Today, Representative Derek Kilmer (WA-06) released the following statement after the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a proposal under the Clean Water Act to minimize the harm a large-scale development like the Pebble Mine project would have on salmon fisheries in Bristol Bay, Alaska. The Pebble Mine, proposed by Northern Dynasty Minerals, would be one of the largest open pit copper mines in the world.
"Over the past year commercial fishermen, sportsmen, and Tribal leaders in Washington state have told me about the importance of Bristol Bay to their livelihoods and families," said Representative Kilmer. "I'm glad the EPA is listening to their concerns and is moving to establish clear rules of the road so we can maintain one of America's biggest fishing economies. Protecting our natural resources is both a moral and economic imperative. This is a clear step in the right direction to preserve the health of our fisheries and support the job opportunities they provide for folks from Alaska and Washington state."
An agency report from January 2014 entitled "Assessment of Potential Mining Impacts on Salmon Ecosystems of Bristol Bay, Alaska" found that allowing a mine in this area would cause as many as 94 miles of salmon streams and up to 5,350 acres of wetlands--including important spawning grounds--to be destroyed.
Bristol Bay is home to the largest sockeye salmon production in the world and has served the salmon fishing industry for over 125 years. The watershed and other ecological resources in the region contribute 14,000 full-time and part-time jobs at an annual value of $480 million.
Under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act, the EPA is directed to develop the environmental criteria the Army Corps uses to make permit decisions. It also authorizes the EPA to prohibit or restrict fill activities if it determines such actions would have unacceptable effects on fishery areas.
The EPA will open their proposal to comments from the public starting on July 21 through September 19. Public meetings will also be held in Alaska from August 12-15.
Last February, Kilmer spoke in support of the EPA's move to begin a process under the Clean Water Act to examine if developing the Pebble Mine would negatively impact sockeye salmon populations in Bristol Bay. Previously, Kilmer contacted the EPA to raise concern about how the proposed mine would impact salmon habitat that Washington state fishermen rely on.