AFS Objects to EPA’s Withdrawal of Pebble Mine Determination

Bristol Bay Sockeye Salmon. Photo by Thomas Quinn, University of Washington.

UPDATE: The Pebble Limited Partnership has filed its permit application with the Corps of Engineers which has determined that it will conduct an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to comply with its NEPA review of the project. The lengthy process requires that a comprehensive “alternatives assessment” be undertaken to consider a broad range of development alternatives and an opportunity for public comment.

The American Fisheries Society (AFS) submitted a letter in response to the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposal to withdraw its July 2014 Clean Water Act 404(c) Proposed Determination to restrict the use of certain waters as disposal sites for dredged or fill material associated with mining the Pebble deposit in Alaska’s Bristol Bay watershed. AFS objected to the withdrawal of the proposed determination and recommended that the EPA use its authority to prevent the elimination and/or impairment of waters and wetlands supporting the extraordinarily prolific, sustainable, all-wild Bristol Bay salmon fisheries. AFS expressed concern that EPA’s settlement agreement with the Pebble Limited Partnership would clear the way for a project whose impacts to fisheries and the watershed cannot be adequately reduced or mitigated.

Bristol Bay’s unimpaired watersheds and wild, sustainable, commercial, recreational, and subsistence fisheries represent an extraordinarily rare resource of national and global importance.  The area boasts the world’s largest and most valuable wild salmon fisheries.

AFS seeks to ensure the best available science is considered in a decision such as this that removes protections for the watershed and the fisheries resource that rely on it and asked the EPA to consider its own report, “An Assessment of Potential Mining Impacts on Salmon Ecosystems of Bristol Bay, Alaska.” AFS believes the report is an “indispensable resource to inform decision-makers of the costs, benefits, and risks to public salmon resources from proposed mining activities in Bristol Bay.”

Read AFS’s letter to the EPA here.

The public comment period closes October 17.  Stand up for Bristol Bay, submit your comments here.