A spokesman for Bristol Bay salmon drift permit holders says proponents of the Pebble mine are betting fishermen’s assets that they can safely develop and operate a large-scale mine at the headwaters of a critical watershed.
“They are playing poker with chips they don’t own,” said Bob Waldrop, executive director of the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association.
“They are betting our assets that they can do this safely and not destroy the fishery forever,” he said in an interview with Fishermen’s News April 29. “They are betting the commercial fishery that they can do this perfectly. The science and our collective experience with large-scale mining in this country don’t support that.”
Waldrop’s comments came on the heels of a revised draft report from the US Environmental Protection Agency that said large scale mining at the headwaters of the Bristol Bay watershed could wipe out up to 90 miles of streams in the world’s largest sockeye salmon fishery, and up to 4,800 acres of wetlands.
The Pebble Limited Partnership, which recently announced plans to spend an $80 million this year to prepare for applying for mine permits, has called the EPA report flawed and biased and urged the EPA to abandon the report altogether. “We’ll design a mine that will operate safely and responsibly and will meet the high regulatory standards for development in Alaska,” said John Shively, chief executive officer of the Pebble Limited Partnership. PLP proponents point to the fact that they have spent much of the last decade, and millions of dollars to prepare for the mine, and say they want due process.
Waldrop countered that all those millions of dollars can’t change the geochemistry, the size and the location of the project. And the revised draft report underscores that large-scale mining, even with no catastrophic failure, will block streams with roads and development and more, he said. “Moreover, EPA provides a more thorough understanding of Bristol Bay’s complex water system and notes that impacts from water use and water treatment could have dramatic impacts on wetlands, fish spawning and fish rearing habitat,” he said.
The revised draft document and information on how to comment on it before the May 31 deadline are at www.epa.gov/bristolbay.