Murkowski: No Permit for Mine That Damages Fishery

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska says a mine that can’t stand on its own without negative impact to fisheries resources should not be permitted.

Murkowski’s concerns, addressed during a Washington DC celebration of Bristol Bay’s wild salmon, came in the wake of her reading the draft environmental impact statement for the proposed Pebble mine produced by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, plus comments critical of the report from several federal and state agencies.

“I am a policy maker and as a policy maker I need to be able to say that we are sure we have processes that people can trust,” Murkowski told a gathering in Washington D.C. on Sept. 18 hosted by sponsors of Bristol Bay Salmon Week.

Murkowski said she read reports from the Environmental Protection Agency, the Interior Department and other federal and state agencies and concluded that if science issues raised by these agencies can’t demonstrate that a successful mining project is possible “in an area that is as sensitive as the Bristol Bay watershed than a permit should not issue.”

The senator said she wants to make sure that the Corps and the EPA look very carefully at information gaps regarding various aspects, and work to address them. If they are unable to address them, “than the permit should not issue,” she said.

She vowed to continue to use her seat on the Senate Appropriations Committee “to make sure that the EPA and the Corps hear clearly that they must address these,” she said. “If the applicant continues to pursue this project that is their right,” she said. “I can’t stop them, but what we need is to be able to believe whether the science that drives the process can be trusted, whether it is this project or any other project out there.”

The Pebble Limited Partnership, a subsidiary of the Canadian mining firm Hunter-Dickenson, which is based in Vancouver, British Columbia, has filed for many permits.

Events during Bristol Bay Salmon Week in the nation’s capital included 26 restaurants and Wegmans grocery stores in Virginia and Maryland featuring wild Bristol Bay sockeye salmon. Each of the restaurants took a unique approach in their preparation of the sockeye. One of them, Mitsitam Café within the National Museum of the American Indian, used traditional Alaska Native recipes for two of its dishes. All events were sponsored by the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association.

This year’s celebration of Bristol Bay salmon came in the wake of a season that saw a preliminary ex-vessel value of $306.5 million dollars of all salmon species that ranks first in the history of the fishery. The catch was 248 percent of the 20-year average of $124 million, noted Tim Sands, with the Alaska Department of Fish and Games’ commercial fisheries area management staff in Dillingham, Alaska. The 44.5 million harvest of all salmon species in Bristol Bay was the second largest in the history of the fishery behind 45.4 million fish in 1995. The sockeye salmon harvest of 43 million fish ranks second behind 44.2 million fish harvested in 1995.

The overall harvest included 42,967,737 sockeye valued at $303,897,039; 30,579 kings, $173,725; 1,379,169 chum, $2,250,721; 5,680 pink, $1,079; and 75,517 coho, $250.737.