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2019: The Year to Protect Bristol Bay

2019: The Year to Protect Bristol Bay

With federal permitting for Pebble Mine on the fast track, 2019 might be our last chance to keep Bristol Bay whole.

As each year starts, it often feels like this is the year when the battle for Bristol Bay comes to a head. This might actually be it.

Let’s be clear: the Pebble Mine is not dead. The most important federal permit for the mine is moving down the fast track (progressing despite the current federal shutdown) and could be issued in Fall 2020.  

Pebble could be mining in five years. You read that right.

It’s a stunning reversal from the science-based public process that the Environmental Protection Agency followed several years ago to bring Bristol Bay to the brink of Clean Water Act protections. Yet, by 2017 those advances were in question as the Trump Administration began the process of unwinding, or shelving, EPA’s prior work and creating a streamlined path toward permitting the Pebble Mine.

In light of this shifting federal landscape, Wild Salmon Center worked with Alaskan partners to shore up policies and protections at the state level. Over the past two years, we helped build a massive statewide effort to update Alaska’s fish habitat permitting law.

That work culminated in 2018, the year of Stand for Salmon, and the push to pass Ballot Measure 1. These critical updates to Alaska’s key fish habitat permitting law would have ensured strong protections for Bristol Bay despite the flawed federal permitting process. Not only did Measure 1 not pass, but Alaskans elected a Governor that appears considerably more favorable to mines like Pebble. So, from both state and federal perspectives, Pebble Mine is very much alive.  

But it’s not built yet.

This is one of those times where we need to store up some resolve. Bristol Bay remains perhaps the most important salmon stronghold in the world, a fishery that we simply cannot lose. It supports 14,000 jobs and a $1.5 billion economy. Pebble truly is the wrong mine in the wrong place.

Next month, we anticipate the release of the Pebble Mine’s draft environmental impact statement, kicking off a comment period that really and truly could be our last best opportunity to weigh in before the permit is issued.

While Pebble is shopping around a smaller mine plan, it would still exceed the levels of impacts that the EPA has already stated would cause significant and unacceptable harm to Bristol Bay.  Even more concerning, while Pebble touts a small mine plan to the public and decision makers, to investors they’re shopping a much larger project – one they would need to develop to make money. Among other inadequacies, not only has Pebble refused to provide an economic feasibility study of their mine, the permit application to the United States Army Corps of Engineers is woefully incomplete and extremely rushed.  

Pebble will do and say anything to mislead Alaskans and get its permits. And they are spending millions of dollars to aggressively push a false narrative about an “environmentally friendly mine” in Alaska and beyond. But after all these years, nothing has changed. The impacts to the fisheries, economies, and communities of the region will be profound and irreversible. We need your help perhaps now more than ever to push back on Pebble’s PR campaign and ensure that decision makers all the way to Washington, D.C. know the critical importance of protecting Bristol Bay.

So, while we expect another huge salmon return to Bristol Bay in 2019, we’re going to have to work harder than ever to keep Pebble at bay. Unfortunately, many believe the Pebble Mine is long gone and Bristol Bay is safe from threats. This year, we must fight for the salmon and people of Bristol Bay.

We’re going to need help at every step of the way over the next 12-18 months to hold our decision-makers accountable and ensure they say NO to the Pebble Mine. We’ll keep you updated with all the latest info. Can you commit now to standing with us at every step? Sign up for our e-newsletter. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram for the latest news and action alerts. Share this across your fishing and salmon advocacy networks. And share these across your fishing and salmon advocacy networks.

This year, we need more people from all walks to step up for Bristol Bay.

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