Opinion: Murkowski’s oversight failure on Pebble is troubling

We need leadership now when it comes to Bristol Bay.

  • Wednesday, May 15, 2019 10:40pm
  • Opinion
(File photo)

(File photo)

It’s May and my pre-fishing season to-do list is growing longer along with the Alaska days. Springtime momentum is building toward the crescendo of the salmon fishing season in Bristol Bay. Along with all of the preseason boat preparations, I am preoccupied with Pebble Mine, which is hurtling at breakneck speed through the permitting process. The U.S. Army Corp of Engineers is at the helm with the throttle maxxed and they’re ignoring the hazards and shoalwater they are tasked to navigate. The proposed mine plan and the Army Corps’ draft Environmental Impact Statement is about as useful as a navigation route plotted on a used napkin. We’re asking you, Sen. Murkowski, to stand with the Alaskans rather than the Pebble Partnership and demand that the Army Corps goes back to the drawing board until they can deliver the “fair, rigorous and transparent” process that you have always promised to us for this project. When it comes to oversight you need take helm and steer the process into safer waters.

With every second that that goes by, Pebble looms closer. Your lack of meaningful action demonstrates a glaring lack of leadership.

I have been a Bristol Bay fisherman since 2006 and I value all that Bristol Bay salmon bring to me and my family. I am also a vocal opponent of the Pebble Mine. I can’t tell you how many times I have called and written to you, our senior senator. I know I am not alone. For more than a decade my fellow commercial fishermen have, at every turn, expressed their desire to see Bristol Bay protected. We are not a few. We are many. We have been and will continue to be loud in our opposition to Pebble.

Sen. Murkowski, what is your opinion on the tens of thousands of Alaskans and the millions of Americans who have spoken out against Pebble and in favor of protecting Bristol Bay? What about the thousands of phone calls you have received urging you to protect Bristol bay? Do your constituents voices matter to you? I believe you have a conscience. I have seen you fight for issues dear to Alaskans. But the clock is running out, and as the days pass your silence on the substance of this EIS tells me you are not fighting for me. You are not fighting for my family or for the majority of Alaskans who oppose this mine.

Maybe you will continue to exercise willful ignorance and pretend that this issue will just go away. We know that it won’t. In fact, Pebble is gaining steam. We are currently nearing the end of the public comment period to review Pebble’s DEIS. This DEIS is a deeply flawed document, which attempts to support, rather than objectively consider, a deeply flawed project. Regarding the 30-day extension for this comment period, Sen. Murkowski, I guess I should say thank you for doing the very least you could do and still say you did something. You have repeatedly been supplied with information that shows the gaps and inadequacies of this EIS and yet all we hear is that we should have another month to look at it. You assure us we will have a fair, rigorous, and transparent process and yet that has clearly not been the case. We are being asked to trust the Army Corps with our most precious resource. The same Army Corps responsible for failed flood management infrastructure all over middle America. How is it that you can feel so trusting?

Pebble, too, has been quiet on some matters. Pebble has yet to provide evidence to anyone, including the Army Corps, that their mine is remotely financially feasible. There are many things absent from this DEIS beyond proof of financial feasibility. At its core, Pebble continues to blatantly lie to Alaskans and everyone else about their mine.

To Alaskans, to permitting agencies, Pebble has woven a tale of a “new” mine plan that will last only 20 years. They pitch it to Alaskans: “It’s a smaller mine. More responsible. Guaranteed to not harm anything.” But to investors, the tale is the same as it was more than a decade ago, “There are many generations of mining here in Bristol Bay.”

This permit application is merely the first step to get their toe in the door.

We need leadership now when it comes to Bristol Bay. The clock ticks on a rapidly advancing, rushed permitting process for Pebble, with cursory oversight. Alaskans are up in arms today as we have been for decades, voicing our desire to see Bristol Bay protected for future generations. Unfortunately, on this issue, as we look around for leadership and oversight, notably from our senior senator, we see none. Instead we feel stranded on an island, surrounded by a rising tide. It is time to step up to your position, Sen. Murkowski. It is time to get clear about whose side you are on — Pebble Partnership or Alaskans?

Meghan Gervais is a longtime Alaskan. In the salmon season she captains the F/V Dreamboat in Bristol Bay and enjoys the salmon harvest alongside her children.

• Meghan Gervais is a longtime Alaskan. In the salmon season she captains the F/V Dreamboat in Bristol Bay and enjoys the salmon harvest alongside her children.

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