Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Legislation Seen As Danger to Bristol Bay Fishery

Alaska fishermen are voicing criticism over a bill introduced in Congress that seeks to prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from exercising veto rights under the Clean Water Act to protect watersheds critical to fisheries.

The target of their criticism is the Regulatory Certainty Act of 2014, introduced by Rep. Bob Gibbs, R-Ohio, and Nick Rahall, D-WVA., that would “clarify the EPA’s veto authority under section 404 of the Clean Water Act, the section governing the permitting program administered by the US Army Corps of Engineers,” Gibbs said June 12 in a statement announcing filing of H.R. 4854.

“The permits are required for dredging and filling activities in jurisdictional waters and must be obtained for a wide array of activities. While the Clean Water Act provides EPA with the authority to veto an Army Corps permit, EPA has been overstepping their use of their veto authority,” Gibbs said.

“Recent actions by EPA to overstep its intended authority under the law have resulted in disruptions and uncertainty for businesses around the country. This legislation will clarify EPA’s role in the Clean Water Act Section 404 permitting process to ensure that the agency does not disrupt the normal permitting process by denying permits before they are ever even applied for and or revoking permits when they are not in violation of said permit.”

Sue Aspelund, executive director of the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association, which represents the drift net fleet harvesting in Bristol Bay, spoke out against the bill. Just as the EPA has begun its lawful process, to determine if it should invoke Section 404 (c) of the act), “these lawmakers seek to pull the rug out from under it putting 14,000 jobs and a $1.5 billion fishing economy at risk,” she said.

Tim Bristol, director of Trout Unlimited’s Alaska Program, said the bill would help pave the way for building the Pebble mine at the headwaters of the Bristol Bay watershed by removing the very part of the Clean Water Act that the people of Alaska asked to be used to protect Bristol Bay.

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