Written by Jen Finn
IN THE rivers, streams and wetlands of southwest Alaska, tens of millions of bright pink fish swim upstream every year to spawn. The watershed area around Bristol Bay is one of the last unspoiled habitats in the world, home to moose, bears, caribou and, yes, sockeye salmon. It's also now at the center of one of the nation's largest conservation battles.
That's because the area is also rich in other natural resources; billions of dollars sit under the ground there in one of the largest finds of copper, gold and molybdenum in the United States. A consortium of firms wants to extract those metals in a massive — and, perhaps, massively profitable — mining operation. The final proposal for the so-called Pebble Mine isn't out yet. But the idea would be to construct a huge pit mine, waste-storage areas, processing plants, ground-transportation facilities, a power plant and a new deep-water port. The companies say they can do all that with minimal environmental damage, employing a team of engineers to make the facilities safe. And, they say, the damage they do cause can be offset with replacement habitat they will build elsewhere.
Unsurprisingly, conservation groups and locals have banded together to stop the development. They say that, though the mine might create some jobs and bring infrastructure, it is inherently dangerous to the extremely productive fishery, which has economic, ecological and cultural value. The area's waters are connected through wetlands and underground flows, making it difficult to contain contamination. And they cite a recent analysis from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that sounded discouraging notes on the potential impacts of a large mine in the region. For example, dams storing large volumes of "tailings" — mine waste — would have to hold up in perpetuity. If a dam eventually failed, the effects on salmon habitat would be "severe," the report predicted. The conservationists want the EPA to use its authority under the Clean Water Act to reject the whole project now, instead of continuing with government reviews.
Read the full story at the Washington Post>>
The following was released by the Maine Department of Marine Resources on Jan. 22:
The Maine Department of Marine Resources announced an emergency regulation that will support the continued rebuilding effort in Maine’s scallop fishery. The rule, effective January 23, 2016, will close the Muscle Ridge Area near South Thomaston and the Western Penobscot Bay Area.Read more...
Louisiana’s Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, which governs commercial and recreational fishing in the state, got a new boss in January. Charlie Melancon, a former member of the U.S. House of Representatives and state legislator, was appointed to the job by the state’s new governor, John Bel Edwards.
Although much of his non-political work in the past has centered on the state’s sugar cane industry, Melancon said he is confident that other experience, including working closely with fishermen when in Congress, has prepared him well for this new challenge.Read more...