By Nina Faust
Bristol Bay’s fishery is a critical part of Alaska’s economy, providing 12,000 jobs and over $1.5 billion in income. We produce most of the wild salmon consumed in the United States and our fishery will keep producing income and jobs for Alaskans as long as we protect Bristol Bay. But Alaskans know that a large Outside corporation has proposed the world’s largest open-pit mine in Bristol Bay and the science shows that the mine and salmon cannot coexist.
Sadly, the science doesn’t matter to the Parnell/Treadwell Administration. Pebble Partnership, the Outside corporation made up of Anglo-American and Northern Dynasty, has received over 150 permits from the state. State politicians say they “won’t trade salmon for gold” but their actions speak louder than words. Even though Pebble Partnership still refuses to disclose its mine plans, the state has handed over every permit needed for the mine to move forward.
The Parnell/Treadwell Administration keeps handing over these permits even while Pebble Partnership breaks the law. Pebble has illegally withdrawn water from 45 different sources near the proposed mine. Why is it necessary for Pebble to break the law? Thanks to the Parnell/
Treadwell Administration, Pebble already has permits to withdraw 32 million gallons of water per year.
Of course, if HB 77 is passed by the Alaska legislature, the situation would be even worse. HB 77 would eliminate Alaskans’ ability to reserve water for our fisheries. It would give the commissioner carte blanche authority to grant permits for massive projects like Pebble without regard to the impact on Alaskans’ livelihoods.
Even in the absence of HB 77, the Administration has tried to steamroll public opposition and permit Pebble mine. At a discussion of the Mat-Su Business Alliance, Lt. Governor Treadwell said that since Pebble was “invited” into Alaska the administration wouldn’t “pull the rug out” from under them. Treadwell’s statement shows a gross misunderstanding of Pebble’s history and the permitting process. Alaskans most certainly did NOT “invite” Pebble to destroy our best wild salmon fishery. Nor should Pebble be allowed to go forward just because they applied for some permits. The whole point of the permitting process is to examine the potential impacts of the mine and make an informed decision about whether it should be permitted.
Fortunately, that kind of unbiased scientific investigation is exactly what the Environmental Protection Agency is doing. We’ll know more when their study is complete, but one thing is certain: We need agencies to make decision based on science, not politics. The Parnell/Treadwell Administration has lost all credibility in this regard. Their decisions to grant dozens of permits, ignore illegal water withdrawals, and promote legislation to eliminate any public oversight of Pebble has destroyed their credibility as impartial arbiters of the permitting process.
If our own governor is just a shill for Pebble, then we depend on the Environmental Protection Agency to do its job, look at the science and not be influenced by politics. Our largest salmon fishery, 12,000 sustainable jobs and $1.5 billion in annual income is at stake.
Nina Faust is a Homer-area resident and founder of Kachemak Crane Watch.
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