Larsen to Obama: Stop Development of Bristol Bay Mining Pebble Mine that Would Hurt Washington Fishers

WASHINGTON—Rep. Rick Larsen, WA-02, today urged President Obama to prevent the development of mining projects in Bristol Bay, Alaska, that would threaten the Washington state fishing industry.

“I urge you to prevent development of any mining project that would have detrimental impacts on the jobs the Alaska fishing industry provides to small businesses in my district in Northwest Washington state and throughout the West Coast,” Larsen wrote.

The full text of Larsen’s letter is below.

June 6, 2013

The President
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

Many small business owners in my district that fish in Alaska for the commercial market have contacted me about their concerns about the impacts the proposed Pebble Mine near Bristol Bay, Alaska, could have on their businesses.  I urge you to prevent development of any mining project that would have detrimental impacts on the jobs the Alaska fishing industry provides to small businesses in my district in Northwest Washington state and throughout the West Coast.

The Institute of Social and Economic Research at the University of Alaska-Anchorage found that over 3,000 jobs in Washington state depend on the Bristol Bay fishery. The same study showed that 769 of the total 2,777 permit holders for fishing in the Bristol Bay are Washington residents. That number represents 28 percent of all permit holders. Many of these permit holders are in my district. Fish processors, restaurants, shipbuilders, and commercial fishers rely on sockeye salmon to keep their businesses open.  These small businesses add up to a large economic driving force. The Bristol Bay fishery provides the largest sockeye salmon fishery in the world with a harvest of over 27 million salmon each year. These salmon are more than an important ecological and cultural resource; they are an economic force throughout the West Coast. 

If the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) permits the Pebble Mine, I am concerned that this economic force will be at risk. The EPA scientific assessment of a mine in the area suggests that a loss of rearing habitat, stream flow reductions, wetland loss, waste leakage, and runoff will all have significant impacts on salmon populations.  The EPA also found that a dam failure associated with mining could completely destroy salmon populations on some rivers and streams.

I ask that you move quickly to finalize the Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment and that you do not allow the Pebble Mine to further threaten the economic sustainability of fishers in my district. I appreciate your continuing leadership on these issues and look forward to working with you to ensure the long term health of fisheries in the Northwest.

Sincerely,

Rick Larsen
US Congressman
Washington, 2nd District