Staying in the Fight: Bristol Bay

By Dwayne Meadows and Scott Hed

You’ve worked pretty darn hard at this. You’ve called, written letters, donated and answered the calls to action nearly every time we’ve asked. Thank you. Because you and thousands of others weighed in, the EPA released their Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment on Jan 17th.

Since then the support for Bristol Bay protection only continues to grow. On Jan. 18, the Anchorage Daily News editorialized “Let’s be clear, Pebble will kill salmon.” Two days later Sen. Mark Begich (AK), after looking at the EPA’s report announced, “Pebble was not worth the risk.” The Seattle Times followed the next day saying “Hard evidence on the environmental devastation and the economic losses, and the hardships for Alaska Native cultures, all work against a terrible idea.”   On Jan. 23, Sen. Maria Cantwell (WA) held a rally to tell EPA to use the Clean Water Act to protect Bristol Bay jobs. On a cold day at Fishermen’s Terminal in Seattle, over 250 chefs, Alaska natives and commercial and sport fishermen stood with her. The next week, 10 members of Congress from the Pacific Northwest sent a letter urging EPA to use their power under the Clean Water Act to protect the Bristol Bay salmon fishery from the devastating effects of Pebble Mine.

Photo: Dave McCoy

Getting the Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment released was a big deal.  It’s a milestone, reason to celebrate.  But we aren’t done yet, and we need your help to win.

You see, in 2010 the people of Bristol Bay didn’t ask the EPA to do a Watershed Assessment – they asked the agency to initiate a Clean Water Act 404(c) review to protect the Bristol Bay fishery.  This process, if started, would review whether Pebble or mines like it should get a permit to dump dredge and fill material into crucial salmon spawning streams. EPA has not yet officially responded to this request from local communities. Convincing the EPA that they need to move forward with this 404(c) review is the next step to getting Bristol Bay protected.


By our count, the EPA has received nearly a million comments on this issue. As sportsmen and women, we’ve spoken loud and clear and united: Bristol Bay is too valuable to risk with a mine like Pebble.  We have stayed vigilant in this fight through two Presidential elections, a change in control of Congress and three heads of the EPA.   Even Alaskans, who typically welcome mining with open arms, are saying louder and louder, across party lines, that Pebble is the wrong mine in the wrong place - this  despite millions of dollars spent in lobbying and advertising.


Over a month has passed since the final science report was released without a word from the EPA.  Local communities are holding rallies and getting petitions signed.  Town hall meetings are being held across the Alaska.  A musher is dedicating her first Iditarod race to protecting Bristol Bay.    Around the country Alaska Natives, sportsmen and women, commercial fishermen, chefs, and many others who care about Bristol Bay are doing their part by sending emails or a check and making phone calls.  They are calling on EPA once again to act.  They are sending the message to the EPA that the science is in and the time is now – Please use your authority under the Clean Water Act and start a 404 (c) review to protect Bristol Bay.  

Bonfires for Bristol Bay

The science is clear; the EPA has the support of the people of Bristol Bay, thousands of Alaskans and commercial fishermen, sport anglers and hunters, religious leaders, union members, jewelers, chefs and grocers across the nation. 

We know you have told them before, but please tell the EPA to move forward with protecting Bristol Bay, again. We are getting closer, but aren’t quite there yet.

Let’s keep our game face on; if we keep up the pressure we can win this.

Thanks again.

Dwayne Meadows is the TU Bristol Bay National Outreach Director

Scott Hed is the director of the Sportsmen's Alliance for Alaska




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