For more than a decade, anglers, hunters, nature-lovers, and conservationists have argued that the proposed Pebble Mine would present a clear and present danger to the unique ecosystem of Bristol Bay, which supports the world’s largest run of wild salmon. When the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued the final Environmental Impact Statement last month, it seemed to many that our arguments were falling on deaf ears.
But last Thursday, the Corps sent the Pebble Partnership a letter–published online today–which contains this remarkable statement:
[The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Alaska] District made Clean Water Act Section 404(b) (1) factual determinations that discharges at the mine site would cause unavoidable adverse impacts to aquatic resources and, preliminarily, that those adverse impacts would result in significant degradation to those aquatic resources.
Unless the Pebble Partnership submits an approved plan to mitigate all of these adverse effects, no permit will be issued.
This. Is. Big.
In a press release, Trout Unlimited explains that these findings “creat[e] a significant barrier to the project moving forward.” (Click here to read the full press release.) Until the Pebble Partnership can adequately explain how it can mitigate “direct and indirect impacts” on 2,825 acres of wetlands, 132.5 acres of open waters, and 129.5 miles of streams at the mine site and 460 acres of wetlands, 231.7 acres of open waters, and 55.5 miles of streams along the transportation corridor, the project is dead in the water.
“This is a good day for Bristol Bay,” says Orvis President Simon Perkins, “for the largest sockeye salmon run on Earth and for the American businesses, local Alaskan cultures, hunters, anglers and outdoor enthusiasts that it sustains. . . . For over a decade, Orvis has worked alongside Trout Unlimited, native Alaskan tribes, our customers and industry partners to keep this unique part of the world pristine. We thank everyone who continues to speak up throughout this process and we ask that people continue to engage and voice their support for a Pebble-free Bristol Bay.”
No Time to Let Up
There is no doubt that this is wonderful news for everyone who values wilderness, but it is definitely not the end of the story. Anyone who has ever watched a slasher movie knows that just when you think the killer is dead for good, he shows up behind you with a carving knife. We cannot stop fighting against this project until there are no available avenues to approval.
When news of some sort of Pebble project denial started percolating in Washington last week, the hope was that the President would simply deny the permit. But that was not the case. We can still use our voices to ask the White House to put a fork in this project once and for all.