With Covid-19 bearing down on fishing communities and the season just weeks away, Bristol Bay leaders call for pause in fast-tracked Pebble Mine permit process. It’s falling on deaf ears.
By Sam Snyder, Alaska Senior Campaign Manager
Here in Alaska, as in the country as a whole, our spring has been dramatically reshaped by Covid-19. Our spring grassroots outreach plans have been scrapped and our Congressional engagement drastically altered. We’re hunkered down, with the wave of infections just starting to hit now. Our rural coastal salmon communities, initially buffered from the rest of the country, are now facing the extra challenges of scarce health resources and a potential influx of new seasonal workers.
Fishing—and specifically how to catch and process fish safely—is firmly top of mind. But stopping a politically-driven gold and copper mine in Bristol Bay is not.
This shouldn’t be an issue right now. This is a time to address stability in our families and our communities, not the fate of one of the world’s most important salmon fisheries.
Unfortunately, despite the global pandemic, it seems that Pebble Mine and U.S. Army Corps officials still have one thing on their minds: permitting Pebble as fast as possible.
As you know, the Army Corps has been fast-tracking the Clean Water Act permitting process for Pebble Mine at a record pace, relying on highly questionable science and shortcuts in protocol. Its Final Environmental Impact Statement is due out midsummer, despite the fact that several other federal agencies called an initial draft of the document and analysis extremely rushed and incomplete. The Department of the Interior said the Draft EIS was “so inadequate that it precludes meaningful analysis.”
Then, as Covid-19 hit our communities, Northern Dynasty quickly put out a statement to reassure its backers that the Army Corps remains on schedule to release its Final Environmental Impact Statement and permit decision by mid-2020.
Two weeks ago, Bristol Bay communities responded with a letter to U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, In the letter, they asked the senators to reach out to the Army Corps and extend the permitting timeline so that local leaders could deal with Covid-19, as well as the upcoming fishing season.
On monthly press calls, Army Corps has given every indication that things are proceeding largely as planned. Then, this week, the Army Corps moved the deadline for comments forward a week.
This is unacceptable.
And this is where we need you. While the people of Bristol Bay focus on ensuring the health and safety of their communities, we’re digging back into the work of organizing and engaging our supporters. If you can spare some time and energy, we need you now. As Pebble and the Army Corps put Bristol Bay communities between a rock and hard place, it’s up to you to step up and speak out.
We cannot continue to stand by while Pebble takes unfair advantage of this crisis.