Good thing it wasn’t a 700′ earthen dam holding back a few cubic miles of tailings at the headwaters of a massive sockeye system…but that would never happen, right?
Good thing it wasn’t a 700′ earthen dam holding back a few cubic miles of tailings at the headwaters of a massive sockeye system…but that would never happen, right?
After a few hiccups, fits, and false starts, the EPA has finally released the Draft Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment Report.
No surprise, but as it turns out, digging a huge fucking hole in the headwaters plain of several anadromous streams isn’t really a good idea when viewed against the background of the world’s largest sockeye fishery.
Some key findings:
The rivers of Bristol Bay support the world’s largest sockeye salmon runs (46% of the “global abundance” of sockeye) and its Chinook runs are near the world’s largest every year.
All five species of North American Pacific salmon are found in Bristol Bay. The Bristol Bay watershed supports the largest sockeye salmon fishery in the world.
The Kvichak River produces more sockeye salmon than any other river in the world.
The Nushagak River is the fourth largest producer of Chinook salmon in North America.
Bristol Bay’s wild salmon fishery and other ecological resources provide at least 14,000 full and part-time jobs and is valued at about $480 million annually.
The average annual run of sockeye salmon is about 37.5 million fish.
Bristol Bay provides habitat for numerous animal species, including 35 fish species, more than 190 bird species and 40 animal species.
Aaaaaand a key excerpt:
“Based on this mine scenario, we conclude that, at a minimum, mining at this scale would cause the loss of spawning and rearing habitat for multiple species of anadromous and resident fish. A mine footprint of this scale would likely result in the direct loss of 87.5 to 141.4 km of streams and 10.2 to 17.3 km2 of wetlands. Additionally, water withdrawals for mine operations would significantly diminish habitat quality in an additional 2 to 10 km of streams. Assuming no significant accidents or failures, the development and routine operation of one large-scale mine would result in significant impacts on fish populations in streams surrounding the mine site. Accidents, process failures, and infrastructure failures could increase the spatial scale and severity of mining impacts on fish populations. Potential accidents include
(1) the release of acid, metal, and other contaminants from the mine site, waste rock piles, and tailings storage facilities (TSFs)
(2) the failure of roads, culverts, and pipelines in the transportation corridor, including spills of copper concentrate
(3) the catastrophic failure of a tailings dam.
Although precise estimates of the probabilities of failure occurrence cannot be made, evidence from the long-term operation of similar large mines suggests that, over the life span of a large mine, at least one or more accidents or failures could occur, potentially resulting in immediate, severe impacts on salmon and detrimental, long-term impacts on salmon habitat and production.”
While the EPA makes no pronouncements or decisions through this document, one fact becomes very clear in reading through the document:
The job of convincing the Obama Administration to take action before January 20, 2013, now begins in earnest. Please take 5 minutes and fill out This Online Action Letter and ask the President to initiate the Clean Water Act process that will enable EPA to limit industrial scale mining in Bristol Bay. Ask your friends and family to do the same.
Shout outs to Trout Unlimited’s Tim Bristol and Shoren Brown for kicking more ass in a few years than most men in a lifetime. Respect to all the folks watching out for Bristol Bay, and thanks for your continued efforts.
They won’t go unnoticed, fisha.
Trout Unlimited, Alaska Program Director
Fact: The Forest Service spends roughly $25 million annually on its timber program in the Tongass National forest, which supports about 200 jobs. By contrast, watershed restoration annually accounts for some $1.5 million spent in the Tongass.
Fact: The salmon and trout of the Tongass National Forest – through commercial, sport, and subsistence fisheries – contribute roughly $1 billion annually to the economy of Southeast Alaska and employ some 7,300 people either directly or indirectly.
Fact: Many scientists agree the key to maintaining the biodiversity and ecological integrity of the Tongass National Forest is to protect the region’s high-value salmon-producing watersheds – entire drainages that stretch from ridge top to ridge top and from river headwaters to river mouths.
Fact: Despite the natural richness of the Tongass National Forest, some 65 percent of Tongass salmon and trout spawning and rearing habitat is not Congressionally protected at the watershed scale, and is currently open to development activities that could harm fish.
