Category Archives: Featured Content

EPA Kicks Off Bristol Bay Protection Plan

The Nushagak River's salmon run is among the Bristol Bay fisheries the EPA is vowing to protect from the Pebble Mine project. (BRIAN LULL)

The Nushagak River’s salmon run is among the Bristol Bay fisheries the EPA is vowing to protect from the Pebble Mine project. (BRIAN LULL)

By Chris Cocoles

UPDATE: State of Washington U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell, who spoke at last month’s stop the mine rally at Seattle’s Fisherman’s Terminal, and Patty Murray, praised the EPA’s announcement:

Here’s Cantwell’s reaction:

“I applaud this action today to protect Northwest fishing jobs from being destroyed by the largest open pit mine in North America,” said Cantwell. “Washington and Alaska fishermen depend on Bristol Bay for their livelihoods. Ruining headwaters with mining pollution is too big a risk to existing jobs in Pacific Northwest.

“Today, the administration is saying that potential gold mining is not more important than a $1.5 billion sockeye fishing industry. Gold might be an valuable commodity but it’s not more important than Pacific Northwest salmon.

“Wild salmon populations already face a number of threats,” Cantwell added. “Adding mining pollution to the spawning ground for the world’s number one sockeye salmon fishery doesn’t make economic sense. Mining pollution could threaten 14,000 fishing jobs and a critical food source that subsistence fishermen depend on. I will work hard to ensure that fishermen have a voice as the 404C process moves forward. We cannot afford to put thousands of fishing jobs at risk.”

The mining company, Northern Dynasty Minerals, also released a statement, which reads, in part:

“For a wide range of reasons, we remain confident that final decisions about Pebble will be made by federal and state regulators working within the rigorous National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) permitting process, and not unilaterally and pre-emptively by EPA,” said Ron Thiessen, President & CEO of Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd. “We will participate fully in EPA’s process to consider necessary safeguards to ensure that responsible mineral development can co-exist with clean water and healthy fisheries in Bristol Bay, and we will continue our efforts to prepare for the NEPA permitting process to come.”

Thiessen said both EPA and the Peer Reviewers they contracted to review the Bristol Bay Assessment have acknowledged that their study is insufficient as a foundation for regulatory decision-making with respect to the Pebble Project. In response to Peer Review comments on theBristol Bay Assessment, EPA states: “The assessment is not intended to duplicate or replace a regulatory process”…and “We agree that a more detailed assessment of direct and indirect impacts of mining…will have to be done as part of the NEPA and permitting processes.”

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The Environmental Protection Agency, which last month released its extensive Bristol Bay/Pebble Mine report on the potential ramifications to the salmon industry there in the event of a mining mishap, announced today it’s beginning the process of helping to protect what’s known as “The World’s Last Great Salmon Fishery.”

Here’s the EPA’s complete press release:

(Washington, D.C.—Feb. 28, 2014) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is initiating a process under the Clean Water Act to identify appropriate options to protect the world’s largest sockeye salmon fishery in Bristol Bay, Alaska from the potentially destructive impacts of the proposed Pebble Mine. The Pebble Mine has the potential to be one of the largest open pit copper mines ever developed and could threaten a salmon resource rare in its quality and productivity. During this process, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers cannot approve a permit for the mine. 

This action, requested by EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, reflects the unique nature of the Bristol Bay watershed as one of the world’s last prolific wild salmon resources and the threat posed by the Pebble deposit, a mine unprecedented in scope and scale. It does not reflect an EPA policy change in mine permitting. 

“Extensive scientific study has given us ample reason to believe that the Pebble Mine would likely have significant and irreversible negative impacts on the Bristol Bay watershed and its abundant salmon fisheries,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “It’s why EPA is taking this step forward in our effort to ensure protection for the world’s most productive salmon fishery from the risks it faces from what could be one of the largest open pit mines on earth. This process is not something the Agency does very often, but Bristol Bay is an extraordinary and unique resource.”

