ANCHORAGE, (KTUU) - Commercial fishing season is underway in Bristol Bay; but instead of focusing all their attention on their catches, fishermen are focused on the future the Pebble Mine could have on their livelihood. The public comment period on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement closes July 1.
“Our industry in Bristol Bay is in the fight of our lives against relentless attempts by the Pebble Limited Partnership, fueled by a 'dig baby dig' attitude from the US Army Corps of Engineers, to develop the world’s largest and most dangerous open pit mine at the headwaters of our fishery,” said lifelong Alaskan Alexus Kwachka, in a press release. She continued that fishermen are looking to Sen. Lisa Murkowski, "to deliver on her longtime promise of ensuring a permitting process that protects the interests of Alaskans and does not trade one resource for another.”
In a letter sent in April from Sen. Murkowski to Colonel Phillip Borders, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Alaska District Commander, she urged the Corps to redouble its efforts to engage in meaningful consultation with the Alaska Natives who live in the Bristol Bay region, including ensuring local residents have the ability to provide input on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement.
The press release from Commercial Fishermen for Bristol Bay also presented statements from other groups opposing the Pebble Mine.
The American Fisheries Society, which represents over 7,500 professional fishery scientists and resource managers, sent a letter to the Corps saying the assessment is inadequate.
"We find the DEIS is deficient because 1) impacts and risks to fish and their habitats are underestimated; 2) many conclusions are not supported by the data or analysis provided; and 3) critical information is missing,” the organization wrote.
The North Pacific Fisheries Management Council also sent a letter writing “The Corps EIS fails to consider impacts to the Alaska Seafood brand and reputation.”
Pebble Partnership spokesman Mike Heatwole told Channel 2 during the public hearing process in April that while many Bristol Bay residents are opposed to the mine, some traveled to the hearings in order to learn more about potential jobs.
"Which is largely about wanting to see the full process work,” Heatwole said, “and see about what this could mean as an opportunity in terms of jobs in an area where there really isn't a lot of economic activity."
The Army Corps of Engineers is tasked with creating an environmental impact statement before deciding whether or not to issue permits for the project under the Clean Water Act and the Rivers and Harbors Act.
The Corps says the permitting process for the Pebble Project is approximately halfway through and it hopes to have a final decision in about a year.
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