A long-term legal battle over whether a Canadian mining company can build a massive mine abutting the Bristol Bay watershed may be at an abrupt end, or maybe not.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers just said no this past week to granting a critical permit required under the Clean Water Act to the Pebble Limited Partnership, a wholly owned subsidiary of Northern Dynasty Minerals Limited, of Vancouver, British Columbia. Backers of the mine plan to challenge that decision.
Meanwhile fisheries and environmental entities, including the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association, hailed the Corps’ decision.
“This is a joyous and momentous day for Bristol Bay fishermen,” said Andy Wink, executive director of the BBRSDA, which represents drift gillnet harvesters in the Bay. “So many people have dedicated so much of themselves to effectively participate in this process for the sake of our businesses, our families, the local residents, future generations, and most of all for the millions of salmon that call Bristol Bay home.”
Katherine Carscallen, executive director of Commercial Fishermen for Bristol Bay, said the next step is to ask the Environmental Protection Agency to reestablish protections for Bristol Bay under the Clean Water Act. “We’ve learned the hard way over the last decade that Pebble is not truly dead until protections are finalized,” said Carscallen. “We are looking to Senators (Dan) Sullivan and (Lisa) Murkowski to work with us to restore certainty for Bristol Bay’s 14,000 fishermen through full and durable protections for Bristol Bay.”
Carscallen said she also hope that President-elect Jo Biden will be true to his commitment to protect Bristol Bay and reestablish Clean Water Act protections for the famed salmon fishery, which provide hundreds of millions of dollars in annual income and $1.5 billion in economic activity, thanks to the salmon.
Managers of the Pebble Limited Partnership meanwhile aren’t ready to call it quits.
John Shively, chief executive officer of the PLP, expressed his dismay over the Corps’
decision and said the PLP is in the process of working out next steps for the project, including an appeal of the Corps’ decision. Shively said backers of the mine have worked closely with the USAE staff to understand their requirements for responsibly developing the project. This effort led to a comprehensive, positive environmental impact statement for the project that clearly stated it could be developed responsibly, he said.