Groups Urge EPA to Protect Bristol Bay by Summer 2022

More than 50 groups urge EPA to issue permanent protections for Bristol Bay, Alaska under Section 404(c) of the Clean Water Act by the start of the 2022 fishing season. 

Writing to amplify recent requests from the Tribes and leaders of Bristol Bay, 53 local, state, national and international organizations—representing tens of millions of members and supporters—today urged EPA to finalize durable 404(c) Clean Water Act protections for Bristol Bay by the 2022 fishing season.

In a letter to the agency, the groups recognize the ongoing threat of the Pebble Mine that endangers the indigenous communities and world-class fishery of Bristol Bay and, on that basis, argue that prompt EPA action is needed to secure lasting protection for the region.

The Bristol Bay Defense Fund—a coalition of Bristol Bay Tribes, businesses, nonprofit, and community organizations dedicated to protecting Bristol Bay from the ongoing threat of the Pebble Mine—is also running this ad on CNN urging EPA action by the next fishing season:

Both the letter and the tv-spot come after U.S. District Court for the District of Alaska granted EPA’s motion to remand and vacate the 2019 decision by the Trump administration to withdraw proposed protections for Bristol Bay. This reinstated EPA’s 2014 Proposed Determination under Section 404(c) of the Clean Water Act that—if finalized now by EPA—would stop the Pebble Mine.

The letter supports and amplifies recent requests by United Tribes of Bristol Bay, Bristol Bay Native Association, Bristol Bay Native Corporation, Bristol Bay Economic Development Corporation, and commercial fishermen strongly encouraging EPA to “complete the Section 404(c) process before the start of the next fishing season.”

United Tribes of Bristol Bay urged swift 404(c) action because:

Salmon are the lifeblood of Bristol Bay’s Native people, not just holding deeply rooted religious and cultural significance, but providing the primary present day economic resource for the Native communities of the region... We have lived with the threat of the Pebble Mine hanging over our communities for nearly 20 years. It is time to stop the Pebble Mine once and for all.

Today’s letter supports the Tribes’ request and urges EPA to act expeditiously to protect Bristol Bay:

Our groups stand by to support swift EPA action and a robust administrative process that ensures the people of Bristol Bay can begin the 2022 fishing season with durable 404(c) Clean Water Act protections in place.

The importance of protecting Bristol Bay couldn’t be clearer. This year alone, a record-breaking 66 million sockeye returned to Bristol Bay. These fish drive the most robust and sustainable commercial fishery on the planet, generating $2.2 billion annually, supporting 15,000 jobs, providing 57 percent of the world’s sockeye salmon, and sustaining indigenous communities.

Until Bristol Bay is permanently protected, this watershed and the people and salmon it supports remain at risk.

NRDC supports the long-term protection of Bristol Bay and urges EPA to act expeditiously to finalize 404(c) protections by the 2022 fishing season.

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