LONGVIEW — Lower Columbia River gillnetters say the Trump administration’s recent decision to withdraw protections from Bristol Bay could pave the path for a giant gold and copper mine in Southwest Alaska that would threaten their source of sockeye salmon — and their chief livelihood as fishermen.
Members of the fishing industry said the move is indicative of the president’s “pro-business, anti-environment” agenda, one they say is shared by Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy.
“I think it’s a general policy push in the Trump (administration). You look at their track record: They’ve lightened up environmental standards. … Some of it is not bad, but this is particularly bad,” said Steve Fick, owner of Fishhawk Fisheries in Astoria and Kenai, Alaska. The decision highlights how Dunleavy “appears to have special interests that are directly affecting the largest, most productive salmon population in the world.”
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on July 30 withdrew a 2014 Obama-era proposal to restrict mining in the Bristol Ba y watershed. The proposal would have prevented the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from issuing permits for the so-called Pebble Mine. The decision came shortly after the Corps closed a public comment period for a draft environmental impact statement for the project, and just one day after Gov. Dunleavy met with Trump, according to CNN reports.
Pebble Limited Partnership, the Alaska-based company proposing the mine, celebrated the EPA’s decision, noting that it removed a “preemptive veto” that would have blocked their project.