Both personally and as the local representative of Trout Unlimited Alaska I would like to commend the Clarion for its recent editorial on Pebble Mine and the release of the EPA’s watershed assessment of Bristol Bay. The editorial gets it right in comparing what might happen in Bristol Bay to what happened here with this year’s lack of king salmon. The impact felt to our economy, especially by many of our guides and commercial fishers, was just a small taste of what would happen in Bristol Bay if even modest contamination of groundwater were to occur. That’s why numerous Alaskan’s asked the EPA to initiate its assessment, which takes into account a wide range of previously conducted studies, using the best available science, to determine the possible risks to this world class fishery.
Something not mentioned in the editorial is that many Kenai Peninsula residents depend on this fishery, some as commercial fishermen or perhaps one of the many local lodges or flight services that regularly shuttle their clients across the inlet for a day of fishing. In fact, we all depend on it indirectly, as the health of our state’s largest sockeye fishery is a direct reflection on all fisheries and effects the perception and reputation of our entire state. Kenai Peninsula and Cook Inlet residents may also want to consider the possible ramifications of the planned slurry line, deep water mining port, and transfer station on the west side of the inlet and the risk that poses to our fisheries.
With 350 salmon runs throughout the Pacific Northwest now extinct, with continually more limited sport and commercial fishing opportunity available in the lower 48, our intact ecosystems — especially one as viable as Bristol Bay — becomes even more valuable, an economic engine that Alaskans can depend on forever. Today we can honestly tout the Bristol Bay fishery as the greatest on Earth, truly an Alaskan and American treasure that, if taken care of, will not only continue to feed the imaginations and souls of countless visitors, but will continue to bolster Alaska’s reputation and our economy for generations to come.