U.S. Army Corps of Engineers finds controversial project will likely result in significant degradation and significant adverse effects to waters, fish.
ANCHORAGE, AK – Today, in a move welcomed by thousands of American workers, Alaskan communities, and the most prolific wild salmon fishery in the world, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) said it found the proposed Pebble mine would likely cause significant degradation and significant adverse effects to the waters and fisheries of Bristol Bay, and cannot receive a permit under the Clean Water Act as proposed, creating a significant barrier to the project moving forward.
“This is a great demonstration of democracy in action and a victory for common sense. The finding demonstrates that the voices of millions of Americans still matter and reflects the overwhelming weight of scientific evidence that’s been brought to bear,” said Chris Wood, president and CEO of Trout Unlimited. “The more public scrutiny this mine faces, the more science that’s brought to bear in its review, the more it stinks. The resources that sustain this bucket-list destination for sport anglers, local communities and commercial fishing families are worth protecting. Thank you to the legions of supporters that helped us get here.”
Because of the proposed mine’s massive risks, for more than fifteen years Trout Unlimited has worked with communities, anglers, hunters, Tribes, businesses and local and national partners to galvanize opposition to this project. Hundreds of thousands of anglers, and hundreds of outdoor businesses have made their voice heard time and time again, most recently appealing to the Trump Administration directly.
“This is a good day for Bristol Bay,” said Nelli Williams, Alaska director of Trout Unlimited. “No corner should be cut when considering a giant mine in the heart of a place this cherished and important. The Pebble Partnership put forward a half-baked plan with a litany of problems. Pebble had its opportunity to go through the process, but the project fails to meet the standards required. Kudos to all the decision makers involved for calling Pebble out on that.
Over the two-year permit review process, many organizations, federal and state agencies, independent scientists, and countless individuals raised potentially fatal concerns about this project. Among them are the project’s destruction of streams and wetlands, its untested and incomplete water management and mitigation plans, unreliable tailings dam design, seismic activity near the deposit, and its huge economic costs. Those concerned about the proposed Pebble mine also cite threats to existing businesses, communities, and cultures that rely on the intact fishery, among various other issues.
“Today’s actions reflect just how bad this mine proposal is and how incompatible it is with the Bristol Bay region,” said Brian Kraft, owner of Alaska Sportsman’s Lodge, president of Katmai Service Providers and TU business member. “Some places simply are not compatible with large industrial, open-pit mine operations, and the Bristol Bay region’s spawning grounds certainly are one of those locations. This is a good day for the people of Bristol Bay that have loudly said for 16 years now that this is the wrong place for this mine. It’s a good day for Americans who care about clean water, healthy fisheries, and existing jobs that rely on those fisheries.”
The final Environmental Impact Statement documented nearly 200 miles of impacted streams, and 4,500 acres of impacted waters and wetlands (See FEIS at 4.22-15, Table 4.22-1.). The Army Corps said the function of the tailings facility was “uncertain,” and the Corps’ EIS contractor described it as “very similar” to the facility that failed catastrophically at the Mount Polley mine in 2014.
“This is a moment to celebrate,” said Williams. “The opposition to this project runs strong and deep, the science is clear, and there is no way this ill-conceived project can coexist with Bristol Bay salmon. The message is clear from sportsmen and women across the country to the Pebble Partnership: It’s time to pack up and go home. You’re not welcome in Bristol Bay.”