Report from May 31 EPA Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment Public Hearing

Written by: Leland Miyawaki, Fishing Manager, Orvis Bellevue (Seattle)

EPA Hearing LM

About half the crowd that attended last night’s important EPA hearing in Seattle.

photo by Leland Miyawaki

Last night, approximately 300 people gathered at the Jackson Federal Building in Seattle for a meeting hosted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to present information and hear thoughts about the draft Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment that EPA has released for public review and comment. This meeting was one of a series of public meetings to be held during the public comment period and the only one held in the Lower 48 states. Seattle was chosen because it is home to most of the Alaskan commercial fishers, processors, and distributors, as well as being the jumping off spot for most sport fishers heading to Alaskan waters.

It was a beautiful thing to hear from such disparate speakers as tribal leaders, commercial gill netters, fish processors, nature-lovers, Sierra Club members, Trout Unlimited members, American Rivers, University of Washington Department of Fisheries professors, fishing guides, lodge owners, third generation Alaskans, tree-huggers, marketing people from both Sage and Redington, as well as one fishing manager from an Orvis retail store. All were united in one singular purpose—preserving the pristine Bristol Bay watershed and protecting the largest runs of salmon in the world, including close to 50% of the world’s wild sockeye salmon. All the speakers were passionate, with some people even crying. The day-to-day subsistence living and stories of 10,000 years of tribal culture potentially put to risk were particularly heart-rending.

Seventy-six people spoke for two minutes each. The tally was 60 for the EPA to use its authority granted under section 404(c) of The Clean Water Act and stop the mine, and 16 arguing for either re-looking at the science, considering the economic boom, waiting until the actual permit application is submitted, or eliminating the draft altogether.

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