Editorial: Give Bristol Bay Due Process

Photo by Wikimedia user AlaskaTrekker

Interesting column in the Anchorage Daily News by Bristol Bay resident, commercial fisher and conservationist Katherine Carscallen, who is concerned about the future regarding the Pebble Mine’s pending review by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers:

I was encouraged by Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s recent call to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to extend the “scoping” timeline for Pebble’s Environmental Impact Statement. With hope that the EIS process was indeed my opportunity to weigh in in a meaningful way, I attended the scoping meeting in Dillingham with optimism. Within minutes of the meeting starting however, that optimism was quickly dashed. The meeting, adorned with posters and promotional materials provided by the mining company, was nothing more than an hour-long advertisement for the Pebble Limited Partnership.

After viewing the newest mine plan and participating in this process, I am now convinced that merely extending the scoping deadline is not going to be enough to ensure this is a fair review. This process should instead be put on hold for several reasons: First, the method the Army Corps is utilizing for gathering public testimony is unfairly designed to limit quality input from downstream fishing communities. Simply put, the Army Corps made the choice to pick winners and losers when it came to public testimony.

Two of the biggest losers were Dillingham and Homer, two great hubs of Alaska’s fishing industry. Rather than provide an open format in which community members could hear what has been said and expand on it, creating a wider and more complete record of testimony, the Army Corps chose to have the citizens of Dillingham and Homer speak privately to a court reporter in the corner. One reason cited by the Army Corps for this move? The fear that testimony would be overwhelmed by “activists.” What the Army Corps staff fails to understand is that the opposition to this mine is not the result of activism. This region revolves around fishing. And the threat of Pebble Mine is an unacceptable assault on our lives here. If we rally or protest it is because we have been suffering this threat for over a decade and we will not accept unfair treatment. The process should not punish communities who are taking an active role in protecting our way of life.

Carscallen’s entire column is a good read. So check it out.