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PLEASE JOIN THE FIGHT – Stop Pebble Mine
Anyone who has an interest in healthy fisheries in the Bristol Bay area needs to read this. The short AND long-term health of the Bristol Bay watersheds is be threatened by ‘big mining’. The Renewable Resources Coalition is making headway, but really needs our help.
We now have before us an opportunity to vote on a very plain and simple initiative that will protect our waters and fisheries from being decimated through large scale mining operations. This initiative DOES NOT prevent mining from occurring. Rather, it puts into law the verbal commitments the mining industry has been making about their intentions in regards to Pebble and other mines that will be developed in the Bristol Bay area. The initiatives simply state that the industry can not pollute nor consume the waters of salmon streams or streams that people utilize as drinking water.
If you are not aware, the one mine that is proposed at Pebble will for everyday of its operation require the consumption of more water than Anchorage use in a day. The mining company has already applied for the water rights to ALL of the water of the Upper Talarik Creek, North Fork of the Koktuli, and the South Fork of the Koktuli. The company is currently allowed to take 115,000 gallons per day for 9 different drill sites from Upper Talarik Creek. The DNR does not know the affects of this on the drainage but is hopeful that it â€œwill not do too much damage.â€ This last summer, for the first time ever, the South Fork of the Koktuli River went dry. I am no scientist, but I am sure that the survival rate of smolt and eggs is pretty low when rivers run dry.
Mr. Bob Gillam has basically been single handily financing the fight against Pebble with these initiatives. It has taken hundreds of thousands of dollars along with countless man hours to accomplish the daunting task of collecting 32,000 signatures for each initiative, fighting lawsuits against the mining industry against the initiatives, and running advertisements to help educate the general public on this issue. It is time that we, as operators, step up and help financially in this fight. There will be the need for many TV, radio, and print ads as the vote on the initiatives draws closeâ€”which looks like the vote will be in August. Mr. Gillam has pledged to match dollar for dollar, every donation that comes to the Renewable Resource Coalition to support the initiatives. This is in addition to the $1,000,000 he has already spent on this issue over the last two years.
Contact your clients with a simple email if you personally can not donate any money to this cause. The issue has received national and international attention in newspapers and magazines.
Please contact Richard Jameson at the Renewable Resources Coalition at 907-743-1900 or via email at email@example.com to arrange for donations.
Pebble Mine Video
Pebble Mine Update — Join the fight!
Sport Fishing Industry Leaders Blast Pebble Mine Proposal
Full-Page Ads in Fish Alaska and Fly Fisherman Magazines Urge Governor-Elect Palin To Protect Bristol Bay Watershed
Anchorage, Alaskaâ€”In an unprecedented move, 37 sport fishing industry leaders, including Scott Fly Rods, Orvis, and the American Fly Fishing Trade Association today urged Alaska Governor-elect Sarah Palin, the Alaska Department of Natural Resources, and the federal Bureau of Land Management to reject the Pebble mine and permanently protect the Bristol Bay watershed from industrial mineral development.
The fishing equipment manufacturers and suppliersâ€™ message, delivered in an open letter to Governor-elect Palin and agency officials, will be featured in full-page, four-color ads in the December, January, and February issues of Fish Alaska and the February issue of Fly Fisherman Magazine. The combined paid circulation of these two popular fishing magazines is more than 155,000. Trout Unlimited is paying for the ads, which prominently feature the logos of the 37 retailers and the industryâ€™s trade association. (For a copy of the letter and the ad, go to: HYPERLINK “http://www.renewableresourcescoalition.org/troutunlimited.pdf” www.renewableresourcescoalition.org/troutunlimited.pdf )
â€œThe prospect of hard rock mining in the Bristol Bay area of Alaska scares the hell out of the world fly angling community and the businesses that serve it,â€ said Robert Ramsay, president of the American Fly Fishing Trade Association (AFFTA), which represents more than 400 fly-fishing manufacturers, sales representatives, retailers, outfitters and specialty media.
â€œThese are some of the most cherished fly fishing waters on earth,â€ Ramsay said. â€œPrized not just for their fisheries, but recognized for their broad wilderness character here in America and across the world, Bristol Bayâ€™s public lands must continue to be protected from the devastation that would result from hard rock mine prospecting and development,â€ he added.
