TenkaraGrasshopper on the South Platte, Colorado

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Bristol Bay: Environmental Oasis or Environmental Armpit


Stop The Pebble Mine

A Conversation Occurring in 2034

My son and I sit in the Tenkara Man Cave chatting one evening as we tie up a bunch of Sakasa Kebari for an upcoming trip on a local river in Colorado. At one point I notice that my son is staring at my sticker board hanging from the ceiling.

Me: What's up buddy?

Son: Dad, what is that Pebble Mine sticker for?

Me: Well, way before you were born there was a mining project that was proposed up in Alaska that would have done a huge amount of damage to the Bristol Bay area.

Son: So what happened to the Pebble Mine? I haven't heard anything about it.



Me: Well, it is a long story so I will keep it short. Basically, a whole bunch of people got together and fight as hard as they could to stop the Pebble Mine from being developed. After some long drawn out battles and with some serious pressure being put on the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) the mine was stopped.

Son: Cool thanks for telling me dad. I was curious about this.

Me: No problem buddy. You ready to go fish? If you are and show me that you are good with a Tenkara rod maybe I will take you to Bristol Bay so you can experience what we fought for.

My Take On The Final Report from The EPA on Bristol Bay

According to the United States Environmental Agency the Bristol Bay watershed supports the largest sockeye salmon fishery in the world, as well as being the home of 25 native tribal cultures who have existed in this area for over 4,000 years living a subsistence culture based on the salmon living in this area. With all of culture, natural, and economic factors that this watershed carry for this region it is believed that any decline in the current pristine conditions that mining might potentially bring to this region could be a huge disaster for the Bristol Bay region.

Area of the Bristol Bay Watershed
Photo Courtesy of Sportsmansalliance4ak.org

The numbers that the USEPA has come up with are truly staggering in my opinion and I believe those that are concerned with protecting this area will feel the same. An estimated 24 to 94 miles of fish-supporting rivers could be negatively impacted by development of the Pebble Mine along with an estimated 1300 to 5,350 acres of wetlands. Looking at these numbers, it shocks me how much damage could occur if development of mines were allowed to continue in this region. One thing that strikes me from reading the USEPA report is that these are just preliminary numbers and does not take into account the potential damage that could occur from unforeseen accidents in any of a number of mine scenarios. 

Also, the USEPA has concluded that if any damage was done to the current watershed the native Alaskan cultures that currently exist in this area would also be negatively impacted economically, dietary, and spiritually. That is truly scary and some that I find abhorrent in this day in age when cultures are disappearing at an alarming rate as it is simply for the attitude of greed!

With the USEPA's report and assessment on the Bristol Bay region and the feelings of the locals who live in this region as well as those who own lodges in this region fighting the Pebble Mine I hope that our government will listen to themselves and not allow the Pebble Mine, let alone any other mining operation to start in the Bristol Bay watershed. All we can now do is continue to voice to the leaders of the United States that we do not want a mine in this area and also make sure that they pay attention to the final assessment from the USEPA. 

Please follow groups like Trout Unlimited, and the Stop Bristol Bay groups and not let things go the wrong direction!!!!! 

I will continue to do what I can to help the Pebble Mine so that I can take my son to this area and fish when he is old enough. 

Note: I apologize to you all that this is may not be the best writing I have done, but due to some ongoing health issues my mind does not always work clearly.  

Note: U.S. EPA. An Assessment of Potential Mining Impacts on Salmon Ecosystems of Bristol Bay, Alaska (Final Report). U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, DC, EPA 910-R-14-001A-C, ES, 2014.
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