Representative Huffman Champions Bristol Bay, Again

House letter urges EPA to use its authority under the Clean Water Act to permanently protect Bristol Bay, AK from the Pebble Mine.

Representative Jared Huffman (D-CA), Chair of the House Natural Resources Water, Oceans, and Wildlife Subcommittee and member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, led a letter signed by Members of Congress formally requesting EPA to issue long-term protections for Bristol Bay.  

In the letter sent today, they called on EPA to use its authority under Section 404(c) of the Clean Water Act to issue permanent protections for Bristol Bay:  

We ask that the EPA move swiftly and thoroughly with this restarted 404(c) process and reinstate science-based protections for this irreplaceable ecosystem as soon as possible. Protection of this special place for the future use and enjoyment of tribal communities and others aligns with the Administration’s environmental justice and America the Beautiful goals and would fulfil President Biden’s promise to protect this watershed for all time.  

The letter also expressed “disappointment” in EPA’s recent announcement delaying the 404(c) administrative timeline.   

The decision to restart this process, rather than resume the previously initiated process, will cause needless delays in protecting this special area, against the express wishes of Tribes and fishing groups in the region to complete the process by the start of the fishing season in June. We are disappointed in the delay that restarting this process will cause, and now encourage EPA to complete its efforts under section 404(c) of the Clean Water Act as expeditiously as possible and finalize permanent measures to protect Bristol Bay for current and future generations.  

“[W]e urge you to act swiftly to protect one of our last remaining pristine salmon habitats,” the letter concluded.  

This is not the first time Representative Huffman championed Bristol Bay. He and Peter DeFazio (D-OR) led a March 11, 2021 letter to EPA urging the agency to use its Clean Water Act authority to protect the region from the Pebble Mine:   

[W]e urge you to focus the EPA’s resources on Bristol Bay and reinstate science based protections for this globally significant watershed and the thousands of people who depend on it. Any Pebble Mine mining operations—regardless of size—open the door to decimation of the livelihoods, cultures, and economy of Native Tribes and Bristol Bay communities—a risk that is far too great to jeopardize one of the last pristine habitats in the United States. The EPA should exercise its authority under the Clean Water Act to put common sense protections in place immediately.  

Bristol Bay needs—and deserves—common sense and lasting protections that stop the Pebble Mine and prevent future threats of large-scale mining.  

Bristol Bay is the world’s most valuable salmon fishery, supplying 57% of the world’s wild sockeye salmon, generating $2.2 billion in annual economic activity, supporting 15,000 American jobs, and sustaining indigenous communities and culture. But the Pebble Mine—and its more than 10 billion tons of toxic mining waste— would destroy it all. 

In November 2020, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers made the only legally and scientifically justifiable decision available and denied Pebble Mine’s Clean Water Act permit application. But that denial was only a temporary solution, which Pebble Mine proponents are currently appealing. 

It's clear that Bristol Bay needs a permanent solution. Urgently.  

As the House letter noted: 

A 404(c) withdrawal is the best way to provide durable protections for salmon and for the people who call Bristol Bay home. Tribal communities, commercial and recreational fishermen, and businesses across the country that rely on Bristol Bay salmon are united in their desire to see the region protected. 

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