Pebble Mine and Bristol Bay – Frequently Asked Questions

Where is Bristol Bay?

Bristol Bay is the eastern-most arm of the Bering Sea, at 57° to 59° North 157° to 162° West in Southwest Alaska. Bristol Bay is 400 km (250 mi) long and 290 km, (180 mi) wide at its mouth. A number of rivers flow into the bay, including the Cinder, Egegik, Igushik, Kvichak, Meshik, Nushagak, Naknek, Togiak, and Ugashik.

Why is Bristol Bay so important?

The watershed is home to all five species of Pacific salmon found in North America: sockeye, coho, Chinook, chum, and pink. The sockeye salmon fishery is the largest in the world, with approximately 46% of the wild global population. This is all being threatened by the Pebble gold and copper mine.

Why is Pebble Mine bad for Bristol Bay?

If allowed, mining operations in Pebble would result in:
– A pit mine as deep as the Grand Canyon – that’s 7,000 square miles up to ¾ of a mile deep
– Mine waste that could fill an NFL stadium 3,900 times
– A mine footprint the size of Manhattan
– Loss of streams that support coho, Chinook, sockeye, chum and pink salmon
– Loss of 1,100 or more acres of wetlands, lakes and ponds, which all support salmon
– Alterations of streamflow: More than 20% of daily streamflow that directly affects salmon would be altered

I thought the Bristol Bay fight was over?

Many people did. In 2014, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) used its authority to limit mining activities determined to be harmful to salmon and this critically important ecosystem. This was known as the Proposed Determination and many hoped it was a done deal.

However, following a series of lawsuits and a change in leadership at the EPA, the proposed protections so many of us asked for are in danger of being reversed.

Why is it important to weigh in again?

The EPA needs to hear that people/fishermen across the United States who care about wild salmon support protecting Bristol Bay and the existing Proposed Determination. The more public comments there are, the harder it will be for the EPA to justify withdrawing the Proposed Determination and the more we can demonstrate to decision makers nationwide that Americans do not support Pebble. We will also use this opportunity to contact Alaskan and U.S. Congressional leaders in addition to the EPA, as they also are important decision makers in the fight against Pebble.

What is 404(c)?

Section 404 of the Clean Water Act authorizes the Army Corps of Engineers to issue permits for the “discharge of dredged or fill material at specific sites in waters of the United States.” Because the proposed Pebble mine would be constructed on an area dominated by wetlands and headwater streams, the company would need to secure a 404 permit so they could dispose the large volumes of waste that would be leftover from mining. Subsection 404(c) provides the EPA with a measure of oversight by allowing it to “restrict, prohibit, deny, or withdraw the use of an area as a disposal site […] if the discharge will have unacceptable adverse effects” …on water supply and the fishery, among other things.