According to a recent joint University of Alaska/University of Montana study commissioned by Trout Unlimited, the Bristol Bay salmon fishery generates an estimated $400 million per year with sport fishing contributing a whopping $122 million to that total. Tens of thousands of anglers, hunters, and wildlife watchers from around the world visit the Bristol Bay watershed annually. In 2005 alone, the region boasted 65,000 recreational visitors, according to the study.
â€œWild salmon and trout are the real gold mine in Bristol Bay,â€ said Tim Bristol, Alaska Director for Trout Unlimited. â€œWhen the Pebble promoters submitted their mining plans in September of this year, the prospect of dewatered salmon and trout streams, giant tailing dams, roads though the wilderness, and pipeline complexes sent shockwaves throughout the sportfishing world.â€
To date, the proposed Pebble Mine has garnered a great deal of attention – and
rightfully so. It would be the largest open pit gold and copper mine in North America, take water from critical salmon rearing streams of the Bristol Bay, and disturb core wildlife habitat for key game species.
â€œNearly everyone who loves fish and fishing has a story of a river, a lake, a stretch of stream that was lost to pollution and irresponsible development. We are not going to stand idly by and let that happen to the Bristol Bay watershed, which is truly irreplaceable,â€ stated Jim Bartschi, President of Scott Fly Rods, on why the company chose to participate in the project.
In applications to the State of Alaska, Northern Dynasty Minerals, the Canadian mining company that owns the Pebble mine prospect, has detailed plans that include a 15 square-mile complex with an open pit measuring approximately two miles long, a mile and half wide, and 1,700 feet deep. To build the tailings storage facilities, Northern Dynasty proposes taking water from several critical salmon and trout streams and retaining the water and mine waste behind some of the largest dams on the planet, which would eliminate several miles of streams. Northern Dynasty is a junior mining company that has never actually constructed and operated a large mine.
Two earthen dams would be constructed in this earthquake prone zone, ranging from 740 feet high and 4.3 miles long, to 700 feet high and 2.9 miles long. The larger dam would be higher than the Hoover Dam or the Grand Coulee Dam which are made of much hardier concrete. The water sought by the mining company each day amounts to three times the daily water usage of Anchorage, Alaska (pop. 277,000). Infrastructure, including a haul road and port, for the Pebble Mine also could pave the way for a massive mining district that includes BLM lands covered in the draft Resource Management Plan that is currently open for comment.
For more information, go to: HYPERLINK “http://www.tu.org/bristolbay” www.tu.org/bristolbay
Dillingham, Alaska makes the LA Times
80 Eyes on 2,400 People
If terrorists come to tiny Dillingham, Alaska, security cameras will be ready. But privacy concerns have residents up in arms.
By Tomas Alex Tizon, Times Staff Writer
March 28, 2006
DILLINGHAM, Alaska â€” From Anchorage it takes 90 minutes on a propeller plane to reach this fishing village on the state’s southwestern edge, a place where some people still make raincoats out of walrus intestine.
This is the Alaskan bush at its most remote. Here, tundra meets sea, and sea turns to ice for half the year. Scattered, almost hidden, in the terrain are some of the most isolated communities on American soil. People choose to live in outposts like Dillingham (pop. 2,400) for that reason: to be left alone.
So eyebrows were raised in January when the first surveillance cameras went up on Main Street. Each camera is a shiny white metallic box with two lenses like eyes. The camera’s shape and design resemble a robot’s head.
Workers on motorized lifts installed seven cameras in a 360-degree cluster on top of City Hall. They put up groups of six atop two light poles at the loading dock, and more at the fire hall and boat harbor.
By mid-February, more than 60 cameras watched over the town, and the Dillingham Police Department plans to install 20 more â€” all purchased through a $202,000 Homeland Security grant meant primarily to defend against a terrorist attack.
Now the residents of this far-flung village have become, in one sense, among the most watched people in the land, with â€” as former Mayor Freeman Roberts puts it â€” “one camera for every 30 residents.”
Some don’t mind, but many others are furious and have banded together to force the city to take the cameras down.
“You better smile. You’re on camera,” says Roberts, 64, a barge captain. Roberts himself isn’t smiling as he points out a single camera on the side of a building. The camera is aimed toward an alley.
