Seattle city leaders are appealing to the federal government to protect salmon in Alaska by putting the permitting process for a gold and copper mine on hold.
During the fall, winter and spring, Thomas Quinn teaches University of Washington students about the ecology and conservation of Pacific Northwest salmon, but during the summer, he immerses himself in it by traveling to the mecca of salmon fisheries—Alaska’s Bristol Bay.
Half of all Sockeye harvested in 2018 came from there.
"They're an international commodity,” Quinn explained from his office on the UW campus.
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Quinn says an open pit gold and copper mine proposed on the land that sits right above Alaska's massive Illiamna Lake would devastate the Bristol Bay ecosystem.
"Water quality is essential for salmon and trout and the nature of the mining process is the degradation of water quality,” Quinn said.
Seattle restauranteurs and fisherman say it would also devastate our economy.
"The salmon support more than 3,000 Washington jobs every year and generate $580 million in revenue,” said Linda Morton, the president of the Seattle Restaurant Alliance and a restaurant owner, when she addressed the Seattle city council Monday.
The Pebble Limited Partnership has been working towards the construction of the massive mine for a decade.
Under the Obama administration, the project came to a standstill; under the Trump administration, the Environmental Protection Agency can roll back its promise to protect Bristol Bay.
So the city of Seattle decided to get involved.
Councilmember Debora Juarez proposed — and Monday council passed -- a resolution that calls for a suspension of the federal permitting process, "to allow stakeholders an opportunity to fully evaluate the environmental and economic impact of the pebble mine plan,” Juarez explained.
"My hope is that by passing this resolution, they can have a bigger voice and hopefully have enough weight in contribution with other municipalities,” to stop the mine, Morton said.
That is certainly not in the plans for Pebble Limited Partnership, which says it is doing the necessary due diligence.
A company spokesperson released this statement Monday in regards to the scrupulous regulatory process:
"We estimate that fourteen federal, state and local government agencies will participate in the regulatory review process... it is also worth noting that the [United States Army Corps of Engineers]
has asked PLP to respond to 130 requests for information that it is publishing on its website."
Quinn says there's not a response in the world that could convince him mining Bristol Bay will be anything other than an ecological disaster.
"The magnitude of the resource there is unsurpassed and the magnitude of the threat is equally unsurpassed,” he said.
As of now, the permitting is scheduled for completion this January.
Cox Media Group