U.S. House Votes To Suspend Pebble Funding
By MARY KAUFFMAN
June 20, 2019
Pebble Mine is a mineral exploration project investigating a very large porphyry copper, gold, and molybdenum mineral deposit in the Bristol Bay region of Southwest Alaska, near Lake Iliamna and Lake Clark.
The proposal to mine the ore deposit using large-scale operations and infrastructure has been controversial.
Proponents argue that the mine will create jobs, provide tax revenue to the state of Alaska, and reduce American dependence on foreign sources of raw materials.
Opponents argue that the mine would adversely affect the entire Bristol Bay watershed; and that the possible consequences to fish populations, when mining effluents escape planned containments, are simply too great of a risk. Much of this debate concerns the tentative plan to impound large amounts of water, waste rock, and mine tailings behind several earthen dams at the mine site.
Cook Inletkeeper Executive Director, Carly Wier, praised the decision saying, “Alaska's Bristol Bay is a global treasure, holding the world's largest wild sockeye salmon fishery that sustains our local communities and economies in the region. The Army Corps of Engineers should be embarrassed by the sloppy analysis we were given in their EIS. We deserve better, and we are grateful to Congress for hearing our voices when our own delegation seems to be ignoring us. We hope that Lisa Murkowski can do the right thing and stand with Tribes, commercial fisherman, scientists and citizens of Alaska to protect Bristol Bay. The whole world is watching.”
During a House Session Tuesday, Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) admonished his colleagues, demanding that they "let the process go through", and finished by saying, "Let's look at the science.''
Sue Mauger, Science Director at Cook Inletkeeper responded to Rep Young's comment saying, "Rep. Young, I've looked at the science. As a stream ecologist, who has studied Cook Inlet and Bristol Bay salmon streams and water temperature regimes for 19 years, I have looked closely at how the draft EIS addresses impacts to Bristol Bay salmon through changes to water temperature. This is what I found: Impacts to fish from altered temperature regimes are notably minimized in the draft EIS, even though water temperature is arguably THE driving factor contributing to fish metabolism and growth. The downstream impact from water temperature changes influencing juvenile salmon growth, timing of emergence, and food availability all have implications for salmon survival in both freshwater and in the ocean. With only a superficial look at summer and winter temperatures – and none for the shoulder seasons, no effort to link the impacts across life history stages, no consideration of local adaptation to thermal conditions, unsupported assumptions about thermal effects on the aquatic invertebrates that make up a salmon’s diet, this document is incomplete and reflects a lack of regard for the very real concerns Alaskan have about this proposed project on Bristol Bay salmon resources. The fact that this basic water quality parameter was not thoroughly explored in this document greatly concerns me."
The Alaska Center - a local non-profit representing 35,000 Alaskan members- praised Representative Huffman and House members for taking decisive action to protect Alaska's clean water by putting a halt to what they call the "flawed" Pebble Mine permitting process.
Quoting a news release from the Alaska Center, "For over a decade Alaskans across the state have expressed overwhelming opposition to the Pebble Mine. This project would risk 14,000 jobs, thousands of acres of critical wetlands, and pose an irreversible threat to the way of life for many Alaskans whose history spans millennia in the Bristol Bay region. During recent hearings in Alaska, 75% of the Alaskans who testified were in opposition to the Pebble Mine. This is clearly not a development that is considering the impacts on and the desires of the Alaskan people."
The Army Corps of Engineers’ Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) is quickly reaching the end of the comment deadline. The Alaska Center stated in a news release that the DEIS is a rushed, incomplete and inadequate document and fails to account for all of the mine’s potential impacts. It is another example of how Alaskan voices are not at the decision-making table when it comes to our resources according to the Alaska Center. Alaska Center's Executive Director, Polly Carr said, “Since we cannot rely on the Army Corps or the Pebble Partnership to be fair and thorough, we must rely on members of Congress to stand with Alaskans and question this flawed and deceptive permitting process.”
Carr said, "While we are grateful for the actions of Representative Huffman and House members, we ask Senator Murkowski to stand with Alaskans and use her power to oppose the Pebble Mine. It is time that our leadership work for a sustainable Alaska for all and protect our communities from the loss of Alaskan livelihoods, health, and heritage."
The public comment period for the Army Corps DEIS continues until July 1. You can submit your comment online, click here.
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