The Next Steps for Bristol Bay
By Tim Bristol
Recently, we reached a significant waypoint on the long, winding road to Bristol Bay Protection but it’s important remember the journey is far from over.
On February 28th The EPA sent a letter to the State of Alaska, the Pebble Limited Partnership and the Army Corps of Engineers outlining their intent to begin a Clean Water Act “404c” process in Bristol Bay. The EPA is now officially engaged in a process where they will decide whether to apply advanced restrictions on development of the colossal Pebble Mine in Bristol Bay’s headwaters. Clearly, based on the large volume of scientific information already in hand, Pebble will have a harmful effect on the region’s wetlands waterways and associated fisheries –things the EPA is charged to protect.
But this is far from a done deal, and there is still a huge amount of work ahead but getting to this juncture is a huge accomplishment and serves as an example of what a broad based, deeply committed and wildly diverse coalition can accomplish. For over four years now, sportsmen and women, Alaska Native tribes and corporations, commercial fishermen, and many, many others of myriad personal, professional and political backgrounds, have been asking the EPA to get down to the business of using the Clean Water Act to protect Bristol Bay.
In the coming months, we must coax the EPA to keep the process moving and secure the issuance of a “Proposed Determination”, outlining what restrictions or prohibitions they recommend for future dredge and fill (404) permits in the proposed Pebble Project area. Once again, the public will have a chance to review and offer feedback on the proposal through public comment periods and hearings. And once again, we will need you to weigh in.
As a good friend told me years ago as we flew over the mine site, trying to imagine Frying Pan Lake and the sources of the North and South Forks of the Koktuli River buried under billions of pounds of ground up, acid laden rock, “This is going to be a marathon, not sprint.”
He was 100 percent correct. We are making progress, but the finish line still lies ahead. In the coming months we will be calling on you to:
- Stay informed, engaged and active: You are the reason we’ve reached this milestone and we can’t let up now. Visit savebristolbay.org or via Facebook for the latest and please consider sending a thank you note to EPA and encourage them to finish the process they’ve started.
- Consider a donation. To bring a Bristol Bay resident to Washington DC sets in the effort back about $2500 and the costs of printing and mailing stickers and factsheets to educate people at events and sportshows adds up quickly. Donate any amount you can afford and your support will go directly to our work to stop Pebble mine. Your support enables us to increase the size and number of these important tactics, meeting the many challenges that stand between trout, salmon, and clean water in Bristol Bay.