House Bill from Outside Representative threatens Bristol Bay salmon, culture, jobs

Proposed legislation would erase mining restrictions Alaskans have long sought to protect Bristol Bay from the Pebble Mine. 

December 10, 2015

DILLINGHAM, AK  – Alaska Tribes, commercial fishermen, business owners and sportsmen expressed their deep disappointment at a bill introduced today in the U.S. House of Representatives. The Bill threatens Alaska’s greatest salmon fishery and its tens of thousands of jobs by erasing from the federal Clean Water Act important provisions for wetlands protection. 
 
H.R. 4149, introduced by Representative Tom Rice (R-S.C.), ignores a broad cross section of Alaska Natives, fishermen, hunters and anglers, and business owners, as well as more than one million Americans, who have asked the federal government for immediate Clean Water Act protection for Bristol Bay. The ill-conceived Bill proposes to eliminate an original section of the Clean Water Act known as Section 404(c) that enables the Environmental Protection Agency to evaluate development proposals like the Pebble Mine to determine whether such project would pose “unacceptable adverse impact on one or more of various resources, including fisheries, wildlife, or recreational areas.”
 
“It’s frustrating that Outside lawmakers who have never set foot in Bristol Bay are dictating the choices for our Region’s future. This Bill threatens our culture and way of life,” said Alannah Hurley, Executive Director of United Tribes of Bristol Bay. “H.R. 4149 directly attacks the section of the Clean Water Act that Bristol Bay Tribes asked to be applied to protect our salmon and region from the impacts of mines like Pebble.”
 
“Despite the fact that more than 60 percent of Alaskans are opposed to the Pebble Mine, we continue to see bad bills like this popping up. It indicates that lawmakers are listening more to foreign mining companies instead of Americans who depend on the wild sockeye salmon of Bristol Bay,” said Nelli Williams, Director of Trout Unlimited’s Alaska Program. “Representative Rice should reconsider his sponsorship of this legislation, which has the potential inflict damage on so many Americans.” 
 
More than one million Americans weighed in to support the EPA’s proposed Section 404(c) protections for Bristol Bay during last year’s open comment period on the proposal.
 
“We hope our leaders prioritize Alaskan jobs and the clear desires of their constituents to protect this region and not support legislation that is out of touch with what is important to Americans,” said Melanie Brown, a Bristol Bay commercial fisherman.
 
The sustainable fishery in Bristol Bay provides 14,000 jobs and an economy valued at $1.5 billion per year. In February of 2014, the EPA released a peer-reviewed scientific report showing that the proposed Pebble mine could threaten the resource that sustains the thriving economy of this region.

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United Tribes of Bristol Bay is a tribal consortium working to protect the Yup’ik, Denai’na, and Alutiq way of life and the Bristol Bay watershed from large-scale mining. Learn more about our work at www.utbb.org

Commercial Fishermen for Bristol Bay is a coalition of over 100 fishing organizations and thousands of individual fishermen working to protect the 14,000 jobs, more than $500 million in annual income, and over half the world’s wild sockeye salmon provided by Bristol Bay’s 125 year sustainable fishery. Learn more at fishermenforbristolbay.org.
 
Trout Unlimited is the nation’s oldest and largest coldwater fisheries conservation organization. In Alaska, we work with sportsmen and women to ensure the state’s trout and salmon resources remain healthy far into the future through our local chapters and offices in Anchorage and Juneau. Follow TU on Facebook and Twitter, and visit us online at tu.org. Learn more about our work to protect Bristol Bay at savebristolbay.org.