“It’s amazing, isn’t it?” he says. He drives around town in his pickup, spying on the cameras that he believes are spying on him. “Everywhere you look, there’s one looking at you.”
Roberts, mayor of Dillingham from 1972 to 1978, says the cameras constitute an invasion of privacy, and beyond that, they’re just plain creepy. He scratched together a petition demanding removal of the cameras and collected 219 signatures within days. He carries the ragged sheaf of names next to him in the truck.
The City Council, which supports the cameras, threw out the petition, claiming Roberts did not follow the law, which requires that the signatories be registered voters. Now Roberts is working with others to put together a legal petition to force the issue on the October ballot.
Roberts climbs out of his truck and slams the door.
He is a square-jawed man with a slow, deliberate way of talking. He looks out at Nushagak Bay, which remains frozen until the end of April. No boat can enter or leave the harbor until the ice breaks up. He shakes his head. “This is Dillingham, Alaska, folks,” he says. “I don’t think we have to worry about Osama bin Laden.”
That is, unless Bin Laden wants to go salmon fishing.
Dillingham is a hub in the Bristol Bay region, which is famous among fishermen for its sockeye runs.
The inhabitants of about 30 nearby villages come to town for supplies. Slightly more than half the residents of Dillingham are Native Alaskans. The rest are white or mixed, like Roberts, who is Dutch and Yupik Eskimo.
The village has a rumpled, flophouse feel to it, as if collapsed together by a strong wind from the Bering Sea: faded cedar shacks next to aluminum buildings next to dusty lots of dry-docked fishing boats tipped at all kinds of angles.
It is a working town in the middle of what some might call nowhere, which, according to Police Chief Richard Thompson, is why residents must be vigilant. Terrorists intent on attacking the United States could, he says, “backdoor it” through a nowhere dot on the tundra just like Dillingham.
Thompson, with the blessing of the City Council, applied for the Homeland Security grant last year. He is 51, wiry, with a slightly harried air about him. He has spent 22 years in the Dillingham Police Department, starting as dispatcher and becoming chief a year and a half ago.
It’s his department. He and his six officers take the oath to protect very seriously. He bristles at any reference to Big Brother.
“Tokyo is that way,” says Thompson, extending his arm to the left. He’s standing near the spot in the harbor where Roberts stood the previous day.
“Russia is about 800 miles that way,” he says, arm extending right.
“Seattle is about 1,200 miles back that way.” He points behind him.
“So if I have the math right, we’re closer to Russia than we are to Seattle.”
Now imagine, he says: What if the bad guys, whoever they are, manage to obtain a nuclear device in Russia, where some weapons are believed to be poorly guarded. They put the device in a container and then hire organized criminals, “maybe Mafiosi,” to arrange a tramp steamer to pick it up. The steamer drops off the container at the Dillingham harbor, complete with forged paperwork to ship it to Seattle. The container is picked up by a barge.
“Ten days later,” the chief says, “the barge pulls into the Port of Seattle.”
Thompson pauses for effect.
“Phoooom,” he says, his hands blooming like a flower.
“Farfetched? My view is we pay people like me to think of the ‘what ifs,’ ” Thompson says. The cameras would help authorities monitor who is entering and leaving the port. If something bad happens, the cameras at the very least could help identify suspects.
“I’d be willing to bet that’s a good reason why we got the grant,” Thompson says. “The government, I think, understands the potential.”
The Department of Homeland Security, which gave Alaska more than $16 million in grants last year, takes seriously the threat of terrorists infiltrating the country through remote border areas.
“Once a terrorist is inside Alaska, that person is inside the United States,” says David Liebersbach, director of the Alaska Division of Homeland Security.
“Phoooom,” Thompson says again.
Police headquarters is a big blue building made of aluminum. In a large room on the second floor, technicians are working out the kinks in the surveillance system. It is a German-made all-digital network that stores footage in computers. Two 42-inch Sony plasma screens on a wall show live video of street scenes, parking lots, building entrances and locations around the harbor.
