Groups Run Ad in Politico Urging EPA to Protect Bristol Bay

Full-page ad calls on EPA to permanently protect Bristol Bay by vetoing the Pebble Mine.

A diverse, bipartisan coalition of groups representing millions of supporters across Alaska and the world ran a full-page ad today in Politico urging EPA to use its Clean Water Act authority to protect Bristol Bay. 

Bristol Bay is the world’s most valuable salmon fishery, generating $2.2 billion in annual economic activity, supporting 15,000 jobs, and supplying 57% of the world’s wild sockeye. A record-breaking 66 million sockeye salmon returned to Bristol Bay last year alone—and a record-shattering 73 million are projected to return this summer. 

Bristol Bay salmon have sustained the Yup’ik, Dena'ina, and Alutiiq way of life for more than 4,000 years, and are the lifeblood of the Tribes’ language, culture, spirituality and community. 

Yet Bristol Bay remains at risk from the ongoing threat of the Pebble Mine – a giant gold and copper mine proposed at the very heart of this economic engine, cultural lifeblood, and extraordinary biodiversity. 

The fight to stop the Pebble Mine and protect Bristol Bay continues.

President Biden has pledged to protect Bristol Bay, noting that the region is “foundational to the way of life of Alaska Natives for countless generations, provides incredible joy for recreational anglers from across the country, and is an economic powerhouse that supplies half of the world’s wild sockeye salmon. It is no place for a mine.” 

EPA moved closer to fulfilling the President’s pledge when, last November, the agency reinitiated the Clean Water Act 404(c) process that was started with the Obama-Biden administration and derailed by the Trump administration.  

In a letter sent in January 2022, EPA noticed its intent to issue a revised Proposed Determination under Section 404(c) because the agency “continues to have reason to believe that the discharge of dredged or fill material associated with mining the Pebble deposit could result in unacceptable adverse effects on important fishery areas.”  

This comes more than a decade after Bristol Bay Tribes formally requested Clean Water Act protections—which led to a three-year, twice peer reviewed scientific assessment that detailed unacceptable harm to the region and its people from the Pebble Mine and supported 404(c) protections for Bristol Bay. In 2014, the Obama-Biden administration issued a Proposed Determination under Section 404(c) of the Clean Water Act to protect Bristol Bay, which, after years of litigation brought by Pebble, was never finalized.  

EPA is now considering whether to issue a revised Proposed Determination—and has pledged to do so by May 31, 2022. According to EPA, “What’s at stake is preventing pollution that would disproportionately impact Native Alaskans and protecting a sustainable future for the most productive salmon fishery in North America.”  

If EPA issues a 404(c) final determination, it would “protect waters over the long term that are essential to commercial, subsistence, and recreational fisheries, and other activities that support Alaska Natives and communities in the state.” 

Bristol Bay Tribes—as well as commercial fishermen, conservation groups, investment firms, businesses, and even Congress—have been urging EPA to permanently protect Bristol Bay from the Pebble Mine for decades.

Related Blogs