The EPA is basing its action on available information, including data collected as a part of the agency’s Bristol Bay ecological risk assessment and mine plans submitted to the Securities and Exchange Commission. Today, Dennis McLerran, EPA Regional Administrator for EPA Region 10, sent letters to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the State of Alaska, and the Pebble Partnership initiating action under EPA’s Clean Water Act Section 404(c) authorities.

“Bristol Bay is an extraordinary natural resource, home to some of the most abundant salmon producing rivers in the world. The area provides millions of dollars in jobs and food resources for Alaska Native Villages and commercial fishermen,” McLerran said. “The science EPA reviewed paints a clear picture: Large-scale copper mining of the Pebble deposit would likely result in significant and irreversible harm to the salmon and the people and industries that rely on them.”

Today’s action follows the January 2014 release of EPA’s “Assessment of Potential Mining Impacts on Salmon Ecosystems of Bristol Bay, Alaska,” a study that documents the significant ecological resources of the region and the potentially destructive impacts to salmon and other fish from potential large-scale copper mining of the Pebble Deposit. The assessment indicates that the proposed Pebble Mine would likely cause irreversible destruction of streams that support salmon and other important fish species, as well as extensive areas of wetlands, ponds and lakes. 

In 2010, several Bristol Bay Alaska Native tribes requested that EPA take action under Clean Water Act Section 404(c) to protect the Bristol Bay watershed and salmon resources from development of the proposed Pebble Mine, a venture backed by Northern Dynasty Minerals. The Bristol Bay watershed is home to 31 Alaska Native Villages. Residents of the area depend on salmon as a major food resource and for their economic livelihood, with nearly all residents participating in subsistence fishing. 

Bristol Bay produces nearly 50 percent of the world’s wild sockeye salmon with runs averaging 37.5 million fish each year. The salmon runs are highly productive due in large part to the exceptional water quality in streams and wetlands, which provide valuable salmon habitat. 

The Bristol Bay ecosystem generates hundreds of millions of dollars in economic activity and provides employment for over 14,000 full and part-time workers. The region supports all five species of Pacific salmon found in North America: sockeye, coho, Chinook, chum, and pink. In addition, it is home to more than 20 other fish species, 190 bird species, and more than 40 terrestrial mammal species, including bears, moose, and caribou. 

Based on information provided by The Pebble Partnership and Northern Dynasty Minerals, mining the Pebble deposit may involve excavation of a pit up to one mile deep and over 2.5 miles wide — the largest open pit ever constructed in North America. Disposal of mining waste may require construction of three or more massive earthen tailings dams as high as 650 feet. The Pebble deposit is located at the headwaters of Nushagak and Kvichak rivers, which produce about half of the sockeye salmon in Bristol Bay. 

The objective of the Clean Water Act is to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the nation’s waters. The Act emphasizes protecting uses of the nation’s waterways, including fishing. 

The Clean Water Act generally requires a permit under Section 404 from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers before any person places dredge or fill material into wetlands, lakes and streams. Mining operations typically involve such activities and must obtain Clean Water Act Section 404 permits. Section 404 directs EPA to develop the environmental criteria the Army Corps uses to make permit decisions. It also authorizes EPA to prohibit or restrict fill activities if EPA determines such actions would have unacceptable adverse effects on fishery areas.

The steps in the Clean Water Act Section 404(c) review process are:

  • Step 1 – Consultation period with U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and owners of the site, initiated today.
  • Step 2 – Publication of Proposed Determination, including proposed prohibitions or restrictions on mining the Pebble deposit, in Federal Register for public comment and one or more public hearings.
  • Step 3 – Review of public comments and development of Recommended Determination by EPA Regional Administrator to Assistant Administrator for Water at EPA Headquarters in Washington, DC.
  • Step 4 – Second consultation period with the Army Corps and site owners and development of Final Determination by Assistant Administrator for Water, including any final prohibitions or restrictions on mining the Pebble deposit.

Based on input EPA receives during any one of these steps, the agency could decide that further review under Section 404(c) is not necessary.

Now that the 404(c) process has been initiated, the Army Corps cannot issue a permit for fill in wetlands or streams associated with mining the Pebble deposit until EPA completes the 404(c) review process. 

