Senator calls Pebble Mine a threat to Pacific salmon

Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Washington) called the proposed Pebble Mine in Alaska “a major threat to Pacific salmon” at a hearing in Washington D.C. on Wednesday, 11 March.

Cantwell’s comments came while questioning Neil Jacobs, who has been nominated to serve as the next administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The proposed gold and copper mine would sit near the headwaters of one of the most of the most productive of the five major river systems in Bristol Bay, home to the world’s largest sockeye run.

Cantwell, the ranking member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, asked Jacobs if he felt Pebble would be a major threat to Pacific salmon.

“There’s five salmon species there, it’s obviously an important ground. There’s also other recreational fish species there, so we’re definitely engaged in a targeted way and certainly view it as something that’s important,” Jacobs replied, according to a press release provided by Cantwell’s office.

“I hope you mean targeted in saying how devastating it would be if you had a gold mine in the middle of the largest headwaters for the salmon,” Cantwell responded.

In September of 2019, Cantwell slammed NOAA for not conducting a full consultation of the proposed mine. 

“I’m very concerned that NOAA has chosen not to be a cooperating agency with the Army Corps of Engineers permitting process as it relates to Pebble Mine ... commercial fishing in Bristol Bay is over 135 years old and supports 14,000 fishing jobs and 10,000 industry jobs and is about USD 500 million [EUR 447 million] in direct economic impact – valued at USD 1.5 billion [EUR 1.3 billion]. How is NOAA not warranted at this time to participate in a discussion about how that economy could be destroyed by a mine?” Cantwell said at the time, according to a U.S. Senate press release.

In 2019, Cantwell criticized the Trump administration for removing Clean Water Act protections for Bristol Bay, a move she said privileged special interests over working-class jobs.

During Jacobs’ hearing, Cantwell also pushed the prospective NOAA administrator to increase funds for stock analysis and surveys and support efforts for salmon recovery, including habitat restoration and hatchery production.

Cantwell also asked Jacobs if he supported bipartisan legislation that she and Senator Roger Wicker (R-Mississippi) drafted to revamp disaster relief funds for struggling fisheries. Cantwell also helped secure USD 200 million (EUR 179 million) in the disaster relief funds for fishermen in 2018, and has worked to prioritize funds to monitor ocean acidification. 

Photo courtesy of United States Congress


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