Researchers from the Alaska offices of the Audubon Society, The Nature Conservancy and Trout Unlimited used state-of-the-art GIS and conservation planning software to identify the watersheds they consider the “best of the best” for salmon and trout habitat from the hundreds of Tongass watersheds not currently protected at the watershed scale. The 77 high-value watersheds they identified, comprising some 1.8 million acres, are currently open to development. Based on their outstanding fish habitat, the highest and best use of these “Tongass 77” watersheds should be for the production of salmon and trout.
At present, no-harvest buffers of 100 feet minimum are required on all larger Tongass anadromous streams (Class I and II). Additionally, about 35 percent of salmon and trout habitat is protected at the watershed scale on about 35 percent of the land base of the Tongass National Forest. The “Tongass 77″ high-value salmon and trout watersheds cover about 11 percent of the Tongass land base, but represent almost 22 percent of the total available salmon and trout habitat of the Tongass National Forest.
We know how development and unsustainable logging practices affect salmon and trout habitat. From California to Northern BC, we have seen the effects of watershed development undertaken with wild salmon and trout viewed as a resource not to be worked around and protected, but to be mitigated against, almost as an afterthought. The time has come to place salmon and trout conservation and restoration higher on the priority list. Trout Unlimited Alaska, along with a small but growing coalition of folks, is pushing to gain durable federal watershed-scale conservation measures for 77 watersheds deemed the “best of the best” in terms of spawning and rearing habitat for wild salmon and trout in the Tongass National Forest. In addition, a group of Alaska commercial fishermen, anglers, guides, naturalists and tour operators will be in Washington, D.C., this week (March 5th-9th) to advocate for more conservation and restoration of fish habitat in the Tongass National Forest in Southeast Alaska. Read the press release here.
Each year, abundant wild salmon runs return from the ocean to Tongass streams to spawn and die. In this process, these fish bring nutrients from the productive North Pacific Ocean to the much less nutrient-rich land. Because the ecosystems of the area are sustained by the annual salmon returns, the Tongass National Forest is literally “America’s Salmon Forest.”
Read more about America’s Salmon Forest and the “Tongass 77″ at www.americansalmonforest.org
If you happen to have a yen, a hankerin’, even a slight urge to go fish the Piscivorous Playground that is Alaska this coming season, take a look at this.
When you book a trip buy March 10th with the fine folks at Alaska FlyOut for a stay at one of the lodges pictured above , they will donate 5% of the package price to the Save Bristol Bay campaign.
Go ahead, do it.
You know you want to.
Threat to thousands of sustainable fishing jobs prompts fisherman, Alaska Natives to take their story to the Lower 48 beginning Oct. 17;
Tour will highlight proposed Pebble mine’s threat to fishing jobs, Native way of life
Seattle – Alaska Natives, commercial fishermen, sportsmen and seafood processors are heading south on the Save Bristol Bay Road Show to raise awareness and build support for protecting Bristol Bay Alaska, which is threatened by the proposed Pebble gold and copper mine.
The mine, potentially three times as large as the largest current mine in North America, would threaten the headwaters of Bristol Bay, putting thousands of fishing jobs at risk, along with a Native way of life that has existed for centuries. The real gold in Bristol Bay is the world’s largest sockeye salmon fishery, a sustainable resource that returns year after year.
In six cities, commercial fishermen, Alaska Natives, sportsmen and seafood processors will highlight the economic risks posed by the mine. The Road Show will also feature a screening of the award-winning documentary, “Red Gold,” delicious Bristol Bay sockeye prepared by local chefs, and locally produced beers.
Melanie Brown, an Alaska Native and commercial fisherwoman, and Ben Blakey, of family-run seafood company, Snopac Products, will travel to all of the cities as featured speakers, sharing the importance of the region as an economic engine, source of jobs, and resource for food. In each city, the program will also feature sportsmen, fishing guides or commercial fishermen, whose livelihoods depend on the clean waters and sustainable fish runs of Bristol Bay. More than 12,000 jobs depend on the commercial salmon fishery in Bristol Bay, along with more than 1,000 jobs related to sport fishing and countless other businesses.
The Save Bristol Bay Road Show visits the following six cities:
Seattle: Monday, October 17, Leif Erikson Lodge, 7 p.m.
Portland: Wednesday, October 19, Bagdad Theater, 7 p.m.
Corvallis: Friday, October 21, The Arts Center, 7 p.m.
San Francisco: Monday, October 24, Temple Nightclub, 7 p.m.