EPA has received over 850,000 requests from citizens, tribes, Alaska Native corporations, commercial and sport fisherman, jewelry companies, seafood processors, restaurant owners, chefs, conservation organizations, members of the faith community, sport recreation business owners, elected officials and others asking EPA to take action to protect Bristol Bay.

The EPA also sent out a letter to Thomas Collier, president of Pebble Partner Limited; Joe Balash, commissioner of the Alaska Department of Natural Resources; and Col. Joseph Lestochi of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, that “initiates review under section 404(c) of the Clean Water Act of potential adverse environmental effects associated with mining the Pebble deposit in southwest Alaska.”

 

 

 

 

 

Watch Out For Lunging Sea Lions

PHOTO COURTESY OF KODIAK NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE/USFWS

PHOTO COURTESY OF KODIAK NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE/USFWS

By Chris Cocoles

Whenever I walk my dog down the Alki trail in West Seattle, I hear the singing of sea lions in Elliott Bay. They seem to be among the most playful creatures of the coast. Around my hometown near San Francisco, Pier 39 tourists get entertained by sea lions that sun themselves along the docks. An Alaskan fisherman didn’t have such a cute encounter recently.

From the Anchorage Daily News:

 

A sea lion jumped out of the water Sunday in Sitka and bit the rear end of a 19-year-old sitting on the railing of a fishing boat, Alaska State Troopers said.

The man, who was not identified, was aboard the fishing vessel Confidence with his back to the water when a larger bull sea lion came out of the water and bit him, leaving several large scratch marks but no puncture wounds, troopers spokeswoman Megan Peters said. The man’s injuries didn’t require medical attention.

“Thankfully he was wearing rain gear or it would likely have been worse,” Peters said in an email.

The vessel was offloading bait herring at Seafood Producers Cooperative. The co-op processes salmon, halibut, sablefish and albacore tuna, according to its website.

Authorities said they don’t believe anyone aboard the Confidence was feeding the Steller sea lion when the attack occurred.

Read more here: http://www.adn.com/2014/01/27/3293863/troopers-sea-lion-bites-man-sitting.html#storylink=cpy

 

Watch out for flying sea lions!

 

 

Anchorage Cabela’s Store Set To Open April 10

Posted by Chris Cocoles

News out of Sidney, Neb. today is exciting news for outdoors-crazed Alaskans: The state’s first Cabela’s store is set to hold its grand opening on April 10. Here’s the release from the Cabela’s folks:

Cabela’s Announces Official Opening Date of Anchorage, Alaska, Store

Ribbon-cutting scheduled for 10:45 a.m.; doors to open at 11 a.m.

 

SIDNEY, Neb. (Feb. 7, 2014) – Cabela’s Incorporated, the World’s Foremost Outfitter® of hunting, fishing and outdoor gear, will celebrate the official grand opening of its Anchorage, Alaska, store Thursday, April 10.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony hosted by Cabela’s executives will begin at 10:45 a.m. and doors will open for business at 11 a.m. Opening day will kick off a weekend-long celebration featuring giveaways, special guests, events for the entire family and more.

The 100,000-square-foot store – the company’s first in Alaska – is located on the south side of Anchorage near the intersection of Minnesota and C Street next to Target. It will feature thousands of outdoor products, museum-quality wildlife displays, a mountain replica, aquarium, indoor archery range, gun library, bargain cave, deli, fudge shop and more. Approximately 250 full-time, part-time and seasonal employees will staff the store.

And, although doors do not open until April 10, customers can get a head start on shopping beginning today.

Those who order eligible merchandise via www.cabelas.com between Feb. 7 and March 19 can have it shipped to the store – free of charge – by selecting “in-store pickup” at checkout. The gear will then be delivered to the store and be ready for pickup on April 10. This program, which will continue after the store opens, gives customers convenient access to all Cabela’s products. For additional information, visit www.cabelas.com/anchorage.

Currently, Cabela’s operates 50 stores across North America with plans to open an additional 20 over the next two years.

