Pressure on Pebble intensifies amid praise for Begich

Staff and wire reportsJanuary 22, 2014 

Aerial view of a work camp in the area of the proposed Pebble Mine on Tuesday, August 27, 2013.

BILL ROTH — Anchorage Daily News file photo Buy Photo

A U.S. senator is leading an anti-Pebble rally, a veterans group is running anti-Pebble TV ads and a commercial fishermen's group is thanking a different senator, Mark Begich, for his opposition to the proposed Pebble Mine.

Bob Waldrop, executive director of the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association, says ads will begin running Wednesday as a "straight up thank you" for Begich's decision to speak out against Pebble. Waldrop says it's not a political ad and is intended to provide "positive reinforcement" for Begich's stance.

Begich announced his opposition to the project after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released a report concluding that large-scale mining in the Bristol Bay watershed poses significant risks to salmon.

Critics of the EPA process worry the report will be used as the basis to pre-emptively veto the mine.

Pebble Ltd. Partnership is working to develop a large gold and copper deposit that is at the headwaters of two salmon-producing rivers. Pebble chief Executive John Shively says the EPA study is flawed and that developers should be allowed to seek permits that require strict federal and state reviews. If the project can't meet government standards, it shouldn't be allowed, but it shouldn't be stopped before then, he says.

Another round of new ads comes from VoteVets.org, which says the mine threatens thousands of jobs, many of which are held by veterans. The group started its television campaign on Wednesday and says it is spending $25,000 on a week's worth of ads in Alaska. The ads feature Random Reamey, an Iraq veteran and Alaskan from Dillingham who has fished commercially in Bristol Bay.

"I fought for my country overseas," he says in the TV spot. "I shouldn't have to fight a foreign company to protect my job here at home." The sole owner of the project is now Northern Dynasty Minerals, based in Vancouver, British Columbia. London-based Anglo American recently dropped out.

On Thursday in Seattle, U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, a Democrat, plans to lead a rally of 100 fishermen, business leaders and a famed Seattle chef and restaurateur, Tom Douglas.

Cantwell's office said she will for the first time call directly on President Obama to stop a large mine in the Bristol Bay area, home to the most productive sockeye salmon fishery in the world. The fishery supports 6,000 fishing jobs in Washington, Oregon and California, her office says.

Pebble says that shows that many of the fishing jobs don't go to Alaskans.

"The Washington rally reinforces a key issue we have been discussing with stakeholders and that is the commercial fishing industry is an important economic engine for the region but most of the value quickly exits Alaska as evidenced by the fact that the majority of commercial drift permits are fished by people living outside of Alaska," Pebble says.

A 2013 report from the Institute of Social and Economic Research at the University of Alaska Anchorage found that 845 of the 1,850 driftnet permits in 2010 were held by Alaskans. With set nets included, Alaskans held just over half of the commercial salmon fishing permits in Bristol Bay, 1,474 of 2,777 permits.

Daily News reporter Lisa Demer and the Associated Press contributed to this story. Reach Lisa Demer at ldemer@adn.com or 907-257-4390.

 

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