A court decision on a salmon initiative that could severely restrict large-scale mines, such as the proposed Pebble Mine, in Southwest Alaska, is expected within a week, in the wake of oral arguments on the Lake and Peninsula Borough case.
The proposed mine is backed by individuals and groups who see it as a means of further economic development and jobs. It is opposed by a large contingent of commercial, sport and subsistence fishermen, environmental groups and others, who feel such a huge copper, gold and molybdenum mine threatened the habitat of salmon in Bristol Bay.
With judicial approval the measure could possibly be on the borough’s Oct. 4 general election ballot, but if approved could face further legal challenges.
The Save Our Salmon initiative was certified May 30 to be placed on the Lake and Peninsula Borough ballot this October, then challenged in state district court by the Pebble Limited Partnership. The court heard oral arguments in late June over the legalities of allowing the measure to be placed on the ballot.
The main thrust of the initiative is that it would add language to the borough’s permitting code that states: “where a resource extraction activity could result in excavation, placement of fill, grading, removal and disturbance of the topsoil of more than 640 acres of land and will have a significant adverse impact on existing anadromous waters, a development permit shall not be issued by the (planning) commission.” The initiative also changes the preferred order in which permits are applied for. Current code requires that an applicant seeking a borough permit must have already secured all state and federal permits. The initiative strikes that language and states, “the applicant should obtain its development permit from the borough prior to obtaining state and federal permits.”