 

 

 

American Sportfishing Association Weighs In On Pebble Mine

Fishing on the Nushagak River in the Bristol Bay area. (BRIAN LULL)

Fishing on the Nushagak River in the Bristol Bay area. (BRIAN LULL)

The American Sportfishing Assocation   has weighed in on the Pebble Mine in Bristol Bay debate. The ASA released the following on Monday:

For Immediate Release
Mary Jane Williamson, Communications Director
mjwilliamson@asafishing.org, 703-519-9691, x227
www.asafishing.org
Alaska’s Proposed Pebble Mine Not Worth the Risk
Alaska Senator and the EPA reach same conclusion as sportfishing industry
Alexandria, VA – February 3, 2014 – The American Sportfishing Association (ASA) is pleased with the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) watershed assessment which concludes that opening the massive gold and copper Pebble Mine in Alaska poses significant risks to Bristol Bay’s salmon populations. Following the EPA’s announcement Alaska Sen. Mark Begich issued his own statement in opposition to the proposed Pebble Mine in southwest Alaska’s Bristol Bay region.
In his statement, Begich said, “Years of scientific study has proven that the proposed Pebble Mine cannot be developed safely in the Bristol Bay watershed. As the multi-year watershed assessment details, the mine would likely threaten the largest and most lucrative salmon run in the world. Bristol Bay produces half the world’s red salmon and supports thousands of fishing jobs and way of life thousands of Alaskans. Thousands of Alaskans have weighed in on this issue and I have listened to their concerns. Pebble is not worth the risk.”

Bristol Bay supports the world’s largest sockeye salmon fishery and one of the largest king salmon runs, primarily because the bay’s freshwater salmon habitat is largely untouched by development. Bristol Bay is also home to several other important recreational species, like Arctic Char, Arctic grayling, rainbow trout, lake trout, Dolly Varden, northern pike and whitefish. Collectively, recreational, commercial and subsistence activities in the Bristol Bay region contributes over $480 million in economic activity annually and supports over 14,000 jobs.

“The recreational fishing industry and our nation’s anglers depend upon clean, healthy waters and abundant fish,” said ASA Vice President Gordon Robertson. “Mining operations in the Bristol Bay watershed pose a real and considerable threat to the fishery resources, water quality and sportfishing opportunity in the region. In addition to the inherent risks of the mining operations themselves, the Bristol Bay region is a seismically active area and this increases the risk of an unintended breach of reservoirs and other environmental containment facilities containing heavy metals, acid waters and toxic chemicals.”
Robertson further noted, “From the beginning, ASA has expressed concern about proposed mining in Alaska’s Bristol Bay. In 2011 we supported an EPA Watershed Assessment and, depending on the assessment’s results, the EPA using its authority under the Clean Water Act to withdraw Bristol Bay’s watershed area from future mining operations including disposal sites for dredging and fill. We are pleased that the assessment and Sen. Begich support our position regarding this magnificent natural resource.” 
 

The American Sportfishing Association (ASA) is the sportfishing industry’s trade association committed to representing the interests of the entire sportfishing community. We give the industry a unified voice, speaking out on behalf of sportfishing and boating industries, state and federal natural resource agencies, conservation organizations, angler advocacy groups and outdoor journalists when emerging laws and policies could significantly affect sportfishing business or sportfishing itself. ASA invests in long-term ventures to ensure the industry will remain strong and prosperous, as well as safeguard and promote the enduring social, economic and conservation values of sportfishing in America. ASA also gives America’s 60 million anglers a voice in policy decisions that affect their ability to sustainably fish on our nation’s waterways through KeepAmericaFishing™, our angler advocacy campaign. America’s anglers generate over $48 billion in retail sales with a $115 billion impact on the nation’s economy creating employment for more than 828,000 people.

