The Fight for Bristol Bay Continues

Four men stand with signs reading "We are fine without a mine. No Pebble Mine"
Bristol Bay is worth permanently protecting

Lawsuit by the State of Alaska threatens Clean Water Act protections.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency finalized Clean Water Act safeguards for the headwaters of Bristol Bay. These safeguards established a prohibition and restriction on mine waste discharge in the Pebble deposit area in the headwaters of Bristol Bay. This win was widely celebrated by residents across the state and country, and responsive to Tribes, sport anglers and commercial fishermen who had been requesting these protections since 2010 due to the damage mine waste in this watershed would cause to its world-class fishery. Unfortunately, these protections are now under attack.

Last week, the State of Alaska filed a lawsuit in the U.S. Supreme Court against the EPA to fight the Clean Water Act safeguards. The lawsuit by the State supports the Canadian mining company’s ongoing attempt to keep the dying project on life support.  

The State of Alaska’s decision to throw an unwarranted lawsuit at the EPA is extremely out of touch with the majority of Alaskans, defies science and goes against what’s in the best interest of the public. Bristol Bay residents and Alaskans have been overwhelmingly opposed to the project for well over a decade; half a million people submitted comments of support for Clean Water Act safeguards during EPA’s extensive comment period this summer.   

“Alaskans have been unwavering in their opposition to the proposed Pebble Mine because of its well-documented threat to Bristol Bay’s world-renowned salmon fishery. The Governor is ignoring Alaskans and science with this lawsuit. And even more appalling, he is using public funds to prop up out-of-state mining executives at the expense of Alaska’s salmon and all the people who rely on them. It’s anti-Alaskan,” said Nelli Williams, Trout Unlimited’s Alaska director, based in Anchorage.  

A shallow river with dozens of red fish near Bristol Bay
Photo credit: Fly Out Media

Here’s what we are going to do: fight like we have for the last two decades to ensure that this ridiculous lawsuit, that goes against what so many Alaskans want for Bristol Bay, gets tossed out.  

“Today’s legal filing from the Governor is a slap in the face to Bristol Bay. Contrary to his false narrative, it was our Tribes, Alaska’s First People, who requested this action because politicians like Governor Dunleavy slammed the door in our face and put the interests of a Canadian Mining Company above our rural villages and our world class salmon fishery,” said Alannah Hurley, executive director of the United Tribes of Bristol Bay and an indigenous leader who has been fighting the proposed Pebble Mine for her entire adult life. 

Trout Unlimited staff and legal team will work alongside our local partners to defend EPA’s Clean Water Act protections for Bristol Bay, whatever it takes. After nearly two decades of advocating for clean water and healthy fish habitat in Bristol Bay, the region deserves finalized Clean Water Act protections that can persist without intervention from lawsuits based on false claims from a Governor that provides more support to foreign owned mining company than he does to everyday Alaskans who depend on salmon for their sustenance, recreation and livelihood.  

The Pebble Limited Partnership has had ample time to prove its ability to operate in the region, which it has consistently failed to do. Bristol Bay wants a fish-filled, resilient and community-led future, and our work doesn’t end until we can assure that Pebble Limited Partnership, or another mining company, won’t return in the future to thwart these long-held desires.