The new federal study illustrates the economic and ecological significance of the Bristol Bay watershed and the potential environmental impacts of placing a mine there. .
The Environmental Protection Agency recently released a draft scientific watershed assessment of Bristol Bay, Alaska, in response to growing interest in developing a large-scale mine in the area.
The proposed Pebble Mine would attempt to capitalize on massive deposits of gold, copper and molybdenum in the Bristol Bay, and preliminary plans indicate that the project would be an open-pit mine spanning 20 square miles. The EPA study illustrates the economic and ecological significance of the watershed and the potential environmental impacts of placing a mine in that location.
The assessment included the following results:
The assessment recognizes Bristol Bay as an unmatched global fishery for sockeye salmon that holds countless economic and ecological benefits.
“Sportsmen and -women thank the EPA. This report makes clear what hunters and anglers, thousands of outdoor-related industries, commercial fishermen, jewelers and people from Alaska already knew: Bristol Bay is the most important fishery on the planet,” said Chris Wood, president and CEO of TRCP partner Trout Unlimited. “Now it’s time for President Obama to stand up for sportsmen and protect this fishery.”
Under section 404(c) of the Clean Water Act, the EPA has the authority and responsibility to protect the nation’s water and perform studies that increase public knowledge of water resources. Most sportsmen support the EPA’s using its CWA authority to protect Bristol Bay from the largest open-pit mine in history, a mine that would be 20 times larger than all of the mines in Alaska combined.
More than 500 hunting and angling groups across the country sent a letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson asking the agency “to proactively fulfill its mission to protect the environment and human health in Bristol Bay, Alaska, by using its authority under Clean Water Act to withdraw waters and wetlands in the headwaters of the Bristol Bay watershed from future specification as disposal sites for dredge and fill activity associated with mining operations.”
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