Santa Fe: Tuesday, October 25, Center For Contemporary Arts Cinematheque, 7 p.m.
Denver: Thursday, October 27, Oriental Theater, 7 p.m.
For information, please visit: www.savebristolbay.org/roadshow
The Save Bristol Bay Road Show is coordinated by the Save Bristol Bay campaign, part of a broad, bipartisan, national coalition that supports protecting Bristol Bay and its natural resources from the severe risks of massive-scale development, including the Pebble Mine.
The Road Show is sponsored by the generous support of companies including Tiffany & Co., ExOfficio, Icicle Seafoods, Orvis, Sage, and Chef’s Collaborative.
Speakers are available for interviews and briefings. Speaker photos and bios available upon request.
If you’re in the Seattle area on 6/9, there is no good reason not to be at this. Let’s push Pebble over a cliff, once and for all. See ya there.
Apologies for steppin’ on Hamma’s recent post about dry-side douchebaggery and the Snake River…read that after you read this. Be sure to click through to the EPA letter and check out the businesses and organizations that signed on – that way, the next time you have a dollar or two to spend in the outdoor industries, you know who your friends are.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – Thursday, February 24, 2011
Hunters, anglers, sportsmen call
on Obama administration and
Environmental Protection Agency
to protect Bristol Bay, Alaska
More than 360 outdoor organizations join forces and ask the EPA and White House to stand up for sportsmen and protect Bristol Bay
Washington, D.C. – A united coalition of fishing, hunting and sporting organizations from nearly every U.S. state joined together on Thursday to ask the federal Environmental Protection Agency to use its authority to protect Bristol Bay, Alaska from the dangers of the proposed Pebble Mine.
More than 360 organizations, ranging from fly fishing groups to big game hunters, signed a letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, urging her to use the agency’s authority under the Clean Water Act to protect Bristol Bay from large-scale mining and development. Next week, representatives of these groups will meet with legislators and agency members in Washington, D.C. to ask for support.
“A huge open-pit mine in the Bristol Bay region could destroy one of the world’s most productive fish and game habitats, kill tourism to this international hunting and fishing mecca, and eliminate jobs from the United States,” said Brian Kraft, owner, Alaska Sportsman’s Lodge and Alaska Sportsman’s Bear Trail Lodge.
The EPA took the first step toward protecting the Southwestern Alaskan region on Feb. 7, when the agency announced plans to assess the Bristol Bay watershed to better understand how future large-scale development projects may affect water quality and Bristol Bay’s salmon fishery.
“Hunters and anglers commend the EPA for taking this first important step,” said Chris Wood, President and CEO of Trout Unlimited. “Bristol Bay is the single most important wild salmon fishery in the world. It generates roughly $450 million a year in economic impact and sustains about 12,000 jobs. We are confident that after the science and other public input are considered, the EPA and the Obama Administration will stand with sport and commercial fishermen and the people of Alaska to protect the extraordinary ecological, economic and cultural value of this place and this fishery.”
Bristol Bay is a 40,000 square mile region with nine major rivers, and is home to the world’s largest sockeye salmon run. Pebble Mine would create an open-pit mine up to two miles wide and 1,700 feet deep. Operated by multi-national mining interests, this mine could dump up to 10 billion tons of perpetually toxic waste in the heart of the Bristol Bay watershed. This area is known for frequent earthquakes, which puts the watershed – and all its fish and wildlife – at an even greater risk for long term toxic pollution and severe damage to the fishery.
“Protecting Bristol Bay is currently the number one conservation issue for the United States fly fishing industry,” said Jim Klug, Chairman of the American Fly Fishing Trade Association. “More than 150 sport fishing product companies have directly signed on to support protecting Bristol Bay’s fish and game habitat and economic resources, and hundreds more have voiced their opposition to Pebble Mine. We strongly urge the EPA and Obama administration to protect this amazing place.”
Sport fishing in Bristol Bay generates $60 million annually, and supports more than 800 full- and part-time jobs. Despite the remote nature of the region and the costs to travel there, up to 65,000 visitors journey to Bristol Bay for recreational opportunities to fish, hunt, and view wildlife every year.
