As local residents and business owners we are extremely upset about the recent settlement between the Environmental Protection Agency and the Pebble Limited Partnership that began rolling back the proposed Clean Water Act protections for our salmon and jobs in Bristol Bay.
We, along with other members of the sportfishing and recreation industry, joined Bristol Bay's tribes, Native corporations and commercial fishermen in asking the EPA to conduct an extensive, peer-reviewed scientific assessment of the Bristol Bay watershed. As a result, a comprehensive, yearslong study was put forth, eliciting literally tens of thousands of comments from across the state. The culmination of this effort was a document that detailed the extreme importance of salmon to the culture as well as the local economy, and the deleterious effect mining the Pebble deposit would have upon both our fisheries and our incomes.
Unfortunately, with recent changes in the EPA, the important protections Alaskans requested for the Bristol Bay region seem to have been cast aside and the Pebble mine has again emerged as a direct threat to our, and our employees', livelihoods. As business owners, the specter of the proposed Pebble mine creates an air of uncertainty for us as well as for the many other businesses that rely upon the reputation of this fishery. We are forced to sit and wait for Pebble to apply for their permits, as they've promised for the past 10 years to no avail, and wonder how we can plan for the future of our business in the shadow of a potential massive mine. The sportfishing industry currently supports a $250 million-a-year economy in the Bristol Bay region that cannot exist without the continued health of this world-renowned natural wonder that is our salmon.
In a recent ADN article (May 12) it was reported that Northern Dynasty now firmly expects a speedy permitting process to come out of the Trump administration, and that they expect the Pebble mine to be one of the first projects to go through an expedited permitting process that will allow them to complete the process in "record time."
In the same article our congressional delegation seems to want to play both sides of the fence, saying they are against the EPA stepping in, while at the same time stating they are unwilling to trade one resource for another. Sometimes you simply can't have it both ways. One side of the fence is a majority of Alaskans who want to protect their jobs, businesses, fish and way of life. On the other side is Pebble, a foreign mining company that has never developed a mine before, and comes at a high risk to Alaska's fish-based economy.
Today we are asking our senators and congressman to side with Alaskans and local business owners rather than foreign interests, to protect our Alaska way of life, and to please take a stronger role when it comes to Bristol Bay and protecting our fisheries. Please don't stand by as the EPA walks back the protections the people of the region and Alaskans of all walks of life have supported in overwhelming numbers the past few years. That action indeed puts us on a clear path to trade one industry for the other.
We would also ask everyone to please not be swayed by Northern Dynasty's latest promises of a smaller footprint and less infrastructure, a ploy used numerous times by large conglomerates throughout history in order to gain access to a certain area. The initial expense of establishing a base almost assures they must remain until the last ounce of gold and copper is extracted, which, according to all indications, spells disaster for one of the world's last true bastions of wild fish.
It is time for all of Alaska's leaders to wholeheartedly support Alaskans and the Alaska-grown businesses that rely upon clean water and wild salmon by publicly and vocally opposing the Pebble mine.
John Holman owns and operates No See Um Lodge on the Kvichak River. The lodge was built by his father over 40 years ago. He and his family live in Wasilla when not at the lodge.
Nanci Morris Lyon owns and operates Bear Trail Lodge on the Naknek River. She and her family live year-round in King Salmon.
Bud Hodson has been in the Alaska sportfishing business for over 32 years. He owns and operates Tikchik Narrows Lodge, one of Bristol Bay's first lodges.