Bristol Bay fights latest round in battle over Pebble Mine

The battle cry to save Alaska’s Bristol Bay is hitting a resounding roar yet again as the world’s most prolific salmon fishery faces the renewed threat from Pebble Mine.

Shortly after a documented meeting with representatives from Pebble Limited Partnership, EPA chief Scott Pruitt withdrew the Obama-era declaration that a metals extraction mine at the headwaters of Bristol Bay was too risky to move forward.

In exchange for reopening a three-year window for which Pebble to file a plan, the mining interests withdrew lawsuits filed against the federal government after the project was thwarted by the EPA evaluation.

In early October, the company revealed slides of its new concept but has yet to file for a permit to make its plan official. It promises to do so by the end of the year.

A state referendum in Alaska, meanwhile, has some potential to stop projects like Pebble by proposing a new habitat law. The proposal would subject projects that would have “significant adverse effects” on fish habitat to governmental review. Projects deemed to damage fish habitat beyond repair would be prohibited.

The ballot initiative was rejected by Alaska Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott on the grounds that it would appropriate a public resource — not allowed under the Alaska constitution. But a Superior Court judge ruled that the proposal was to regulate, not appropriate, public assets.

The state was considering an appeal, and backers still needed to gather about 32,000 signatures to get the initiative on the 2018 ballot.

Meanwhile, a coalition of businesses is rallying support behind the Bristol Bay fishery under the name Businesses for Bristol Bay. Through the coalition’s website supporters can sign a letter to President Donald Trump in support of the fishery and get updates on the effort to protect the salmon fishery.

About the author

Jessica Hathaway

Jessica Hathaway is the editor in chief of National Fisherman. She has been covering the fishing industry for 12 years, worked in maritime publishing for 17, and has served on the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute’s Communications Committee for two years.

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