With appeals flying in efforts to overturn the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' denial of the Pebble Mine permit in Alaska's Bristol Bay, Bristol Bay's Tribes and residents have released a call for permanent protections for the region.

On Jan. 8, Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy announced the state's intentions to appeal the decision. The Pebble Partnership followed with a Jan. 21 filing, requesting the Army Corps of Engineers to reverse its denial of the proposed mine's Clean Water Act dredge and fill permit.

The appeals, say local leaders and fishery stakeholders, highlight the need for durable, long-term, lasting protections for the Bristol Bay region, as well as the need for an EPA veto of the proposed Pebble Mine itself.

“While science prevailed when the Army Corps rejected the proposed Pebble Mine’s Clean Water Act permit, this appeal shows that the Trump administration left the door open for the Pebble Partnership and Bristol Bay is far from safe,” said SalmonState Executive Director Tim Bristol. “The first step is for the Biden administration to reestablish the Clean Water Act Protections previously in place. The second step is for Congress to protect the waters of Bristol Bay in perpetuity, as called for in Bristol Bay Tribes’ and organizations’ Call to Protect Bristol Bay.”

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The Stop Pebble Mine call to action outlines the two steps advocates say are necessary to ensure Bristol Bay's world-class fishery can continue to supply half of the world's sockeye salmon, employ more than 14,000 Americans, generate $1.5 billion in annual economic activity and sustain a way of life for generations.

Step 1: Clean Water Act Protections:
The Environmental Protection Agency should use its authority under section 404(c) of the Clean Water Act to veto the Pebble Mine. No other approach can create the immediate safety net for those who depend on Bristol Bay. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Environmental Protection Agency have all concluded that Pebble Mine will permanently damage Bristol Bay and its fishery. It's time to act on that science and give Bristol Bay immediate protection.

Step 2: Bristol Bay National Fisheries Area:
To ensure that Bristol Bay's protections are not reversed by future administrations, Congress should introduce and pass the Bristol Bay National Fisheries Area Act that will provide federal protection for the watersheds — and fisheries — of Bristol Bay, Alaska in perpetuity. This legislation should permanently ban any toxic mine waste from the proposed Pebble Mine and large scale projects like it that would harm Bristol Bay's rivers, lakes and wetlands.

“For two decades, the people of Bristol Bay have fought to protect our home from the threat of mines like Pebble because we recognize that our clean waters and lands are more precious than gold,” said United Tribes of Bristol Bay Board President Robert Heyano, a National Fisherman Highliner. “Pebble ignored the people of Bristol Bay at every step of the way, and continues to try to use politics and lies to advance this project and manipulate investors. Enough is enough. We need permanent protections that will provide us with certainty that projects like Pebble will never be allowed to devastate every facet of life in Bristol Bay.”

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Jessica Hathaway is the former editor in chief of National Fisherman.

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