State officials in Alaska have given the go-ahead for gathering signatures to put the Bristol Bay Forever citizen initiative on the statewide ballot in 2014. The initiative would require legislative approval for large-scale mines in the Bristol Bay fisheries Reserve.
Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell this past week certified the proposed ballot measure, clearing the way for backers to gather at least 30,169 signatures on petition booklets being prepared by the state Division of Elections. The law calls for the booklets to be signed by enough qualified voters to equal 10 percent of those who voted in the preceding general election, and are residents in at least three-fourths of the House districts in the state.
Sponsors have a year from the time they receive the booklets to get all those signatures gathered.
The Pebble Limited Partnership, which has spent millions of dollars on the project already, issued a statement saying the initiative is “an unconstitutional and ill-conceived proposal.” The PLP opposes “introducing an additional layer of bureaucracy that adds cost, uncertainty and risk that will deter potential investors in Alaska who depend on a stable, predictable process when investing hundreds of millions of dollars in our state.”
Anders Gustafson, executive director of the Renewable Resources Coalition in Anchorage, which is firmly opposed to development of the massive mine in the Bristol Bay watershed, said he is encouraged by Treadwell’s action, and feels Alaskans can make the initiative work because enough people are now educated about Bristol Bay.
Meanwhile the US environmental Protection Agency is still working to complete its draft Bristol Bay watershed assessment, with no deadline on completion announced.
And the Alaska Legislature sill has the opportunity to pass legislation that would require legislative approval for large-scale mines in the Bristol Bay Fisheries Reserve, which would make the initiative then unnecessary.