BBFA Critical of EPA’s Proposed Determination on Pebble Mine

Image via Bristol Bay Fishermen’s Association.

The Bristol Bay Fishermen’s Association, which represents some 300 commercial drift gillnetters and setnetters, have come out in opposition to the Environmental Protection Agency’s latest proposed action on the Pebble mine, saying it would not protect the Bristol Bay watershed.

In a statement issued on the eve of the fishery’s 2022 opener, which is one of the world’s largest runs of wild sockeye salmon, BBFA spokesman David Harsila said the association cannot support the EPA’s “weak and watered down 2022 proposed determination on Section 404(c) of the Clean Water Act.

“The watershed will not be protected, and a large-scale mining operation could still be permitted,” Harsila said. “We demand that EPA do more to protect the Bristol Bay drainages.”

The Seattle-based BBFA, which describes itself as the oldest and largest voluntary association of commercial salmon fishers in Bristol Bay, said the EPA’s 2022 proposed determination for the Pebble deposit is much weaker than its 2014 proposed determination and does little to provide lasting protection to the watershed from construction and development of the massive Canadian-owned copper, gold and molybdenum mine, which would lie on state lands.

Harsilla said that the latest proposed determination only prohibits the Pebble Limited Partnership’s 2020 mine plan for which the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has already denied a permit. The PLP can revise its mine plan to comply with the weaker limits on four types of harm to anadromous streams and submit a new plan, he said.

The EPA, he added, must do an effective job of protecting ecosystems of anadromous streams from adverse effects.

Harsilla also said the latest EPA proposed determination does not apply to nearby potential mines that would or could build the same facilities as Pebble mine and cause the same potential environmental harms.