Bears Are Everywhere Here

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Photos courtesy of Tom Reale

By Chris Cocoles

I’m jealous of our associate editor, Tom Reale, who’s been able to get up close and personal with the majestic brown bears of the McNeil River State Game Sanctuary. This is not a destination everyone traveling to Alaska can make a point to stop at. Visitors are limited, so a draw takes place every year, and just a select few are allowed to go. Tom’s story that runs in the February Alaska Sporting Journal provided all the details. Tom’s photos were amazing, and unfortunately we were only able to use a small amount in his story. So while we’ll provide you with an excerpt of the story, we’re also some photos that we weren’t able to run in the magazine. Enjoy:

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Visits to the refuge are very structured – you apply for a specific four-day time block. You can apply as a party of up to three people, and there are 10 permits issued for each block. In addition, it’s not cheap, it’s not luxurious, and you’ll have to give up your Facebook and cell phone addictions for a while. However, if you can jump through the hoops, you will have the wildlife experience of a lifetime.
 The payoff is the chance to see these animals at very close range, to watch as they fish, frolic and fight along streams chocked full with salmon. You’ll be accompanied to viewing sites by armed ADF&G personnel members who will guide you to and from the site.  The guides will stay with you the entire time, keeping an eye out for potential problems, and explaining the bear behavior on display.
The word unique is overused in describing many wildlife experiences, but it applies here in spades. Since 1967, the refuge has hosted visitors from all over the world. In spite of the very close interaction between people and some of the biggest bears in the world, according to the ADF&G website, “No one has ever been injured by a bear at McNeil River, and, since the permit program was initiated, no bears have been killed by visitors who felt threatened.” 
This place offers up one of the prime wildlife viewing experiences to be had anywhere. For four days you’ll be standing and sitting on a gravel pad as these magnificent, huge carnivores walk by. It is often literally breathtaking – when a half-ton bruin saunters past less than 10 feet away, it’s not until he’s gone that you discover that you have forgotten to breathe.

 

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Bering Sea Gold’s Emily Riedel ‘Digs’ Dredging

Emily Riedel aspires to be an opera singer and is studying in Europe.

Emily Riedel aspires to be an opera singer and is studying in Europe. (TIM BEERS JR./THE DISCOVERY CHANNEL)

By Chris Cocoles

I really enjoyed my conversation with Emily Riedel, one of the stars of the Discovery Channel’s reality series about Alaska gold dredging in Nome, Bering Sea Gold. One of my friends who’s a regular watcher of the show bemoaned Emily as one of the show’s emotionally melodramatic villains. But I found her friendly, honest, engaging and forthcoming during our chat, which is running in the February Alaska Sporting Journal.

Here’s a sneak preview:

Riedel, 25, is one of the star’s of the hit show. She’s not only the female in her group that doesn’t consider being called gold diggers a putdown. Riedel is also now captaining her own dredge, the EROICA, a name that befits her diverse lifestyle that includes an aspiring career as an opera singer (she’s really good; check out a performance on YouTube).
“It’s the name of Beethoven’s Third Symphony that he dedicated to Napoleon,” Riedel tells her new crew on a recent episode. Imagine any male skippers citing Austrian composer  Ludwig Van Beethoven himself as the inspiration for naming their boat! But this is reality TV, so there’s always drama, subplots and backstories getting in the way. Riedel took a stormy ride on her relationship roller coaster with Ezekiel “Zeke” Tenhoff, her childhood friend from Homer and fellow gold dredger (their romance and partnership working on the same dredge went kaput and seems unrepairable).
But Riedel has moved on to pilot the EROICA (bought with her own money) as the show’s third season sails on. Her dad-turned-dredger, Steve, is around, and Emily seems more determined than ever to strike it big in her home state as she puts singing on hold. 
“How I’d always approach Nome is I’d always think I’d have this bulging mountain to climb. But you have to change your attitude,” Riedel says. “You can’t change anything else. Because it’s going to be hard on your mind and your body. I know I’m able to scream and cry and get very angry at times, and lose hope at times.
“But I know I’ve been through worse. I’ll go through worse again. And I can navigate this. You just try and make strides toward success.”

