Bristol Bay is sustained by salmon. The commercial, sport and subsistence fisheries all play a key role in keeping the region’s economy and cultures alive, and Pebble is too great a threat to each of those fisheries. While the company claims to have a small impact on salmon, the numbers it talks about refer only to sockeye. But the mine is at the headwaters of the coho and chinook fisheries too, and the impact on all salmon species would be much greater than the numbers they gave you last week. This is just one of the many untruths they are telling as they try to advance their project. Bristol Bay implores you to see through these deceptions.Bear Trail Lodge owner and guide Nanci Morris Lyon:Year after year, Bristol Bay’s healthy waters and fisheries provide a bright spot for Alaska’s economy. I’ve seen this personally through my 33 seasons working as a business owner and guide in the region. Make no mistake, Pebble’s current plan will impact my industry. The private transportation corridor would cross two of Bristol Bay’s most famous fishing rivers, there would be 35-plus roundtrip dump truck loads a day, plus air pollution, and mining infrastructure. Together, this would fundamentally change the landscape of the region. People don’t come to Bristol Bay to fish amongst roads and noise - they can do that back home. Our future is bright without Pebble Mine. I have been training Bristol Bay youth for ten years to become fly fishing guides, and have had full lodges each season. If we protect this region from Pebble Mine, people will continue to come. I hope our state decision makers will protect Bristol Bay’s contribution to our economy and join us in saying no to Pebble Mine.University of Washington Professor Daniel Schindler:While it is convenient to think the only serious risk to fish and habitat is in the mining wastes within the tailings pond, development at this scale poses a long list of risks to fish and their habitat. Streams and wetlands will be drained, roads will fragment habitat parcels that fish need to move among, and toxins such as excess copper in the water will interfere with the ability of fish to navigate from freshwater to the ocean and back to spawn. What has made Bristol Bay watersheds such reliable producers of fish for millennia is clearly at risk from a long list of impacts from mines of this scale. Anyone who tells you otherwise is either living in a fantasy world or is lying.Center for Science in Public Participation President Dave Chambers:Mines expanding from their initial footprint is the rule, not the exception. It’s not going to be a small mine, and it’s not going to be environmentally friendly.Nunamta Aulukestai Spokesman Tom Tilden:Our legislators need to hear from us. They need to see us. They need to remember who we are. We are Alaskans who grew up in the Bristol Bay region, who get our food and earn our livings because of the health of our rivers and streams, and who have lived side by side with salmon for centuries. We know what’s at stake. We know how to take care of our fish. Our state needs to protect its fisheries and communities by taking a stand on the Pebble mine. Bristol Bay is no place for a mine. Period. We spoke in Juneau to remind legislators that they must act now to protect Bristol Bay forever.Former State Senate President Rick Halford:Salmon are the blood of Southwest Alaska with water and gravity connecting everything. Science and history have shown very clearly that the proposed Pebble Mine will be detrimental to Bristol Bay. We need the State of Alaska and the Alaska Legislature to listen to the people of Alaska, and prevent this toxic project from becoming a reality. Alaska should take the reins of its own future, not let a foreign mining company come and devastate the regional economy just to ship the profits outside of the state. The federal environmental impact statement does not dictate how state lands are used and developed under state law. As legislators, you can guide Alaska’s future, and we are asking you to do just that.

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The United Tribes of Bristol Bay (UTBB) 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.

Nunamta Aulukestai is a coalition of Alaska Native Village Corporations and tribes in the Bristol Bay region dedicated to protecting the Bristol Bay watershed from unsustainable development.The Bristol Bay Economic Development Corporation exists to promote economic growth and opportunities for Bristol Bay residents through sustainable use of the Bering Sea fisheries.

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