On Jan. 8, Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy announced the state would take action to appeal the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' decision to deny a permit application for the Pebble Mine.

The Pebble Limited Partnership submitted its plan for a mine in Alaska's Bristol Bay region almost two years ago. The 1,500-page document was immediately and widely panned by scientists, fishery managers, fishermen and many representatives of Bristol Bay's Native tribes.

"Bristol Bay residents and Alaskans have been clear that we will not trade one of the world's last robust salmon fisheries for a gold mine, and the Army Corps decision affirmed that this toxic project is too risky for our home and does not serve the public interest," said United Tribes of Bristol Bay Deputy Director Lindsay Layland, who participated in our Expo Online Pebble Mine panel in November.

Alaskans living and working in the region have fought the mine's development for more than a decade, primarily because of the risks it would pose to the wild salmon habitat. The benefits to the region, they have said, would be short term, since the mineral rights are owned by Pebble's parent company, Northern Dynasty Minerals, a Canadian company.

"It's outrageous that Gov. Dunleavy and his administration would go against the will of Alaskans to benefit a foreign mining company that has no value to our state, and shows once again how out of touch he is," said Layland.

Dunleavy has been openly supportive of the mine since his election in 2018. He has been accused of funneling Pebble communications through his office to the White House, and he met with President Donald Trump on Air Force 1 the day before federal protections for the region were drawn down.

The Commercial Fishermen for Bristol Bay created a video illustrating the governor's connections with Pebble interests.

“While science prevailed when the Army Corps rejected the proposed Pebble Mine’s Clean Water Act permit, Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s continued interference on behalf of the Pebble Partnership shows Bristol Bay is far from safe. In announcing the state will appeal, the governor has chosen to ignore scientific fact and the large majority of Alaskans,” said SalmonState Executive Director Tim Bristol.

The state's appeal, however, is likely bring back to the forefront a push for the incoming Biden administration or Congress to give the region permanent federal protections that would hamper future permit applications. As it stands now, the Army Corps veto would not prevent the permitting process from starting anew at any time. The Pebble Corp. and Northern Dynasty hold the mineral rights and could wait to submit another permit application when a more amenable federal leadership comes along.

“The only way to stop this toxic project for good is with an EPA veto. We urge President-elect Biden and Congress to act swiftly and decisively to reenact lasting protections for Bristol Bay — a one-of-a-kind American resource,” Bristol added.

Jessica Hathaway is the editor in chief of National Fisherman. She has been covering the fishing industry for 15 years, serves on the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute's Communications Committee and is a National Fisheries Conservation Center board member.

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