(TIM BEERS JR/THE DISCOVERY CHANNEL)

(TIM BEERS JR/THE DISCOVERY CHANNEL)

 

Local Fishermen, Washington senator apply anti-Pebble Mine pressure

Sen. Maria Cantwell (in green), joins local fisherman and community members at Thursday's Stop Pebble Beach Rally in Seattle.

Sen. Maria Cantwell (in green), joins local fishermen and community members at Thursday’s Stop Pebble Mine rally.

By Chris Cocoles

SEATTLE – Chilly temperatures greeted a hearty group of an estimated 150 fishermen and community members attending Thursday’s Stop Pebble Mine rally at the Fisherman’s Terminal in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood.

Among several speakers who took the podium was Washington Sen. Maria Cantwell (D), who has penned a letter headed to President Obama in Washington pleading to kill the proposed mining operation that could affect Bristol Bay’s rich salmon fishery and the 14,000 jobs it supports.

“We’re certainly sending a letter today, and we’re emphasizing the regional economic importance of the salmon industry to Washington State and to the larger region, and asking (the president) to take action to protect it,” said Cantwell, who was then asked if she was frustrated with the lack of a public statement from the president on this matter.

“Well, this (Environmental Protection Agency) report just came out last week, and obviously there’s a lot going on. We certainly want to sharpen the focus of the administration that this is an important economic issue, and a vital one for everyone.”

You can read Cantwell’s full letter to Obama here, but she wrote in part:

“I write you today to urge your Administration to use its authority to safeguard the headwaters of Bristol Bay, Alaska, and keep them protected from devastating mining pollutants. Washington state’s maritime economy is worth more than $30 billion in economic activity annually, supporting 148,000 jobs. Recent scientific evidence shows that pollutants from the proposed development of large scale mining near Bristol Bay would irreversibly harm this vital salmon habitat and put in danger Washington’s entire maritime economy.”

“I think the important thing is we forced the science to be done,” Cantwell said after the rally. “A lot of people I think were thinking, ‘Let’s wait until a later point in time.’ But this industry, here in Ballard, said to me this is too important an issue to wait and see what happens when it’s millions of dollars through the process. It’s going to cause a problem; let’s realize that right now. And I think that scientific study that was done really helped crystallize that.”

On her reaction to last week’s lengthy EPA findings, Cantwell said: “I was kind of shocked that a (mining) proposal like this would be proposed given the economic impact and the dangers of that material to something as critical as a vital watershed for salmon. When you look at the information, you are shocked that anyone would propose such a thing. I think the science was a very long process and thought out. And that’s what’s important about science is to do that homework. It’s pretty indicting of the notion that anybody should propose something on that scale on that headwater.”

Local chef and restaurateur Tom Douglas is spearheading a campaign of more than 250 chefs who also plan to put the full-court press on the Obama administration to block the proposal led by mining company Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd.

“We have 800 co-workers who use salmon as their living, and we are so proud of that,” Douglas said.

One of the most impassioned speeches Thursday came from Alannah Hurley of the United Tribes of Bristol Bay; she is a Yup’ik Eskimo who is a subsistence fisherman and a commercial set netter.

“The EPA watershed assessment said it loud and clear: If our salmon are harmed in Bristol Bay, it will devastate the nutritional, the social and the spiritual health of our people. I don’t have to think about that very hard because they are referring to me. They are referring to my neighbors,” she said.

“The pro-mine folks say mining and salmon can coexist. All of us here today know that is not possible. The science of the assessment proves that this type development of within our watershed will devastate it. And therefore, it will devastate people like you and me who rely on it.”

Local fisherman Brett Veerhusen spoke for his colleagues who attended the rally, He is one of thousands of Pacific Northwest commercial fisherman and sport anglers who work Bristol Bay’s waters

“I think what’s really brought this attention, is the Bristol Bay fishery provides 14,000 jobs nationwide. And what we’ve been able to do is rally fisherman across the country and get them to understand how important it is to protect our natural resources. And we’ve been able to put a lot of pressure by educating and doing outreach with other fishermen nationwide,” Veerhusen said

“We’re not against mining. This is just the wrong mine in the wrong place. We don’t need the gold that bad.”

