A revised scientific assessment of how large-scale mining could potentially affect water quality and salmon ecosystems in the Bristol Bay watershed is due out this spring from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The study of the watershed, home of one of the world’s largest salmon populations, was launched in response to petitions from federally recognized tribes and others worried about how large-scale mining could impact Bristol Bay fisheries.
The mining industry, meanwhile, with an eye on the area’s significant mineral resources, has continued to attack the EPA study. In its latest bulletin, the Pebble Limited Partnership alleges that the EPA actions are targeted on the Pebble deposit
through an unlawful reading of section 404c of the Clean Water Act. If successful, writes PLP chief executive officer John Shively, in the Denver Business Journal, “the effort by the EPA, fueled by activist groups, to radically redefine the established permitting process poses a threat to Colorado’s mining industry and could trigger a regulatory crisis across the country.”
Four days later, on April 22, the PLP announced an $80 million budget for 2013, for ongoing environmental studies with a focus on fish habitat and water quality, continued engineering analysis and workforce and business development initiatives to finalize a project description. The focus of this year’s work plan is to complete a comprehensive, multi-year development plan with the goal to initiate permitting before year’s end under the National Environmental policy Act, the PLP said.
The majority of residents of the Bristol Bay region in Southwest Alaska are opposed to the mine, as are a number of fisheries biologists, environmental groups, and others representing commercial, sport and subsistence fish harvesters.
Their concern is that the mine will adversely affect fish habitat, which is critical to thousands of people employed in or otherwise dependent upon these fisheries.
The PLP maintains that it can develop and operate the mine without doing damage to the watershed.
In a continuing effort to educate people about the importance of Alaska’s wild salmon, the Renewable Resources Foundation this week announced that tickets are on sale for Salmonstock 2013, a three-day music festival at Ninilchik, Alaska, to celebrate Alaska’s wild salmon and the people who depend on them. Salmonstock, a fund raiser to protect salmon habitat, will run Aug. 2-4 at the Kenai Peninsula Fairgrounds. Information on Salmonstock is at www.salmonstock.org.