Cantwell Statement on New EPA Findings on Bristol Bay Mine, Threat to WA Fishing Jobs

Cantwell: ‘The future of Bristol Bay must be determined by science, not politics’

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) released the following statement on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) revised watershed assessment that revealed new risks a mine development near Bristol Bay would pose to Washington fishing jobs and to Bristol Bay salmon. The assessment was released today for public comments which may be submitted until May 31, 2013.

“Today, the EPA did the right thing based on sound science,” Cantwell said. “Pacific Northwest fishermen and salmon deserve to be protected from the threat of dramatic mining pollution.

“This report is evidence of the devastating impact that the proposed Pebble Mine would have on Bristol Bay salmon and the thousands of Washington state jobs that depend on them. I look forward to the EPA moving forward and finalizing a Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment. I will continue to fight to protect Washington fishing jobs. Because the future of Bristol Bay must be determined by science, not politics.”

Thousands of Washington state jobs – including commercial and recreational fishing, processing, shipbuilding and the restaurant industry – depend on Bristol Bay’s healthy, sustainable wild salmon populations. Nearly 1,000 Washingtonians hold commercial fishing permits in Bristol Bay. In 2008, Bristol Bay yielded over $113 million dollars in total value for Washington state commercial fishers. Recreational salmon fishers yielded an additional $75 million for Washington state businesses alone.

Bristol Bay is the most productive salmon run in the world, generating a total value of approximately $500 million dollars each year and supporting 14,000 full and part-time jobs.

Cantwell has worked to protect Washington state jobs from potentially harmful developments in Bristol Bay, Alaska. In a September 2011 letter to former EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, Cantwell became the first U.S. Senator to call on the EPA to use its Clean Water Act 404(c) authority to block any large development project in Bristol Bay if science determined that the project would “have unacceptable adverse impacts on water quality and the fish stocks that depend on it.”

On May 30, 2012, she wrote a letter to Jackson, Regional Administrator Dennis McLaren, and Nancy Sutley, Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality with the Executive Office of the President, urging them to consider the impact of a mine on the thousands of Washington state jobs and $113 million per year in business that depend on Bristol Bay. She also joined Washington fishermen and businesses on that day at Fishermen’s Terminal in Seattle to highlight the impact of a Bristol Bay mine on Washington jobs.

Cantwell was also successful in requesting that the EPA hold a public hearing in Seattle on May 31, 2012 to discuss how large scale development near Bristol Bay – like the Pebble Mine proposal – could hurt salmon and Washington state jobs.