From the Washington Post: “The Environmental Protection Agency said Thursday that it would restore protections for Alaska’s Bristol Bay, blocking the construction of a massive and controversial gold mine near the world’s largest sockeye salmon run.
The policy shift, indicated in a court filing Thursday in response to a lawsuit filed by the mine’s opponents, deals a serious blow to a project that has been in the works for more than a decade and would have transformed southwest Alaska’s landscape.” Read the whole story.
I know you’ve heard that before, but this time, it’s for real, done in by the Clean Water Act. After watching the Trump Administration finalize plans last week “to open up part of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska to oil and gas development, a move that overturns six decades of protections for the largest remaining stretch of wilderness in the United States,” according to the New York Times, I thought Bristol Bay would share a similar fate. Not so.
Check out the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers statement and be happy:
This administration supports the mining industry and acknowledges the benefits the industry has provided to the economy and productivity of this country, from job creation to the extraction of valuable resources, which are especially important as we recover from this pandemic. The Pebble Mine project has the potential to fulfill all of those needs; however, as currently proposed, the project could have substantial environmental impacts within the unique Bristol Bay watershed and lacks adequate compensatory mitigation.
Given these concerns, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers finds under section 404 of the Clean Water Act that the project, as proposed, would likely result in significant degradation of the environment and would likely result in significant adverse effects on the aquatic system or human environment.
From High Country News: This summer, the Yurok Tribe declared rights of personhood for the Klamath River — likely the first to do so for a river in North America. A concept previously restricted to humans (and corporations), “rights of personhood” means, most simply, that an individual or entity has rights, and they’re now being extended to nonhumans. The Yurok’s resolution, passed by the tribal council in May, comes during another difficult season for the Klamath; over the past few years, low water flows have caused high rates of disease in salmon, and cancelled fishing seasons.
It might be time to gas up the buggy ( even at a predicted summer $5 a gallon), and get up to Northern California for some salmon fishing. Peter Firmite’s recent article in the San Francisco Chronicle quotes fishery experts as saying there are more chinooks swimming in the ocean now than at any time since 2005. A two-year commercial fishing ban on the fish ended last year, which may account for their increase.
The now-defunct Discover Magazine published this snippet in a 2003 article on returning salmon. Both Moore and her husband, Jonathan, shared the byline.
“Looking out over the gravel beach, the blue inlet, the whitewashed rocky islands, the floating loons and soaring gulls, I am beginning to understand that the stream the scientists are studying is not just a little creek. It’s a river of energy that moves across regions in great geographic cycles.
“Here, life and death are only different points on a continuum. The stream flows in a circle through time and space, turning death into life across coastal ecosystems, as it has for more than a million years. But such streams no longer flow in the places where most of us live.”
UPDATE: “Damnation” is a documentary well worth watching.
Don’t we all love to get good news? I relish, for example, when a friend rings me up with something cheery to say, or, I check my bank account to find I’ve got a couple of hundred bucks stashed that I thought I’d spent, but didn’t.
As far as the environment goes, I’m always on the lookout for positive stories. Most news is depressing, scary, messy. So today’s piece in the L.A. Times outlining the largest dam removal in our history made me smile. According to the article by Kim Murphy, after almost 100 years, salmon will now be free to swim up 70 miles of their traditional home waters, the Elwha River, instead of being stopped at the dam.
“Now,” of course, is relative, in that the project involves removing not one, but two, dams along the river that runs through Olympic National Park. Then there’s the matter of dealing with the removal of 24 million cubic yards of sediment. Apparently, the number is akin to a football field as high as the Empire State Building times 11.
Sound familiar? Closer to home, we’ve been watching the sediment removal debate revolve around Pasadena’s Devil’s Gate Dam, which is close to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. I’ve written in this space before about the suspect nature of Brown Mountain Dam, farther up the Arroyo Seco and its impact on returning steelhead to this mountainous region.
To quote the Times article about the Elwha River: “The effort is the largest dam removal project ever undertaken in the United States. It comes at a time when the nation’s 80,000 dames, many of them aging and backed up with choking silt, are increasingly suspected of having outlived their usefulness.”
The best news would be to get moving on bringing down Brown Mountain Dam. The Los Angeles River and its tributaries deserve to be returned to their natural state.