From this room, a dispatcher will monitor the busiest parts of town around the clock. Officers can also follow a crime in progress. Thompson hopes the cameras will help in day-to-day crime-fighting. During fishing season, a large transient population comes to town, and drugs and alcohol become a problem. Quaint little Dillingham, he says, becomes “a rough little town.”
He cites crime numbers for the last three years: Homicides: 3. Unclassified deaths: 6. Assaults: 271.
Thompson tells the story of a skipper, John Henry, 51, who one winter night in 2004 fell asleep on the beach and froze to death. Today, a camera watches over the spot where he died. Thompson says if a camera had been there that night, police could have saved Henry.
Thompson says he doesn’t have the time or interest to spy on people.
The town leadership stands behind him. Mayor Chris Napoli said the city posted the Homeland Security grant as an agenda item in a council meeting last year. He said the meeting “was poorly attended” â€” a nice way of saying nobody came. The subject of surveillance cameras was not mentioned in the meeting notice. On June 2, 2005, the council adopted a resolution accepting the grant.
Napoli doesn’t understand the fuss. “We had an opportunity to enhance security and we took advantage of it,” he says. “I thought we were doing what government officials are supposed to do.”
The mayor, who runs a gas station and convenience store across from the police station, bought his own surveillance camera for the store. The banks and grocery stores in town have had surveillance cameras for years. The hospital uses cameras, and the public housing authority two years ago installed 25 cameras at its apartment complex.
Says high school wrestling coach Johnny Johnson: “If you’re not doing anything wrong, what does it matter?”
Tim Smeekens and his wife moved from Oregon to Alaska eight years ago, living for a time in a tiny native village. A job as a social worker brought Smeekens to Dillingham five years later.
He has taken over the petition drive started by Roberts, consulting with a lawyer to put together a referendum on the cameras. Based on the number of people who voted in the last election, Smeekens says, he’ll need at most about 100 signatures.
“Not a problem,” he says over breakfast at Fisherman’s Cafe.
It’s a one-room restaurant with low ceilings and no discernible heat. The temperature hovers around zero. The clientele is a rough-looking crowd. Two men at a nearby table talk about bear-hunting, one claiming to have shot a “brownie” that had a 28-inch skull.
By contrast, Smeekens looks dapper. He is 53 with roundish glasses that give him a professorial look. The town leaders “assumed they could put up these cameras and nobody would mind,” Smeekens says. “Know what? We mind.
“I value privacy. It’s the birthright of every American,” he says. The surveillance cameras represent “a chipping away of that right.”
Smeekens says he’s fighting over principle. But many others eager to sign the petition have more pragmatic or personal concerns.
“I guess we have to be mindful not to pick our noses in public,” says Donna Shade, owner of a bed and breakfast. She describes herself as someone who naturally feels guilty anyway.
“It’s a Catholic thing,” she says. The cameras bolster the sense that “we’re not trustworthy.”
Ronnie Heyano, a fisherman, sums up his concerns: “Who will be watching the watchers?”
Later that afternoon, Roberts, the barge captain, is driving around in his truck again.
Barge work is hard to come by as long as there’s ice in Nushagak Bay; he’ll have time to spare until May. He spends much time giving townspeople tours of the camera sites.
“Here’s one thing that really ticks people off. See that building?” says Roberts, gesturing toward an old one-story structure near City Hall. It’s the Bristol Bay Counseling Center, a mental health facility.
“There are people embarrassed to go in there because they think those cameras are taking pictures of them,” Roberts says. “You’re never going to hear from them.”
On a road behind City Hall, Roberts stops his truck to talk to a fellow barge captain who has stopped his own pickup. Two idling trucks, two rolled-down windows, two men swapping news in the middle of the street. It’s a common scene in town.
“Watch out. Osama’s going to get you,” Roberts says.
“Big Brother’s going to get you first,” says the other skipper, Dennis Johnson.
Roberts asks if he’s a registered voter. Johnson says yes and reminds Roberts to tell him when the petition is ready. The men fall silent, their truck engines quietly rumbling. With a short crisp nod, Roberts drives off.
Roberts says if the petition fails, he may do the unthinkable: run for mayor again. He predicts he’d win and there would be a few people at City Hall looking for new jobs.
He heaves a sigh.
“Dillingham, Alaska,” he says simply, his tone implying the lament: What has happened to you?