At ComFish, Fishermen discuss permanent legal end of Pebble Mine

 

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At the ComFish AK trade show last Tuesday, fishing groups made another push to permanently protect Bristol Bay from the proposed Pebble Mine — this time in the form of federal legislation.

Alaska fishermen almost universally oppose the Pebble Mine proposal. They say runoff from the mine would threaten the health of salmon in the region, and that thousands of jobs in coastal communities would disappear if the salmon stock collapsed.

For 15 years now, the proposed mining project has tumbled in and out of the grave.

The mine owners are currently appealing the Army Corps of Engineers’ decision to reject the project’s application. And so the Pebble Mine is still in a state of limbo. That’s something the United Tribes of Bristol Bay hopes to change. During a panel at the annual ComFish AK show, the Tribes’ Deputy Director Lindsay Layland, outlined two legal avenues to pursue.

“So back in late 2020 at the end of last year, UTBB along with other Bristol Bay partners developed and published ‘The Call to Protect Bristol Bay,’ and this is a two-part conceptual call, a conceptual ask that includes the EPA veto that we have… that the tribes in Bristol Bay region have been asking for years all the way since back since 2013. And this is the EPA 404 c action that could restrict large scale mining like the pebble project and Bristol Bay,” Layland said.

This action would effectively stop Pebble Mine in its tracks. But that’s just one mining project in an area rich with ore.

“The second part of that is a legislative approach, basically, that Congress- United States Congress would introduce a bill and pass legislation that would protect the waters of Bristol Bay forever,” Layland said.

That bill would be called the “Jay and Bella Hammond Fisheries Area Act,” named after the late governor of Alaska and his wife, who had a homestead at Lake Clark, in the heart of Bristol Bay.

For now, United Tribes of Bristol Bay is collecting signatures of fishermen and others who support their effort to kill the mine project, and fishermen enjoy a pregnant pause in the story of the Pebble Mine as they prepare for the summer salmon season.

 

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