Since the threat of Pebble mine would risk my basic life necessities — food through subsistence harvesting with my family, and the way I get my paycheck as a sport fishing guide and commercial fisherman — I’ll belatedly share my reaction, and that of every fisherman I’ve spoken with, about the negative response, surely lobbied by Pebble, to the governor’s letter asking the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to halt its review of Pebble’s phase-one mine plan.
The disappointing press coverage in response is likely due to fact that those who most adamantly supported his letter were out taking advantage of Bristol Bay’s incredible resource … we were busy fishing!
First, one writer ironically made points about demanding fairness by allowing Pebble’s permitting process to advance, “with the chips falling where they may.” This about made me spit out my coffee. What we have here is a heavily-lobbied process that is designed to advance a project that is scientifically certain to harm wild salmon. Pebble’s review process has been set at a pace a fraction of the length of Donlin Gold Mine, a project a fraction of the size, and has cut out the opportunity for input from Alaskans. This is far from fair.
The Army Corps of Engineers began by asking us what we should consider as they advance Pebble’s permit review. When to many of us, the question that should be asked is whether the permit application should be reviewed at all. Close to 400,000 Americans went ahead and answered this question out of principle, and the answer was clear: no.
No, Pebble’s application shouldn’t advance because it proposes a type of mining known to be harmful to salmon at the headwaters of a run that feeds thousands in the Bristol Bay region, and millions around the world. No, it shouldn’t advance because the application only covers a fraction of the deposit, and thus a fraction of Pebble’s impact (which is still staggering, by the way). No, it shouldn’t be considered because the plans are not financially backed and still changing. It’s common sense that a “plan” that’s not complete cannot adequately be reviewed for impacts. The process underway is simply not on par with what’s at stake in the region that Pebble stands to ruin.
Other writers have attempted to make claims that opposing Pebble mine is for “greenies.” To this I’ll just say that I don’t think I know anyone who identifies as a “greenie,” but I do know hundreds of fishermen who oppose Pebble mine. Yes, former Alaska democratic U.S. Sen. Begich said, “wrong mine, wrong place,” but he was quoting it from the late Sen. Ted Stevens — a Republican.
Following the lead of local people of Bristol Bay, Alaskans of diverse geographic locations, political backgrounds and fishing gear types have reviewed the basics of what’s being proposed at Pebble, as well as the actions by the company and subsequent distaste for the project even within its own industry, and said “wrong mine, wrong place.” Some may be greenies, sure, but most others are just citizens who want our jobs, way of life, region and economy to continue to function.
The desire to protect Bristol Bay isn’t an issue pushed by Outsiders, but building the Pebble mine is. To most Alaskans, protecting Bristol Bay isn’t about environmental conservation. It’s about protecting cultural heritage and a thriving American economy that sustains thousands of jobs, which are being jeopardized by a foreign company that can’t keep any financial partners.
At the end of the day, our opposition is simple. We oppose the Pebble mine because we value the clean water and wild fisheries of the region for our jobs and way of life, as do thousands of others. We don’t believe unearthing a low-grade copper deposit is worth putting this powerhouse region in jeopardy into perpetuity.
But even if you disagree, at least agree to fairness — real fairness, not the thinly-veiled deceit argued by Pebble’s promoters. I hope our Senators Dan Sullivan and Lisa Murkowski and U.S. Rep. Don Young will join with the majority of the state and join Gov. Bill Walker in making this call of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Bristol Bay deserves nothing less.
• Triston Chaney is sportfishing guide in Bristol Bay, and a lifelong hunter, trapper, commercial fisherman and subsistence fisherman from Dillingham. My Turns and Letters to the Editor represent the view of the author, not the view of the Juneau Empire.