Where do you stand on clean water?
Vote like your home water is at stake.
Because it is!
Backstory: Share the Love. Share the Poster.
Backstory: Share the Love. Share the Poster.
If you are following the saga of the proposed Pebble Mine in Bristol Bay, Alaska, you would be forgiven if you thought recent action by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) was the death knell for the proposed mine.
On August 24, the USACE released a letter to the Pebble Limited Partnership. The U.S. Army’s press office proclaimed, “Therefore, the Corps finds that the project, as currently proposed, cannot be permitted under section 404 of the Clean Water Act.”
In reality, the USACE essentially kicked the can down the road. The letter to the Pebble Limited Partnership informed them, “As part of the [Record of Decision] the [Alaska District of the USACE] 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.” The Alaska District of the USACE determined that Pebble Limited Partnership would need mitigation measures within the Koktuli River Watershed, where the mine potentially will be located, for all direct and indirect impacts on aquatic resources caused by the mine’s discharges.
The letter went on to outline the ways those damages could be mitigated:
There are three approved mechanisms for providing compensatory mitigation, which include mitigation banks, in-lieu fee programs, and permittee-responsible mitigation with preference, in that order. Your mitigation plan may include a combination of means and mechanisms but must comply with all required components of Rule and be found sufficient to offset the unavoidable adverse impacts to the aquatic resources identified above.
Some reactions critics of the project from both sides of Capitol Hill were less than laudatory of the action. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) stated :
A mitigation plan to make up for unavoidable damage from the Pebble Mine is not enough. The Final Environmental Impact Statement for Pebble Mine did not assure me the pristine Bristol Bay region of Alaska, which is home to the world’s most productive salmon fishery, supports 14,000 jobs and generates $1.5 billion of revenue annually, would be sufficiently protected. I again urge the Administration to completely veto a Clean Water Act permit for this project.
Rep. Jared Huffman (D-CA) said :
Delaying the permit for the Pebble Mine is welcome news, but let’s be clear: the only reason this environmental atrocity came this close to happening is because the Trump administration is a favor factory for polluting industries. The previously rejected permit was revived and fast-tracked by this administration, and the only reason they finally hit the pause button is because – thankfully – some individuals close to President Trump made a personal appeal. We can welcome the outcome, but let’s not confuse any of this with environmental stewardship or good government.
This letter did not come as a surprise to the Pebble Limited Partnership. The company responded:
The letter we received today is a normal letter in the permitting process and we are well into an effort to present a mitigation plan to the USACE that complies with the requirements of their letter. A clear reading of the letter shows it is entirely unrelated to recent tweets about Pebble and one-sided news shows. The White House had nothing to do with the letter nor is it the show-stopper described by several in the news media over the weekend.
Now that dust has settled, let’s take a look at the facts included in the Corps’s letter, which should send chills down the spine of anyone who still thinks it is a good idea to permit this mine.
The letter tells us what is at stake:
Therefore, the District has determined that in-kind compensatory mitigation within the Koktuli River Watershed will be required to compensate for all direct and indirect impacts caused by discharges into aquatic resources at the mine site. Direct and indirect impacts at the mine site total 2,825 acres of wetlands, 132.5 acres of open waters, and 129.5 miles of streams.
The District has also determined that compensatory mitigation is required for unavoidable adverse impacts to aquatic resources from discharges associated with the transportation corridor and the port site. Direct and indirect impacts associated with the transportation corridor and port site total 460 acres of wetlands, 231.7 acres of open waters, and 55.5 miles of streams.
Let me help you with the math. Here are the totals for what’s at risk:
So somewhere, somehow, the Pebble Limited Partnership is going to mitigate all that damage. As they said, “We will share more details of our initial plan as they become more defined.”
They have until November 20 to do that, although they seem to think it may happen sooner. “Based on our understanding of the substance of the letter, our discussions with the state, our substantial work in the field and our discussions with the USACE we believe our final Comprehensive Management Plan submission will be submitted within weeks and will satisfy all of the requirements of the letter.”
We shall see.
