On the eve of another congressional hearing to examine alleged predetermined efforts to block development of the Pebble project in Southwest Alaska, an international prestigious sportsmen’s club is telling Congress to just say “no.”
Sportsmen for Bristol Bay told Texas Republican Lamar Smith, who chairs the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, to consider the views of tens of thousands of hunters and fishermen from Texas who oppose the proposed copper, gold and molybdenum mine, which would be built near the headwaters of the Bristol Bay watershed.
The committee hearing this morning in the Rayburn House Office Building is a follow up on the committee’s hearing last November, to receive testimony from Dennis McLerran, administrator of EPA Region 10 in Seattle. According to the committee, it wishes to examine the EPA’s intention to use section 404 (c) of the Clean Water Act to block the Pebble Mine from development before the project applies for any permits.
Backers of the mine have still not said when they would apply for permits. In an email response to that question this past February, Pebble Partnership spokesman Mike Heatwole said the uncertainty created by the EPA’s actions precluded them from advancing the project to permitting and that the Pebble Partnership is also still seeking a long term partner for the project.
Proponents of the mine allege that the EPA had made predetermined efforts to block the massive mine, which in their view would create jobs, provide tax revenue to Alaska and reduce American dependence on foreign sources of raw material. Opponents argue that the mine would adversely impact the entire watershed, home to the world’s largest run of sockeye salmon, abundant wildlife and a population largely dependent on commercial, sport and subsistence fisheries.
The letter, signed by over 6,000 members of the Dallas Safari Club, and others, said Bristol Bay supports one of the planet’s best remaining salmon fisheries, which produce 46 percent of the world’s sockeye salmon, as well as an abundance of brown bear, moose, caribou, waterfowl and ptarmigan that attract hunters from around the world.
Economically speaking, the Texas group told Congressman Smith, sportfishing, hunting and tourism alone generate more than $160 million in local economic activity, creating nearly 2,500 local, sustainable jobs. The proposed Pebble mine, by comparison, would create only about 1,000 temporary jobs, while threatening 14,000 commercial and recreational fishery jobs in a $1.5 billion annual salmon fishery that can last indefinitely.