Two legislators are challenging the role of Alaska’s governor in trying to secure a federal Clean Water Act permit for the proposed Pebble mine in Southwest Alaska. Speaker of the House Bryce Edgmon, an independent from Dillingham, and Rep. Louise Stutes, a Republican from Kodiak, wrote to Gov. Mike Dunleavy on Sept. 29, asking him not to stand with the Pebble Limited Partnership in its effort to secure that permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The letter came in the wake of the release of video tapes in which the chief executive officer of the PLP boasted about his influence with state and federal officials in getting the mine approved. The CEO, Tom Collier, has since resigned.
Edgmon and Stutes contend that the Dunleavy administration is working directly with the PLP and its parent company, Northern Dynasty Minerals, of Vancouver, Canada, on a compensatory mitigation plan for the mine that would implicate uses and activities on state lands in the Bristol Bay watershed, home of the world’s largest run of wild sockeye salmon.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers advised the PLP on Aug. 20 that they have 90 days to provide a compensatory mitigation plan for the proposed mine, after which the corps will review that plan, and if complete, post it to the Pebble project EIS (environmental impact statement) website, https://www.pebbleprojecteis.com.
The legislators said a major concern is that the proposed mine stands to have severe adverse impacts on the commercial, sport and subsistence fisheries the run provides for
These fisheries, they told Dunleavy, have been possible because of the careful stewardship, as the people of that region have done for thousands of years. They also reminded the governor that the Alaska Legislature has a role in whether the proposed mine should receive state permits and whether permanent preservation of over 650 acres of state land to advance the mine project is appropriate.
Dunleavy fired back on Tuesday, Oct. 6, saying it is his duty as governor to create economic opportunity for the benefit of all Alaskans. In addition to the economic benefits, he said in his letter to Edgmon and Stutes, mineral development in Alaska has the potential to improve national security. He insisted that the best available science would determine whether the project would go forward.
The governor also questioned the economic impact of the famed Bristol Bay salmon fishery, saying it is not a year-round operation and that only 25 percent of the Bristol Bay permit holders lived in the region. He did not comment on the issue of the Alaska Legislature’s role in the permitting process.