Photos By Chris Cocoles 
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Moose Season Extended in Barrow

If you have desire to hunt moose in the extreme northern part of Alaska, you’ll have more chances to do so. The Alaska Board of Game agreed to extend the moose hunting season by 16 days and will affect the areas around Nome, Bethel, Barrow and Kotzebue.

From the Bristol Bay Times:

The season has been extended by 16 days and now runs from Aug. 1 to Sept. 30. Hunters in the region have long been requesting the extension to the end of September to allow for cooler temperatures, which offer better conditions to take care of the meat. The moose harvest is relatively low — just nine moose taken in the area in 2012 and five the year before. And while the population of moose in Unit 26A declined significantly between 2008 and 2011, the moose population within the trend-count area has increased as of late. In the 2012, the bull-cow ratio was 68 -100, “suggesting that small increases in the harvest of bulls are unlikely to interfere with population growth,” read a comment report from ADF&G.

Board of Game member Bob Mumford was one of two members who did not support the proposal.

“At this point we should err on the side of caution,” he said at the meeting on Monday.

But other members were confident with department’s promise to watch the population closely and adjust accordingly.

“… the department has made me feel comfortable that they feel comfortable,” said member Nate Turner.

Board of Game chairman Ted Spaker added that there is reason to be cautious, but he thinks bulking up the season by two weeks will not affect the population adversely.

 

 

EPA’s Final Assessment Finds Plenty Of Risks In Bristol Bay Mine

EPA’s Final Assessment Finds Plenty Of Risks In Bristol Bay Mine

By Andy Walgamott, on January 15th, 2014

(U.S ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY PRESS RELEASE)

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today released its final Bristol Bay Assessment describing potential impacts to salmon and ecological resources from proposed large-scale copper and gold mining in Bristol Bay, Alaska. The report, titled “An Assessment of Potential Mining Impacts on Salmon Ecosystems of Bristol Bay, Alaska,” concludes that large-scale mining in the Bristol Bay watershed poses risks to salmon and Alaska Native cultures. Bristol Bay supports the largest sockeye salmon fishery in the world, producing nearly 50 percent of the world’s wild sockeye salmon with runs averaging 37.5 million fish each year.

AN EPA GRAPH SHOWS THAT 50 PERCENT OF THE WORLD'S SOCKEYE COME FROM BRISTOL BAY. (EPA)

AN EPA GRAPH SHOWS THAT 50 PERCENT OF THE WORLD’S SOCKEYE COME FROM BRISTOL BAY. (EPA)

“Over three years, EPA compiled the best, most current science on the Bristol Bay watershed to understand how large-scale mining could impact salmon and water in this unique area of unparalleled natural resources,” said Dennis McLerran, Regional Administrator for EPA Region 10. “Our report concludes that large-scale mining poses risks to salmon and the tribal communities that have depended on them for thousands of years. The assessment is a technical resource for governments, tribes and the public as we consider how to address the challenges of large-scale mining and ecological protection in the Bristol Bay watershed.”

(EPA)

(EPA)

To assess potential mining impacts to salmon resources, EPA considered realistic mine scenarios based on a preliminary plan that was published by Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd. and submitted to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. EPA also considered mining industry references and consulted mining experts. Numerous risks associated with large-scale mining are detailed in the assessment:

Risks from Routine Operation

Mine Footprint: Depending on the size of the mine, EPA estimates 24 to 94 miles of salmon-supporting streams and 1,300 to 5,350 acres of wetlands, ponds, and lakes would be destroyed. EPA estimates an additional 9 to 33 miles of salmon-supporting streams would experience altered streamflows likely to affect ecosystem structure and function.

Waste and Wastewater Management: Extensive quantities of mine waste, leachates, and wastewater would have to be collected, stored, treated and managed during mining and long after mining concludes. Consistent with the recent record of similar mines operating in the United States, polluted water from the mine site could enter streams through uncollected leachate or runoff, in spite of modern mining practices. Under routine operations, EPA estimates adverse direct and indirect effects on fish in 13 to 51 miles of streams.

