JUNEAU—On Tuesday, the House Fisheries Committee passed House Bill 119 sponsored by Representative Andy Josephson (D-Anchorage). The bill seeks to protect the world-famous Bristol Bay fisheries from the harmful impacts of any large-scale metallic sulfide mine located within the boundaries of the existing Bristol Bay Fisheries Reserve.
“In a couple of months thousands of stakeholders will be hitting the waters of Bristol Bay targeting the largest sockeye salmon run on earth,” said Rep. Josephson. “These sockeye are a national treasure that are at the heart of the economy of the Bristol Bay region. That’s important. But what’s more important is that the sockeye support a subsistence lifestyle that will be threatened if large-scale mining is allowed in the region.”
HB 119 requires the Commissioners of the Departments of Natural Resources, Environmental Conservation and Fish and Game to make independent determinations that permit applicant for any large-scale mine in the region have proven beyond a reasonable doubt that such a mine would not constitute a danger to the fisheries. HB 119 builds on Ballot Measure 4, which was approved by voters in November, requiring the Alaska Legislature to approve any large-scale metallic sulfide mine in the Bristol Bay Fisheries Reserve.
“I supported Ballot Measure 4, but because of the political nature of the Legislature I thought it prudent to seek additional protections for this one of a kind region and resource,” said Rep. Josephson. “If a project is sound enough to successfully go through the permitting process, garner legislative approval, and be signed off on by the Commissioners of DNR, DEC, and Fish and Game then it’s a good project. If it’s not then it’s not something that should be allowed to go forward.”
HB 119 has been sent to the House Resources Committee for additional consideration. The bill has also been referred to the House Finance Committee.