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.

More in Opinion

The Alaska Capitol on Monday, Jan. 16, 2023, in Juneau, Alaska. (AP Photo/Becky Bohrer)
Alaska Voices: Legislature deserves credit

A special session shouldn’t have been necessary, but at least it was only one day instead of 30 days.

Alaska State Troopers logo.
Alaska Voices: Please be safe, courteous, and legal as you fish in Alaska this summer

As you head out to hit the water this year, here are a few tips to help you have a safe and citation free season

An observer makes an entry in the Fish Map App on Prince of Wales Island. (Photo by Lee House/courtesy Salmon State)
Alaska Voices: Document Alaska rivers with new fish map app

The app provides a way for everyday Alaskans to document rivers home to wild salmon, whitefish, eulachon and other ocean-going fish — and earn money doing it

(Peter Segall / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: Sustainability report is a greenwashing effort

Report leaves out “the not-so-pretty.”

Pictured is an adult Chinook salmon swimming in Ship Creek, Anchorage. (Photo: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)
Voices of the Peninsula: Proactive measures key to king salmon recovery

I have been sport fishing king salmon along the eastern shores of Cook Inlet and in the Kenai River since 1977

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Honoring the fallen on Memorial Day

As we honor the men and women who fell in service to our nation, we must keep their memories alive through their stories

Shana Loshbaugh (Courtesy photo)
History conference seeking input from peninsula people

The Alaska Historical Society will hold its annual conference on the central peninsula this fall

Coach Dan Gensel (left) prepares to get his ear pierced to celebrate Soldotna High School’s first team-sport state championship on Friday, Febr. 12, 1993 in Soldotna, Alaska. Gensel, who led the Soldotna High School girls basketball team to victory, had promised his team earlier in the season that he would get his ear pierced if they won the state title. (Rusty Swan/Peninsula Clarion)
Remembering my friend, Dan Gensel

It’s a friendship that’s both fixed in time and eternal

(Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: The false gods in America’s gun culture

HB 61 is a solution in search of a problem.

KPBSD Superintendent Clayton Holland
Reflecting on a year of growth and resilience

A message from the superintendent

Jim Cockrell, commissioner of the Department of Public Safety. (Courtesy photo/Office of Gov. Mike Dunleavy)
Honoring the 69 peace officers who have died serving Alaskans

Alaska Peace Officer Memorial Day honors the brave men and women who have given their lives in the line of duty

Rep. Maxine Dibert (Image via Alaska State Legislature)
Opinion: The economic case for a significant investment in education

As our oil production and related revenue have declined, our investments in education have remained flat