Proposed legislation could imperil thousands of Alaskan jobs
Monday, Senators Joe Manchin (WV) and David Vitter (LA) introduced legislation that would eliminate the EPA’s ability to protect Bristol Bay from mines like Pebble by curtailing the agency’s clear authority under section 404(c) of the Clean Water Act. Senator Vitter renewed his attack on Bristol Bay’s jobs and the Clean Water Act today in his summary statement for a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing featuring EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy.
“When it comes to protecting American jobs, Senators Manchin and Vitter have it exactly wrong with their attack on the Clean Water Act,” said Katherine Carscallen, Sustainability Director for the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association. “For years, the thousands of men and women who depend on Bristol Bay for their livelihoods, have been seeking protections for the Nation’s greatest sockeye salmon runs. This attempt to re-write the Clean Water Act would extend the uncertainty which has hung over our fishery since the proposed Pebble Mine came on the scene a decade ago. If the Senators truly care about American jobs, they should start by listening to Bristol Bay and standing up for the 14,000 sustainable jobs it provides.”
According to a report issued last year, the Bristol Bay commercial fishery supports $1.5 billion in yearly economic benefits. Adding in sport fishing and other related outdoor industries, Bristol Bay supports 14,000 jobs – all dependent on Bristol Bay’s streams and wetlands. After nearly a decade of the proposed Pebble Mine posing an uncertain future for Bristol Bay and the jobs it supports, commercial fishermen joined Alaska Natives and others to request the EPA initiate a Clean Water Act 404(c) determination in the region.
After three years of scientific study, the EPA concluded the Pebble Mine will destroy up to 94 miles of salmon spawning streams and 5,350 acres of the wetlands, ponds, and lakes in which Bristol Bay’s salmon spawn each and every year. The EPA’s process was transparent and included multiple public hearings in the Bristol Bay region and generated over one million public comments – an overwhelming number of them in support of EPA action. Last month, the EPA responded to its science and commercial fishermen’s initial request by initiating a Clean Water Act 404(c) process in the region. Senators Manchin and Vitter aim to remove the EPA’s authority to take such an action.
“Unfortunately, these Senators seem to be getting it backwards when it comes to protecting American jobs,” said Mike LaRussa, Bristol Bay fisherman. “Bristol Bay is a unique place. This move by the Senators from Louisiana and West Virginia is completely misguided. I hope they will reconsider and follow the example of Alaska Senator Mark Begich, who understands that Bristol Bay cannot be traded for the short term interests of a mine like Pebble; I hope these Senators visit Bristol Bay so they can see the thousands of fishing, seafood processing, and tourism jobs that would be put at risk.”
The Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association (BBRSDA) represents the 1,850 commercial salmon driftnet fishermen who harvest the world’s greatest seafood – Bristol Bay sockeye salmon. Find them at bristolbaysockeye.org and bbrsda.com.