By Bud Hodson and Sonny Peterson
Salmon define Alaska’s renewable resource industry. They return, in incredible numbers, to our rivers each year. They support tens of thousands of Alaska jobs and contribute of billions of dollars to our annual economy. Salmon fill our freezers and smokehouses, fascinate our kids and visitors, and feed our economy, not to mention our bears, rainbow trout, and eagles.
Bristol Bay’s salmon runs are spectacular even by Alaska’s very high standards. Bristol Bay’s tundra, wetlands, streams and rivers are all part of a hard-working landscape that supports salmon. Which, in turn, support at least 14,000 fishing jobs, a thriving lodge and tourism industry and $1.5 billion annual economy. It supports our businesses, our families, and many others in Bristol Bay, Anchorage and beyond. Salmon keep many Alaska businesses open, year after year.
In order to understand the magnitude of that threat, the United States Environmental Protection Agency has recently released its final Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment as Alaska Dispatch recently reported. EPA has taken every precaution to ensure this assessment represents the most comprehensive available science regarding large-scale mining in salmon waters. The report draws on hundreds of peer-reviewed, published reports and scientific findings. Furthermore, it draws directly on documents prepared for and by Northern Dynasty Minerals, the company seeking to develop the Pebble deposit — one of dozens of mining claims in the watershed. During two rounds of peer review, national experts weighed in, improving the scope, structure, and content of the Assessment in a manner that well exceeds the requirements of traditional peer review processes.