Editorial by Bob Waldrop, BBRSDA

The Wall Street Journal recently wrote an op-ed called “The EPA’s Pebble Beaching,” which called into question the EPA’s watershed assessment of Bristol Bay and its ability to create common sense restrictions which protect our fishery and fishing jobs.

I wrote a letter in response, and while they say they can’t publish it because they’ve already printed other responses, I wanted to share it with you.

I read with interest “The EPA’s Pebble Beaching,” (editorial, Oct. 1) about the Environmental Protection Agency’s review of the Bristol Bay, Alaska watershed and its science-based assessment of the impact of large-scale mining on the waters and salmon resources in Alaska’s Bristol Bay region.

No one, including the EPA, is “rewriting” the Clean Water Act, nor is Administrator Lisa Jackson “expanding her authority.” Although we often find ourselves disagreeing with EPA, the agency analyzed our watershed at the request of commercial fishermen, Alaska Native tribes, and other Bristol Bay businesses. Most of Bristol Bay’s salmon-bearing waters are navigable waters of the United States, and Congress gave EPA authority over the quality of these waters in 1972. The fact is EPA would be derelict in its duties if it did not engage in the matter.

We are simply saying that EPA should apply common sense restrictions on any large mine developments in the region to reduce risks to existing jobs and businesses. The company can go through permitting after that, but it’s good government and good business to establish certainty up front.

Although Pebble may employ up to a 1,000 workers, it does so by putting 14,000 jobs at risk. Its very size and operations (up to 54-square-mile footprint; 10 billion tons of mine waste needing active mitigation forever; power plants requiring more electricity than cities of 500,000 use in a year; 86-mile long road and pipeline; siphoning 35 million gallons a year of fresh water from salmon-bearing rivers and bodies and more) threaten 2,500 small businesses 14,000 jobs and a renewable industry based on salmon that generates $500 million a year – year in, and year out.

We have a successful industry and economy in Bristol Bay that must not be jeopardized by offshore mining companies digging the largest open-pit mine in North America.

Bob Waldrop, executive director, Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association