Alaska Salmon and the Proposed Pebble Mine
Proposed mine threatens Bristol Bay, Alaska’s wild salmon and trout....
Southwest Alaska's Bristol Bay region is home to some of the premier sportfishing destinations on the globe. However, the Bristol Bay watershed is threatened by the proposed construction of a 20-square mile mining complex which has the potential to create pollutants that would affect waterways and devastate the region's sportfishing, which has an annual $60 million economic impact.
Background: Bristol Bay has the world's largest sockeye salmon fishery and one of the largest king salmon runs, primarily because the Bay's freshwater salmon habitat is largely untouched by development. Bristol Bay is also home to several other important recreational species, like Arctic Char, Arctic grayling, rainbow trout, lake trout, Dolly Varden, northern pike and whitefish. Collectively, sportfishing in the Bristol Bay region contributes over $60 million in economic activity annually.
However, the bay is under threat from a proposed mining operation that would be one of the largest mines of its type in the world. Because of its size, geochemistry and location, the proposed Pebble Mine runs a high risk of polluting Bristol Bay. The Pebble Mine complex would span 20-square miles of state land in the bay's watershed and would require the world's largest earthen dam to be built in a seismically active region. The dam and its 10-square mile containment pond are intended to hold between 2.5 billion and 8 billion tons of mine waste that the mine would produce over its lifetime. Because of the sulfide, or acid, generating nature of the Pebble ore body, the waste would require environmental treatment in perpetuity. Any release of mine waste into the surface or groundwater has the potential to harm Bristol Bay's important salmon runs.
On February 7, 2011, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced its plans to complete an assessment of the Bristol Bay watershed and the potential impacts of large-scale development projects, such as the proposed Pebble Mine, on the bay's water quality and salmon fishery. This announcement comes in response to a petition filed in 2010 by tribal governments, fishing groups and several other organizations for the agency to assess potential risks to the watershed. Mine developers are expected to apply for federal and state permits in spring of 2011. For more information on ways to get involved, please visit www.savebristolbay.org.
The sportfishing community depends upon clean and healthy waters and abundant fish. The various mining operations in the Bristol Bay watershed pose a real and considerable threat to the fishery resources, water quality and sportfishing opportunity of the region. In addition to the inherent risks of the mining operations themselves, the Bristol Bay region is a seismically active area and this increases the risk of an unintended breach of reservoirs and other environmental containment facilities containing heavy metals, acid waters and toxic chemicals.
Considering the risk to the fishery resources and fishing opportunity of the region, KeepAmericaFishing™ believes that the prudent action is for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to use its authority under Section 404(c) of the Clean Water Act to withdraw the waters and wetlands of the Bristol Bay watershed from future consideration as disposal sites for dredge and fill activity associated with mining operations. KeepAmericaFishing urges EPA to take such action to protect the resources of Bristol Bay.
Bristol Bay Sportfishing Facts
•Recreation and tourism spending in Bristol Bay brings $90 million annually to the state in the form of taxes and licenses.
•In 2007, anglers in Alaska spent nearly $1.4 billion on fishing trips, fishing equipment and the development and maintenance of land used primarily for the pursuit of sportfishing in Alaska.
•In 2007, Bristol Bay sportfishing supported 846 full and part-time jobs and accounted for $27 million in total wages and benefits paid to employees and proprietors.
•In total, an estimated 37,000 fishing trips are taken annually to Bristol Bay freshwater fisheries. Tourists from outside of Alaska comprised about one-third of those trips.
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