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Bonamici & McDermott Praise EPA Decision to Protect Bristol Bay from Pebble Mine

February 28, 2014
Press Release

Washington, D.C. — Representatives Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) and Jim McDermott (D-WA) praised today’s decision by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to begin a process that may end up blocking a gold and copper mine that could endanger a crucial watershed in Bristol Bay, Alaska.

Today the EPA invoked its authority under the Clean Water Act to examine the impacts of the Pebble Mine on fisheries. Bristol Bay is home to all five species of North American Pacific salmon and thousands of fishermen and businesses across the Pacific Northwest rely on the watershed to make a living.

The decision comes after members of the Oregon and Washington Congressional delegations, led by Bonamici and McDermott, sent a letter urging the EPA to protect Bristol Bay from any potentially damaging industrial development.

“I am thrilled that the EPA has agreed with our request,” Congresswoman Bonamici said. “The Bristol Bay fisheries provide thousands of jobs and millions of dollars annually to the economies of Oregon, Washington, Alaska, and the entire northwest. The damage a massive mine could do is a serious threat. We must protect this rare ecosystem to ensure that the fisheries continue to be a source of economic and environmental growth for the region.”

A recent EPA Watershed Assessment found that the Pebble Mine would likely have irreversible negative impacts on the watershed and salmon fisheries. Today the EPA began a four-step process to determine whether it will block the mining project. During the review process, no permits can be issued to fill in wetlands or streams associated with mining the Pebble deposit.

"Today's decision by the EPA is a win for the economy and the environment,” Congressman McDermott said. “This decision is a sizable step forward in our all-important mission to protect the salmon that means so much to the economy and culture of Washington State, Alaska and so many communities in between."


The Honorable Gina McCarthy

Administrator, Environmental Protection Agency

1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

Washington, D.C. 20004


Dear Administrator McCarthy:

We are writing to thank your for your thorough work on completing a Watershed Assessment on the proposed Pebble Mine in Bristol Bay, Alaska.  Because we are very concerned that a large-scale mining project would cause irreparable damage to the Bristol Bay Watershed, we ask that you use your authority under the Clean Water Act to protect Bristol Bay and the fishing industry it supports.

Bristol Bay is home to all five species of North American Pacific salmon, and nearly 40 million salmon return to the fishery each year.  This fishery provides thousands of jobs in the commercial fishing industry and also supports a vibrant outdoor tourism industry.  Recreational fishermen travel from around the world to fish in this pristine ecosystem, anglers from our states lead trips to Bristol Bay, and equipment manufacturers outfit these expeditions.  In recent years, the health of this fishery has been threatened by the proposed construction of what would be the largest open pit-mine in North America: Pebble Mine.  The EPA Watershed Assessment confirmed our most serious concerns and those of our constituents, that mining on the scale of Pebble would compromise the health of thousands of acres of wetland, even without a spill or accident. 

The Bristol Bay fishery is a vital economic engine for the Pacific Northwest, impacting more than half of the region’s commercial and recreational fishing industries.  According a report released last year by the Institute for Economic and Social Research at the University of Alaska, the fishery supports over 5,000 jobs and $618 million in annual direct economic output in Oregon and Washington alone.  The fishing community is too important to the economy, and history, of the Pacific Northwest to be threatened with this massive development. 

In the past, we have contacted EPA to ask that you protect Bristol Bay from any industrial development that would be detrimental to the fishing economy of the Pacific Northwest.  The Watershed Assessment clearly indicates that Pebble Mine constitutes such a threat.  We urge you to use your authority under the Clean Water Act to protect the Bristol Bay salmon fishery from the devastating impact of Pebble Mine. 

We thank you for your work on this important issue, and appreciate your consideration of our request.


Suzanne Bonamici                               Jim McDermott

Earl Blumenauer                                 Peter DeFazio

Rick Larsen                                          Derek Kilmer

Adam Smith                                         Suzan Delbene

Denny Heck                                         Kurt Schrader