On May 26th, the Environmental Protection Agency will issue a Clean Water Act Proposed Determination to protect the Bristol Bay watershed from industrial mining. Specifically, the section 404(c) authority of the Clean Water Act would “prohibit and restrict the use of certain waters in the Bristol Bay watershed (South Fork Koktuli River, North Fork Koktuli River, and Upper Talarik Creek watersheds) as disposal sites for the discharge of dredged or fill material associated with mining the Pebble Deposit.”

“This is fantastic step forward that Alaskans have been urging for over a decade.  It’s clear that the EPA is taking the decades of strong science into consideration and the concerns of the people and businesses in Bristol Bay seriously.” said Nelli Williams, Alaska director for Trout Unlimited.

Key Points:

  • This announcement plans to reinstate the 2014 Proposed Determination (to protect the watershed), which was withdrawn in 2019.
  • TU challenged the 2019 withdrawn determination in court, and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of TU last summer.
  • The public has until July 6th (40 days) to comment on the proposed rule, and then the EPA will issue a final rule shortly thereafter.
  • Bristol Bay supports exclusively wild runs of all five species of Pacific salmon, including the world’s largest run of Sockeye salmon.
  • Additionally, Bristol Bay also supports thriving eco-tourism and outdoor recreation industries.“As an organization that represents more than 64 Alaska fishing, hunting and tourism businesses we are absolutely thrilled by the important step the EPA took today. We appreciate that the EPA recognizes how important and valuable these rivers are to our fisheries, businesses and families. This is great news heading into our busiest time of year.” said Brian Kraft, President of the Katmai Service Providers and owner of Alaska Sportsman’s Lodge in Bristol Bay.

Protecting Bristol Bay and the fight to secure lasting protections are finally coming to a close, but EPA still needs to see the fishing industry’s support for finalizing this determination. So, over these next 40 days make your voice heard–here is a Trout Unlimited action page!

Cover picture by Fly Out Media

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