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By ELIZABETH BLUEMINK
ebluemink@adn.com

Published: February 7th, 2011 10:28 AM

The federal Environmental Protection Agency said today that it will review the suitability of large-scale development projects — such as the proposed copper and gold Pebble mine — in the Bristol Bay watershed.

The EPA said it is launching the review in response to petitions last year from tribes and other organizations opposed to Pebble. Those groups are worried about the potential impact of large-scale mining on Bristol Bay’s world-class salmon runs.

“The Bristol Bay watershed is essential to the health, environment and economy of Alaska,” said EPA Regional Administrator Dennis McLerran in a written statement.

“Gathering data and getting public review now, before development occurs, just makes sense. Doing this we can be assured that our future decisions are grounded in the best science and information and in touch with the needs of these communities,” McLerran said.

Though it rarely uses this authority, EPA can block waste discharges in areas it determines that development will result in too much harm to aquatic life, recreational areas and drinking water.

U.S. Rep. Don Young has filed legislation to remove EPA’s ability to block projects on that basis. Also, Gov. Sean Parnell last year sent a letter to the EPA opposing the Bristol Bay watershed review. Nine Bristol Bay tribes asked EPA to consider adding protections for the Bristol Bay Watershed under federal water pollution laws. Two other tribes asked the agency to delay any action on the matter until the companies seeking to develop Pebble apply for permits. The companies are not expected to submit permit applications until later this year at the earliest.

EPA said its review will focus on the Nushagak and Kvichak watersheds, both downstream of the Pebble deposit.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

Read more: http://www.adn.com/2011/02/07/1688653/epa-to-review-bristol-bay-projects.html#ixzz1DJ20gNZX

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EPA chief hears mine opponents at Bristol Bay meeting

By MARGARET BAUMAN
Dutch Harbor Fisherman via The Associated Press

Published: August 4th, 2010 03:59 PM
Last Modified: August 4th, 2010 09:50 PM

DILLINGHAM — One by one, representatives of a dozen Southwest Alaska communities stood to tell the head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency of the threat they feel the massive Pebble mine prospect would pose to their way of life.

“If you take away who we are, our natural resources, that would be terminating us as a people,” Mary Ann Johnson from the tribal council of Portage Creek told EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson last week, during a listening session at Dillingham High School.

“The salmon have saved people from starvation,” said Dennis Andrew, of the village of New Stuyahok, noting the importance of the Bristol Bay watershed’s abundance to both people and wildlife. “It is so important that they continue to spawn in our waters.”

The event, billed by EPA as a listening session on the massive copper, gold, silver and molybdenum deposit that could be mined at the headwaters of the Bristol Bay watershed, attracted only opponents.

Supporters, including representatives of Iliamna Development Corp., who say the prospect poses a tremendous opportunity for economic development, were not in attendance.

Jackson had met earlier in Anchorage with representatives of the Pebble Limited Partnership, which has said it will invest up to $73 million in Alaska this year as part of its ongoing effort to advance the project. According to the Pebble Partnership, the mine prospect has one of the largest concentrations of copper, gold, molybdenum and silver in the world.

Those speaking to the EPA at the listening session spoke of other riches. They are the sons and daughters of Eskimo families who have inhabited this region for thousands of years, engaging in a subsistence lifestyle dependent upon the fish and sea mammals in the waters of Bristol Bay and a land bountiful in wildlife and berries.

“We lead a very rich lifestyle in a resource-rich area,” said Tom Tilden, first chief of the Curyung Tribal Council in Dillingham. “We can continue to live in this area as long as the resources are protected.”

“Bristol Bay is a national treasure that we must protect,” said Robin Samuelsen, president and chief executive officer of Bristol Bay Economic Development Corp. “Bristol Bay is one of those rare areas where we should not mine.”

“We believe,” said Kimberly Williams, executive director of Nunamta Aulukestai, Caretakers of the Land, “that our life is just so worth protecting. We are not going to go away; we’re going to keep fighting” (to protect the Bristol Bay watershed).

Jackson, who holds a master’s in chemical engineering from Princeton University, opened the meeting with greetings from President Barack Obama. She told the group that Obama wants his administration to talk with tribes on a government-to-government basis.

She also told several dozen people gathered in the high school gymnasium “that there is no such thing as a choice between a job and clean water. You are entitled to both.”

Jackson, who grew up in coastal Louisiana, said life there was tough “but I will take my hat off to the people who make their living here,” a reference to the challenges of living in rural Alaska and the subsistence lifestyle.

The speakers’ list ranged from Jason Metrokin, president and chief executive officer of the Bristol Bay Native Corp., to Bella Hammond of Lake Clark, widow of former Gov. Jay Hammond, who received a standing ovation.

Others included former Alaska Senate President Rick Halford, a technical advisor to Nunamta Aulukestai and Trout Unlimited; Dillingham city planner Jody Seitz, and Anchorage attorney Jeff Parker, representing the community of Nondalton.

