We pulla da nets, to maka da mon, to buya da bread, to getta da stren’, to pulla da nets
--Lament of a Bristol Bay fisherman
--Lament of a Bristol Bay fisherman
Earlier this week I went to Washington D.C. I wanted to meet with one of Senators, Lisa Murkowski and let her know how this fisherman feels about the Proposed Pebble Mine in Bristol Bay, Alaska.
|Senator Lisa Murkowski and me|
Bristol Bay is an American national treasure. It is nestled in southwestern Alaska, near Lake Iliamna and Lake Clark. It is 250 miles long and180 miles wide at its mouth with a number of rivers flowing into the bay, including the Naknek, Kvichak, Egegik, Ugashik, Nushagak, Wood, and Togiak. It is known as the “salmon capitol of the world” with an extremely productive marine ecosystem that maintains the largest wild salmon run in the world. Up to 44 million salmon return annually to Bristol Bay, making it Alaska’s richest commercial fishery, bringing in nearly one-third of all of Alaska’s salmon harvest earnings. The fishery is a $350 million dollar industry that supports over 12,000 jobs and is celebrating it’s 125th season this year.
In addition to a robust and sustainable sockeye and Chinook salmon run, Bristol Bay is one of the world’s most pristine naturally wild areas with magnificent wildlife, scenery, and marine ecosystems, a world-class refuge. It’s a birder’s paradise, a hunter’s delight, and a sport fishermen’s dream. It’s a sanctuary for brown bear, moose, caribou, millions of waterfowl, seabirds, shorebirds, walruses, seals, fish and sixteen different species of whales.
The Pebble deposit is a massive, low-grade deposit of gold, copper and molybdenum (which is often used in high strength steel alloy) located at the headwaters of the Kvichak and Nushagak Rivers, two rivers that flow into Bristol Bay. If built, Pebble would be one of the largest open pit mines in the world, some 3 ½ miles wide. Pebble proposes using tailings dams to permanently store the estimated 10 billion tons of mining waste that is material that is too toxic to be released back into the environment. These tailings dams would cover 10 square miles and the tallest will be nearly the height of the Empire State building. Tailings dams are known as the Achilles Heel of the mining industry and fail at a rate of 2 a year around the world since 1919 with the result of loss of life and irreversible pollution. Anyone else think storing millions of tons of toxic waste permanently behind a wall of dirt at the mouth waters of the largest salmon run in the world a bad idea? As if that isn’t enough, did I mention that Alaska is an active earthquake area averaging 5,000 quakes annually. Moreover, did I mention that Pebble is owned by a Chinese company and the 2nd largest mining company in the world?
Pissed off yet? I know I am.
So far there are several groups opposed to Pebble and our numbers are growing. On board are Trout Unlimited, Alaska Coalition, Renewable Resources Foundation, Save Bristol Bay, and Fishermen for Bristol , to name a few. There are 77 commercial fishing organizations from Alaska to Maine currently oppose Pebble Mine. However, this is still a David against Goliath fight. So what are we going to do about it?
From what I gathered by visiting with Senator Lisa Murkowski and her staff, Pebble will and is proceeding with the permit process. To preemptively veto that would result in a law suits and court battles that would blow up in all of our pretty little faces. Pebble has some deep pockets. Until it is time for public comment, which may not be until next year, there are a handful of things we can do now.
1. Spread the word. Many folks have never even heard about Bristol Bay or it’s threats. Tell everyone you know. Send them to one of these sites to keep tabs on what is happening.
2. A couple of suggestions were made to me by Murkowski’s staff members. One was to send letters to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to urge the Obama administration to protect Bristol Bay by initiating a Clear Water Act 404 (c). The EPA had the authority to safeguard the valuable habitat of Bristol Bay watershed.
3. Weed through Pebble’s research to find erroneous data and write to my legislation when I find some. Evidently, there are about 24, 000 pages of research to go through. OK, I’ll take the first 12,000 pages, who wants to take the second half? The data can be found at the bottom of the page here under documents: http://www.pebblepartnership.com/environment/acts.
Seriously, who’s on board to help me sift through this?
In the mean time, drop a line here and let me know what ideas or suggestions you have to help stop this monstrosity from happening.