AN ARTICLE IN NORTHWEST SPORTSMAN'S SISTER MAGAZINE, ALASKA SPORTING JOURNAL, FOUND THAT IT EVEN IF NOTHING BIG GOES WRONG, LITTLE FAILURES CAN ADD UP TO BIG PROBLEMS.

AN ARTICLE IN ALASKA SPORTING JOURNAL LAST YEAR FOUND THAT IT EVEN IF NOTHING BIG GOES WRONG, LITTLE FAILURES CAN ADD UP TO BIG PROBLEMS.

Risks from Accidents and Failures

Wastewater Treatment Plant: Short and long-term water collection and treatment failures are possible. Depending on the size of the mine, EPA estimates adverse direct and indirect effects on fish in 48 to 62 miles of streams under a wastewater treatment failure scenario.

Transportation Corridor: A transportation corridor to Cook Inlet would cross wetlands and approximately 64 streams and rivers in the Kvichak River watershed, 55 of which are known or likely to support salmon. Culvert failures, runoff, and spills of chemicals would put salmon spawning areas in and near Iliamna Lake at risk.

Pipeline: Consistent with the recent record of petroleum pipelines and of similar mines operating in North and South America, pipeline failures along the transportation corridor could release toxic copper concentrate or diesel fuel into salmon-supporting streams or wetlands.

Tailings Dam: Failure of a tailings storage facility dam that released only a partial volume of the stored tailings would result in catastrophic effects on fishery resources.

The assessment found that the Bristol Bay ecosystem generated $480 million in economic activity in 2009 and provided employment for over 14,000 full and part-time workers. The region supports all five species of Pacific salmon found in North America: sockeye, coho, Chinook, chum and pink. In addition, it is home to more than 20 other fish species, 190 bird species, and more than 40 terrestrial mammal species, including bears, moose and caribou.

In 2010, several Bristol Bay Alaska Native tribes requested that EPA take action under the Clean Water Act to protect the Bristol Bay watershed and salmon resources from development of the proposed Pebble Mine, a copper, gold and molybdenum mining venture backed by Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd. Other tribes asked EPA to wait for a mine permitting process to begin before taking action on the potential environmental issues Pebble Mine presents.

Before responding to these requests, EPA identified a need for a scientific assessment to better inform the agency and others. EPA and other scientists with expertise in Alaska fisheries, mining, geochemistry, anthropology, risk assessment, and other disciplines reviewed information compiled by federal resource agencies, tribes, the mining industry, the State of Alaska, and scientific institutions from around the world. EPA focused on the Nushagak and Kvichak River watersheds, which support approximately half of the Bristol Bay sockeye salmon runs.

EPA maintained an open public process, reviewing and considering all comments and scientific data submitted during two separate public comment periods. The agency received approximately 233,000 comments on the first draft of the assessment and 890,000 comments on the second draft. EPA held eight public meetings attended by approximately 2,000 people. EPA consulted with federally recognized tribal governments and Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act village and regional corporations.

The study has been independently peer reviewed for its scientific quality by 12 scientists with expertise in mine engineering, salmon fisheries biology, aquatic ecology, aquatic toxicology, hydrology, wildlife ecology, and Alaska Native cultures.

The agency reviewed information about the copper deposit at the Pebble site and used data submitted by Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd. to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, including the document titled “Preliminary Assessment of the Pebble Project, Southwest, Alaska,” which provides detailed descriptions of three mine development cases representing 25, 45 and 78 years of open pit mining. The 45-year development scenario was presented as the reference case in the Northern Dynasty report.

Over the course of the assessment, EPA met with tribes, Alaska Native corporations, mining company representatives, state and local governments, tribal councils, fishing industry representatives, jewelry companies, seafood processors, restaurant owners, chefs, conservation organizations, members of the faith community, and members of Congress.

EPA produced the report with its authority to perform scientific assessments under Clean Water Act section 104. As a scientific report, this study does not recommend policy or regulatory decisions.

For more information on the EPA Bristol Bay Assessment, visit http://www.epa.gov/bristolbay.