Here’s the rub. Bristol Bay is unique. How will that uniqueness be mitigated? How do you mitigate the loss of the world’s best salmon run?
On August 31, a letter from Representatives Huffman and Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and signed by 31 of their colleagues to EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler, made the point, “There is no level of compensatory mitigation that would be sufficient to address the mine’s irreversible harm to the pristine environment that exists in Bristol Bay.”
The letter went on to ask “that the EPA exercise its authority under the Clean Water Act and oppose the flawed Environmental Impact Statement.”
Let’s hope the administration comes to realize that, as the late Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska said, “This is the wrong mine in the wrong place,” and vetoes the Clean Water Act permit. If the USACE and Environmental Protection Agency don’t see the light, hopeful Congress will make them feel the heat.
UPDATE (Oct 30, 2020): Tim Sohn writing in Outside Online, gives a terrific, recap, analysis and update on the state of play in Bristol Bay.
Your comments questions and other witty repartee are welcome around the Campfire.
Note: This article (pre update) originally appeared on the Marine Fish Conservation Network’s From the Waterfront blog.
A new political action committee (PAC) stepped into the presidential campaign arena with the launch of Sportsmen and Women for Biden. Recognizing the American outdoors cannot survive another four years of Donald Trump, this PAC is mobilizing sportsmen and women across the country to end this era of unprecedented destruction and forge a brighter future for the American outdoors by electing Joe Biden.
In 2016 America’s sportsmen and women helped swing the presidential election, and in doing so ushered in the most anti-outdoor administration in U.S. history. In key state after key state, sportsmen and women went to the ballot box and cast a vote for a candidate who was clearly not aligned with our outdoor interests. Unsurprisingly, the last four years have illuminated this reality as Donald Trump and his administration have unraveled the fabric of America’s outdoor heritage by dismantling dozens of keystone conservation laws and destroying some of America’s most important outdoor resources.
This November, American sportsmen and women have a choice. We can usher in a great era for the American outdoors by electing Joe Biden, or we can give the most anti-outdoor president in American history another four years to further his unparalleled record of devastation,” said Brian Bennett. “I created Sportsmen and Women for Biden to ensure that America’s sportsmen and women make the right choice in 2020 by sending Joe Biden back to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and Donald Trump back to Mar-a-Lago.
There is no precedent for Donald Trump’s legacy of outdoor destruction. No president – Republican or Democrat – has ever demonstrated such blatant disregard for America’s sportsmen and women as Donald Trump. No president – Republican or Democrat – has ever done even close to the damage in eight years that Donald Trump has done in his first four years in the oval office. And no presidential candidate – Republican or Democrat – has ever been so committed and prepared to unleash a wake of outdoor destruction as Donald Trump is right now.
In a desperate attempt to hoodwink America’s sportswomen and women and shore up electoral support for himself and several endangered Republican senators, Donald Trump is temporarily reversing course on a few important outdoor issues,” Bennett said. “America’s sportsmen and women must not be fooled by this charade. Donald Trump is a con artist, not a conservationist. He does not care about outdoor issues beyond this election, something the last four years make abundantly clear.
With all of the chaos surrounding the 2020 election, the ballots sportswomen and women will cast this November may very well determine this election, just as they did four years ago. We cannot afford to let America’s sportsmen and women once again facilitate the demise of our outdoor heritage and future by returning Donald Trump to the White House.
It is time for America’s sportsmen and women to stand up and put a swift and abrupt end to this despicable administration. Four years of Donald Trump was four years too many. Another four years of his malfeasance must not happen. Sportsmen and women across the country must join together and fight tirelessly to send Joe Biden back to the White House.
Sportsmen and Women for Biden is a registered independent political action committee and not authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee
During this Covid spring, as these days have come to be known, I had time to reflect on the state of conservation and what the future might hold. As time permits I will use this space to gather and share my thoughts.
Roosevelt’s words from A Book-Lover’s Holidays in the Open, have always had deep meaning to me. And as we face the destruction wrought by the pandemic both in human lives and economic damage I decided to use Roosevelts words as an inspiration for some opinion writing.