Major concerns voiced were the importance of maintaining pollution-free waters critical to subsistence and the Yup’ik Eskimo culture, as well as the multi-million dollar commercial and sport fishing industry.

Some focused on potential activities at the proposed mine that they believe could forever contaminate the watershed critical to all life in the region. Others contended that activities during the prospect’s exploration phase are damaging king salmon runs and causing many animals in the Mulchatna caribou herd to migrate elsewhere.

“Moose and caribou are an important part of our diet,” said Peter Christopher of New Stuyahok. Exploration activities at the mine site have scared off 75 percent of the Mulchatna herd, he said.

“The mine could affect the Nushagak, which is our aquifer,” Seitz said.

The city of Dillingham opposes Pebble, she said. “Fisheries are a critical piece of the economy.”

Many speakers also addressed a need for a closer relationship between the federal and tribal governments, and said the state does not support the tribes.

The listening session was preceded by a potluck luncheon featuring a number of popular area foods, including moose, salmon, duck, muktuk and fried bread, plus salads and large bowls of akutaq – Eskimo ice cream – filled with berries abundant in the region.

Read more: http://www.adn.com/2010/08/04/1395461/epa-chief-hears-mine-opponents.html#ixzz0vi4wfFF5

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Wild Alaskan Sockeye Salmon

‘Pebble could pollute perfect, porous habitat’

ANCHORAGE DAILY NEWS COMPASS: Other points of view

By JACK STANFORD

Published: July 25th, 2010 06:19 PM

Executives with Pebble Limited Partnership and some of their high-profile supporters, like former House Speaker Gail Phillips, have recently made misleading statements about the location and potential impacts of the proposed Pebble Mine.

They stated in public forums that Pebble is not located in the headwaters of Bristol Bay and that it would only affect about two streams out of some 42 similarly-sized streams in the project area, thus creating the false impression that this enormous copper and gold mine would cause minimal harm to the habitat of Bristol Bay’s great salmon fishery. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

The argument that this giant mineral deposit is not in the headwaters of the Nushagak and the Kvichak Rivers relies on a dim notion that the headwaters is only the single stream in a watershed that is farthest from the ocean. Any thinking person knows that surface and ground waters flow downhill anywhere in a watershed, not just from the stream that’s farthest from the ocean. As someone who has taught river ecology for 40 years, I know that the headwaters are where small streams first start to flow throughout a watershed.

I began my career in 1967 on the shoreline of Alaska’s largest king salmon producing river, the Nushagak, near Ekwok. My job was to sit on a tower above the river and count the number and species of salmon swimming underneath to reach spawning grounds in the headwaters of the Nushagak. Sockeye, chum, chinook, pink and coho streamed by, sometimes faster than I could count them. Since then, I have worked in rivers around the world exploring how they create habitat for salmon and trout.

Bristol Bay is home to the world’s largest sockeye salmon run, and it’s a testament to the thoughtful management policies of the State of Alaska that it has remained so. The key to the high productivity of sockeye in Bristol Bay is the habitat, especially the abundance of clean lakes and the intimate connection between water flowing underground and at the surface. Bristol Bay is an inherently wet, porous place, where water moving between the ground and the surface provides the perfect place for salmon eggs to develop.

It is simply wishful thinking to assume that the Pebble prospect can be developed without long-term impacts on Bristol Bay salmon. Pebble would necessarily destroy salmon-bearing headwater streams outright and would very likely pollute many more. This has happened time and again with sulfide mines around the globe, and Pebble would be one of the largest and likely the most destructive headwaters removal mine ever conceived.

Any pollution from Pebble wouldn’t just affect salmon near the mine site; it would travel easily downstream, through surface and groundwater. In fact, the porous nature of the Bristol Bay watershed that makes it such a great producer of salmon also makes it especially vulnerable to the kind of pollution that is caused by copper sulfide mining.

In the end, a project like Pebble would put all of the salmon downstream from the site at risk; this means no less than all of the fish that return to and rear in the Nushugak, the Kvichak, Lake Iliamna and the vast majority of their tributaries. A mine of this magnitude is not just about the mine site and the pollution that could emanate from it, it’s also about the broader cumulative effects, whether it’s the haul roads that cross stream after stream and open up the entire area, leaks from the slurry pipelines or the multitude of mining claims whose owners stand ready to develop more mines if Pebble becomes a reality.

As an expert on rivers, I can say with authority that Bristol Bay is in nearly the same situation that faced the great salmon rivers in the Lower 48 before their salmon were lost to development, dams, pollution and other factors. The only real difference for Bristol Bay is that the decision can be informed by history.

On the other hand, wishfully thinking that you can have it all — a mining district and a thriving fishery — will take Bristol Bay down the same road as so many once-great salmon rivers.


Jack A. Stanford is a professor of ecology at the University of Montana.

Read more: http://www.adn.com/2010/07/25/1380983/pebble-could-pollute-perfect-porous.html#ixzz0uozjEvjj

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