Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Bristol Bay Watershed Fight Goes Back to Juneau

A contingent of commercial and sport fishermen, and other stakeholders, including a Kodiak chef renowned for his seafood dishes, gave Alaska legislators and state officials an earful in Juneau last week on the importance of the Clean Water Act.

They made a point of explaining to each legislator and state employee they met with that the Environmental Protection Agency has taken up its study on potential impacts to the Bristol Bay watershed of large-scale resource development at the request of area stakeholders, rather than its own impetus.

The EPA is acting through its authority under section 404(C) of the Clean Water Act, to determine how the world-class copper, gold and molybdenum prospect at the headwaters of the Bristol Bay watershed could affect that watershed and its world famous sockeye salmon fishery.

According to Lindsey Bloom, representing the Alaska Independent Fishermen’s Marketing Association, the group had more than two-dozen meetings with state agency officials, as well as legislators.

The meetings were cordial, and those in attendance thankful to have positions clarified by the group, which opposes the mine, Bloom said.

The Pebble mine, a divisive issue, has resulted in an ongoing run of advertisements from proponents and opponents of the mine. One side sees the massive mine as an economic prospect worth millions which can co-exist comfortably with the fisheries. The other points to the environmental devastation that large scale mining has inflicted on third world countries as well as regions of the United States, saying the risk to the multi-million dollar fishery is too great. Kodiak chef Joel Chenet said he had seen with his own eyes the devastation in Madagascar caused by mining.

The EPA, said the group, is not trying to tell Alaska what to do. The EPA is responding to a request for help from Alaskans who live and work in Bristol Bay, where people as well as wildlife are reliant on the fisheries, they said.

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