Denver Water and Western Slope leaders have reached a deal to try to save the Fraser River and its trout while letting Denver siphon 11 percent more water across the Continental Divide.
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The Hermosa Creek Watershed Protection Act is scheduled for a hearing in the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Public Lands and Environmental Regulation on Thursday. It is an important step in the legislative process for this measure that is broadly and deeply supported by local stakeholders and lawmakers alike.
The bill is sponsored in the U.S. House of Representatives by Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Cortez. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., is sponsoring a companion measure in the Senate, where the bill had a hearing before the Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on Public Lands, Forests and Mining in November. Thursday’s hearing will be the measure’s first audience in the House since Tipton introduced the measure in May 2013.
It is true that the Pebble Mine proposal has been the top conservation issue for environmental advocacy groups like Trout Unlimited for nearly a decade, but the reason we're still talking about it is that the proposal was flawed from conception. The Bristol Bay watershed makes up the world's largest commercial sockeye salmon fishery and arguably its top sport fishery, with ecological resources generating nearly $480 million in direct economic expenditures and upward of 14,000 jobs in Alaska and the Northwest annually.
Is the risk of a large-scale mining project too great for Bristol Bay?
Some say that question has been answered by a report released Friday by the Environmental Protection Agency.
The EPA looked at the possible impacts of developing a large gold and copper mine in the Bristol Bay Watershed and found many areas of concern. Although the EPA never mentions the Pebble Mine Project by name, it does say the report is based on information that was submitted by Northern Dynasty, the company that wants to develop the mine.
Could this be the end for Pebble mine? The EPA is taking one year to decide whether it will use its power to halt mining in the Bristol Bay area to protect the fishery.