DILLINGHAM, AK – As the EPA announced it would withdraw the proposed Clean Water Act protections for Bristol Bay, the region was left with the clear message that under the Trump Administration, biased politics, and not science, rule the day.
The decision by EPA, which comes at the peak of the summer fishery when the entire region is consumed with salmon harvesting and processing, was made behind closed doors in Washington, D.C. with no input from the region’s Tribes or communities. This blatant violation of the government’s trust responsibility to Tribes runs counter to the EPA’s January 2018 statement that additional public comment and tribal consultation would be held before a decision was made. Adding insult to injury, the decision came shortly after Bristol Bay representatives met directly with the agency requesting there be a public process prior to any decision.
The Proposed Determination, first requested by six Bristol Bay Tribes in 2010 and quickly supported by commercial and sport fishermen, would have offered science-based protections for the world’s last great wild salmon run. Instead, the federal government is choosing to prioritize requests of mining lobbyists at the expense of Bristol Bay’s future.
“The EPA’s arbitrary withdrawal of these protections for Bristol Bay that our tribes fought so long and hard for is just another example of the Trump Administration working hand in hand with Pebble’s lobbyists and paving the way for this toxic project to destroy the world’s last great sockeye salmon fishery for the profit of a foreign mining company. This façade of a process by corrupt, politicized agencies has gone on long enough and it’s time for elected leaders to stand up for our people and stop this project from moving forward,” said United Tribes of Bristol Bay Executive Director Alannah Hurley. “This comes as we are wrapping up the second-largest recorded salmon harvest in Bristol Bay of 42 million salmon and counting to feed not only our people but the world. Our people will continue to do whatever it takes to stop this mine.”
“This summer, the Bristol Bay fishery has been breaking records, while Washington D.C. bureaucrats are working at recording-breaking speeds to dismantle the protections that would help ensure our salmon continue to feed the world for years to come,” said Bristol Bay Economic Development Corp. CEO Norm Van Vactor. “It is time for our elected leaders to hold federal agencies accountable for the work they are doing and put people, science and the environment that our children will inherit, ahead of politics.”
“The fact that the EPA would withdraw protections for Bristol Bay after the very same agency stated that the proposed Pebble mine could devastate our region makes no sense,” said Bristol Bay Native Association CEO Ralph Andersen. “This is unacceptable, and a clear example of politics taking priority over science at the federal level. The people of Bristol Bay deserve more from the federal government.”
Ironically, today’s decision comes shortly after the EPA filed lengthy technical comments noting serious flaws in Pebble’s environmental review. There agency found the Pebble project: “may have substantial and unacceptable adverse impacts on fisheries resources in the project area watersheds, which are aquatic resources of national importance.”
© 2019, ↑ Alaska Native News
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