The struggle to save Bristol Bay, Alaska from pebble mining and bring awareness to the public is still ongoing and growing. “The Bristol Bay Forever” initiative will be on the ballot in 2014 and, if passed, would require voter approval for large scale mines in the Bristol Bay Fisheries Reserve.
In May, 2010, nine Alaskan Tribes showed strong opposition and petitioned the Environmental Protection Agency to start a thorough assessment of Bristol Bay’s watershed and the detrimental impacts the proposed open pit mine would have on the fish, wildlife, water quality and Alaskan Native culture. Following this request, the EPA released a draft of the Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment in May, 2012 for public comments and independent peer review which ended in July, 2012. During a three day period in August, 2012 the EPA announced that they were having their contractor for external peer review, Versar inc., organize and conduct a review of the draft report called “An Assessment of Potential Mining Impacts on Salmon Ecosystems of Bristol Bay, Alaska.” During the evaluation, approximately 100 public testimonies were heard and over 230,000 public comment letters were received. From the EPA’s statement:
“The EPA will use the results of this Assessment to inform the consideration of options consistent with our role under the ‘Clean Water Act.’”
With the support from the EPA and the voice of the people, the “Bristol Bay Forever” initiative was finally certified by the Lt. Governors office, which meant the initiatives sponsors could start collecting the necessary signatures to put the initiative on the ballot.
Alaskan watersheds are among the worlds most productive biological communities on earth and provide homes for the largest remaining population of sockeye salmon. It also sustains the world’s richest commercial wild-salmon fisheries, accommodating the lower 48 states with salmon to eat, fishing jobs, and rare hunting experiences. The pebble mine would threaten the habitat of tens of thousands of salmon that spawn in the streams and hinder the subsistence ways of life for the Alaskan Natives that rely on the resources around them. The dependency for clean, safe streams doesn't end there. Bristol Bay is also a habitat to more than 190 bird species, more than 40 species of terrestrial animals, and more than 35 species of fish that all rely on this sensitive ecosystem.
The complications of an open pit mine can be destructive and there’s no turning back if anything goes wrong. Let’s join together and help preserve Alaska and its majestic culture and beauty and say no to pebble mines in Bristol Bay.