“This unique, wild country stands today as God intended, and a mine in the heart of Bristol Bay would cause irrevocable harm,” said Dr. Richard Allen, Past President of the Dallas Safari Club. “The real gold mine is already in Bristol Bay – it’s the salmon, trout, wildlife and the jobs and American families that those fish support.”
Whit Fosburgh, President and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, said: “Over the last century, we have watched our great salmon fisheries sacrificed for development, including the Sacramento, the Klamath, and the Columbia rivers and many in between. Bristol Bay is our last great stronghold for wild salmon – salmon that will support regional economies and provide protein for the world forever if we protect them.”
In the letter to Administrator Jackson, the organizations thank the EPA for the first step, but urge stronger action to protect Bristol Bay. The EPA has the authority under the Clean Water Act to invoke Section 404(c), which would give Bristol Bay the protection it needs from mining and other large-scale developments.
Full text and signatories to the EPA letter here
For more information, contact:
Lesley Rogers, (206) 334-1483 or LesleyR@strategies360.com
Scott Hed, (605) 351-1646 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Just in from AP:
KENNEWICK, Wash. — Washington Rep. Doc Hastings says he’ll use his position as chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee to block any bills related to breaching lower Snake River dams.
Hastings says salmon runs are recovering under current management practices and dam breaching is the last resort.
The Tri-City Herald reports the Republican congressman was in the Tri-Cities Wednesday and spoke to the Pasco-Kennewick Rotary Club.
Hastings says he’s concerned that tearing down any Snake River dam puts every other dam at risk. Environmentalists favor removing dams to restore Snake River salmon runs.
Just lobbed across the wire -
Release date: 02/07/2011
Contact Information: Contact: Marianne Holsman, EPA Public Affairs, 206-553-1237, email@example.com
Assessment responds to concerns of tribes, businesses, and others about development proposals
(Anchorage, Alaska—Feb. 7, 2011) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will conduct a scientific assessment of the Bristol Bay watershed to better understand how future large-scale development projects may affect water quality and Bristol Bay’s salmon fishery, an extraordinary salmon resource for the United States. EPA initiated this assessment in response to concerns from federally-recognized tribes and others who petitioned the agency in 2010 to assess any potential risks to the watershed.
“The Bristol Bay watershed is essential to the health, environment and economy of Alaska,” said EPA Regional Administrator Dennis McLerran. “Gathering data and getting public input 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. We look forward to working with Alaskans to protect and preserve this valuable resource.”
In 2010, nine federally-recognized Bristol Bay tribes petitioned EPA to use its authority under the Clean Water Act to protect Bristol Bay. Their concerns focused on the potential Pebble Mine project. Two other tribes asked EPA to wait for mining projects to submit permit applications before taking action.
This action today does not represent any regulatory decision by the agency; instead it represents EPA’s proactive steps to better understand the watershed and gather important scientific information. This information gathered will inform any future guidelines or actions about how to protect the waters and promote sustainable development.
Bristol Bay is an important source of wild Pacific salmon for commercial, recreational, and subsistence users. It produces hundreds of millions of dollars in annual fisheries revenues. The area may be the last major watershed in North America that produces historic numbers of wild salmon. Most of the Bristol Bay watershed is wildlife refuge or park where large development is restricted. EPA’s efforts will focus on those areas that are not protected.
EPA’s assessment is not limited to examining the effects of hard-rock mining projects, but will consider the effects of large-scale development in general.
The assessment, which will focus primarily on the Nushagak and Kvichak watersheds, will be informed by scientific peer review, tribal consultation, federal and state agency participation, as well as public and industry input.
EPA will accept and consider public input during development of the watershed assessment and will continue to work closely with tribal governments, state and federal agencies as we undertake this analysis.
AK governor Sean Parnell (R) had sent a letter of complaint to the EPA last year, voicing his opposition to any such scientific assessment, while Rep. Don Young (R-AK) has filed legislation that seeks to remove the EPA’s “Veto Authority” under section 404(c) of the Clean Water Act – with 75% + of Bristol Bay’s residents opposing the proposed Pebble Mine, I am not particularly sure these guys have their constituency’s best interests in mind.
If clean water and healthy, sustainable runs of wild salmon are important to you, I urge you to let your voice be heard. Click on THIS LINK to sign on to the Save Bristol Bay petition going to the EPA, asking EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson to initiate the 404(c) process for the headwaters of the Nushugak and Kvichak rivers in Bristol Bay.