Jun 10 2013

5 West Coast Senators Call on White House to Consider Bristol Bay Mine’s Threat to Fishing Jobs

5 West Coast Senators Call on White House to Consider Bristol Bay Mine’s Threat to Fishing Jobs

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, five West Coast senators sent a letter to President Barack Obama calling on the Administration to factor in the impact a permit for a mine in Bristol Bay, Alaska, would have on the West Coast fishing industry.

The letter, sent Monday by Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Patty Murray (D-WA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), and Barbara Boxer (D-CA), marks the first letter from multiple Senators to the White House on the economic threat of a proposed Bristol Bay mine.

In the letter to the President, the Senators cited a new report from the University of Alaska Institute of Social and Economic Research (ISER) which found that the value of Bristol Bay commercial salmon fishing generates $1.5 billion in economic activity. The report also found that Bristol Bay salmon fishing and processing is worth $674 million to Washington, Oregon and California while creating 12,000 seasonal jobs and approximately 6,000 full-time jobs in those three Pacific coastal states.

“This new economic report clearly demonstrates that Bristol Bay is an integral component of the broader Alaska and Pacific Northwest seafood industry. Thousands of family wage jobs rely on Bristol Bay’s world-class salmon runs,” the senators wrote. “For these reasons, we request that the Administration act to protect Bristol Bay from any large-scale mining that would threaten our Nation’s vibrant fishing economy. We support a valid, sound science based approach to ensuring that Bristol Bay salmon are safeguarded. To that end, we respectfully ask that you make staff from both the Council on Environmental Quality and the Department of Commerce available to our staff to discuss the implications of this economic report, and how these two agencies, specifically, are working with the EPA to protect our maritime economies.”

In April the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a revised watershed assessment that details the impact a large scale mine development near Bristol Bay would have. The assessment is open for public comment until the end of June and is also currently before a scientific peer review panel. The EPA has committed to finalizing the assessment by the end of the year. 

“Water contamination and habitat loss from the construction and operation of a hard rock mine in Bristol Bay would put thousands of fishery-related family wage jobs at risk,” the senators continued. “Our states have a strong maritime history of which our commercial fishing industries are a key part. In order to maintain these direct fishing and processing jobs, and the jobs supported by associated businesses like gear manufacturers, shipbuilders, suppliers and other maritime businesses, we must maintain healthy, sustainable fishery resources.”

The full text of the letter is below.

June 10, 2013

 

President Barack Obama

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW

Washington, DC 20500

Dear President Obama: 

We write to bring to your attention a new report outlining the economic significance of commercial salmon fisheries supported by Bristol Bay, Alaska.  Many of our offices have written to the EPA expressing concern over the impact that a large-scale mine, like the proposed Pebble Mine, would have on wild salmon. 

Each year, nearly 40 million sockeye (Oncorhynchus nerka) return to Bristol Bay supporting North America’s most productive salmon fishery.  Bristol Bay is home to the largest sockeye fishery in the world and one of the largest Chinook (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) fisheries.  The Bristol Bay watershed supports 35 species of fish including all North American salmon species: sockeye, Chinook, coho (Oncorhynchus kisutch), pink (Oncorhynchus gorbuscha) and chum (Oncorhynchus keta) . 

According to EPA’s Draft Watershed Assessment released on April 30, 2013, “An Assessment of the Potential Mining Impacts on Salmon Ecosystems of Bristol Bay, Alaska” (EPA 910-R-12-004Ba), the proposed Pebble Mine threatens Bristol Bay salmon habitat.  The Pebble Mine would be one of the largest hard rock mines in the world and the largest copper porphyry mine in the United States.  Water contamination and habitat loss from the construction and operation of a hard rock mine in Bristol Bay would put thousands of fishery-related family wage jobs at risk. 

To better understand how our economies rely on Bristol Bay salmon, we want to bring a new report to your attention.  The University of Alaska Institute of Social and Economic Research (ISER)  recently released an economic report quantifying the economic value of the Bristol Bay commercial sockeye fisheries.  ISER found that Bristol Bay’s economic impact is critical to the regional economy of the Pacific Northwest and on our home states of Washington, Oregon and California.  Specifically, the ISER Report demonstrates that the value of commercial fishing activities in the region account for $1.5 billion in output value, including $500 million in direct income.  Additionally, Washington, Oregon and California benefit from $674 million in economic activity from Bristol Bay salmon fishing and processing.  This economic activity fuels approximately 12,000 seasonal jobs and another 10,000 salmon related industry jobs across the United States, from Alaska to Maine.  The Bristol Bay fishery generated the equivalent of nearly 4,400 full-time jobs for Alaskans as well as about 6,000 full-time jobs in Washington, Oregon and California . 

If anyone doubts the devastating impacts of losing salmon fisheries, they need look no further than California.  In 2008 and 2009, California’s salmon fishing industry lost thousands of jobs, and millions of dollars, due to a catastrophic drop in salmon populations.  Today, the state’s fishing industry remains closely tied to the health of Bristol Bay, because Californians hold over 140 Bristol Bay fishing permits, the second highest number for any state after Alaska and Washington, and these permits enable over 550 jobs related to salmon fishing.  These fishermen – as well as those from Alaska, Washington, and Oregon – cannot risk another salmon fishery collapse.

Our states have a strong maritime history of which our commercial fishing industries are a key part.  In order to maintain these direct fishing and processing jobs, and the jobs supported by associated businesses like gear manufacturers, shipbuilders, suppliers and other maritime businesses, we must maintain healthy, sustainable fishery resources. 

This new economic report clearly demonstrates that Bristol Bay is an integral component of the broader Alaska and Pacific Northwest seafood industry.  Thousands of family wage jobs rely on Bristol Bay’s world-class salmon runs.  For these reasons, we request that the Administration act to protect Bristol Bay from any large-scale mining that would threaten our Nation’s vibrant fishing economy.  We support a valid, sound science based approach to ensuring that Bristol Bay salmon are safeguarded.  To that end, we respectfully ask that you make staff from both the Council on Environmental Quality and the Department of Commerce available to our staff to discuss the implications of this economic report, and how these two agencies, specifically, are working with the EPA to protect our maritime economies.

Sincerely,

 


Maria Cantwell                                                                Patty Murray

United States Senator                                                      United States Senator

 


Jeff Merkley                                                                   Dianne Feinstein

United States Senator                                                      United States Senator

 

                 

Barbara Boxer                                                            

United States Senator                                                     

 

CC:  Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to President Barack Obama

CC:  Jodi Gillette, Senior Advisor for Native American Affairs to President Barack Obama

CC:  Nancy Sutley, Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality

CC:  Sally Jewell, Secretary of the Interior

CC:  Rebecca M. Blank, Acting Secretary of Commerce

CC:  Dr. Kathryn D. Sullivan, Acting Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and Acting National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administrator

CC:  Bob Perciasepe, Acting Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency

CC:  Dennis McLerran, Regional Administrator for Region 10 of the Environmental Protection Agency

CC: Office of Environmental Information, Environmental Protection Agency: EPA-HQ-ORD-2013-0189

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