BBEDC Backs Salmon Ballot Initiative

Bristol Bay Economic Development Corp. (BBEDC) has added its support to an initiative on Alaska’s 2018 general election ballot to update a 60-year-old law aimed at protecting salmon habitat.

“Critical salmon spawning and rearing habitat in Alaska, particularly the Bristol Bay region, face many threats, and protecting it for future generations is a major priority,” BBEDC’s directors said in a statement issued in Dillingham, Alaska, June 7.

The board has concluded that the current law falls short of protecting Alaska salmon and believes that this ballot initiative is the right step toward strengthening systems that not only support traditional life ways of Bristol Bay, but also support tens of thousands of Alaska’s jobs.

With the unanimous vote of support from its board, BBEDC joined many Bristol Bay tribes, the Bristol Bay Native Association and hundreds of Alaska owned businesses, commercial fishermen and organizations statewide in support of the Yes for Salmon ballot initiative.

BBEDC is one of six Western Alaska Community Development Quota entities organized under the CDQ program in 1992 to promote economic growth and opportunities within their region.

Backers of the initiative say the existing legal provision protecting salmon habitat is so ambiguous that it is vulnerable to political interference to allow pet projects to be permitted despite scientific research that shows such projects pose potential adverse impact to fish.

Meanwhile a coalition of other business and industry organization, Stand for Alaska, contends that the initiative poses a threat to Alaska jobs and communities and the Alaska way of life. Major contributors to Stand for Alaska include BP Alaska, Teck Alaska and ConocoPhillips Alaska.

The Yes for Salmon ballot initiative would update Title 16 of Alaska Statutes to give the state’s Department of Fish and Game authority to enforce scientific standards during the permitting process for development round salmon streams and allow Alaskans to voice their perspectives during the process.

The initiative itself makes no reference to specific resource development projects but is aimed at protecting fish habitat from potential adverse environmental impact from development of oil and gas and mining projects, including the proposed Pebble mine within the Bristol Bay watershed region.