Murkowski speaks out on mine permits
Senator tells Bristol Bay advocates that deficiencies in Pebble DEIS need to be addressed
Cordova Times by Margaret Bauman - September 30, 2019
A celebration of Bristol Bay’s wild salmon in the nation’s capital on Sept. 18 was marked by comments from Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, that deficiencies in the draft environmental impact statement for a proposed mine must be properly addressed.
Cantwell Pushes for Changes to Fisheries Disaster Process, Presses NOAA on Pebble Mine
SeafoodNews.com by Susan Chambers - September 30, 2019
At a Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation hearing last week on fisheries disasters, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., the Ranking Member of the committee, highlighted the importance of responding to fisheries disasters and pushed for reforms to the process.
“In Washington, fisheries are a cornerstone of our maritime economy," Cantwell said in her remarks. "Its related businesses and seafood processors, ship builders, gear manufacturers, support 60% of our maritime economy, which is about 146,000 jobs and $30 billion in economic activity. Washington has experienced 17 fishery disasters since 1992, including crab, groundfish, and salmon. Unfortunately, the fisheries disaster process has become more burdensome, and has resulted in less funding and lengthy delays, putting an unnecessary burden on fishermen and fishing communities.”
In particular, Cantwell discussed the 2016 coho salmon fishery disaster, which affected fisheries across the state.
The coho disaster affected tribes, commercial fishermen, charter and recreational fishermen but not all groups received adequate funding from NOAA, Cantwell said.
“In a shift from previous policy, the administration determined that the charter fishermen should not be included in the economic determination. Thus, I believe Washington did not receive adequate funding for this disaster,” Cantwell said in a press release.
Ron Warren, the Director of Fish Policy at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, testified at the hearing about the impact of that inadequate funding for Washington state’s economy.
“If you add the charters from the coast and charters from Puget Sound, as well as the troll fishery and other fisheries that had been included, you’d be looking at about $100 million to the state of Washington,” Warren said in the statement.
Other fisheries included charters
However, charter businesses in other fisheries received federal funding during the same time. Marine-related businesses and charters have also benefitted in the past, in other fisheries. The federal determination letter did not specifically exclude charter businesses.
For example, both the Washington coho request letter from Gov. Jay Inslee and the California Dungeness crab request letter from Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr. included the recreational sectors, noting the importance of the sport fleets to their states' respective economies.
"While the language in these acts is specific to commercial fishery failures, the economic impact of this fishery resource disaster will also affect communities beyond the ocean commercial fishing industry. Also affected are charter fleets, fishing guides, resorts, tackle and equipment vendors and other businesses … ," Inslee wrote in the request letter of Sept. 24, 2016.
The federal determination letters for both the coho and Dungeness crab fisheries were worded similarly and issued on the same day by then-Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker.
The Jan. 18, 2017 letter approving the fisheries failure for coho specifically included communities, of which charters are obviously a member: "This determination provides a basis for Congress to appropriate disaster relief funding under the MSA, Section 312(a), and then for the NMFS to provide assistance to the State of Washington and the affected communities," Pritzker wrote.
The wording for the California Dungeness crab fishery was the same.
California charter businesses received a portion of the $26 million eventually approved by Congress, based on a plan submitted by the state. The funding approved for the Washington coho fishery was $834,401.
Concerns about the Pebble Mine
During the hearing, Cantwell also took the opportunity to ask one of the witnesses, Assistant Administrator for NOAA Fisheries Chris Oliver, about NOAA's role in the Pebble Mine. Cantwell spoke about her concern that NOAA chose not to be a cooperating agency with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as it related to the proposed Pebble Mine in Alaska.
"When commercial fishing in Bristol Bay is over 135 years old and supports 14,000 fishing jobs and 10,000 industry jobs and is about $500 million in direct economic
impact – valued at $1.5 billion. How is NOAA not warranted at this time to participate in a discussion about how that economy could be destroyed by a mine?" Cantwell asked.
Oliver said NOAA's role is fairly limited. "We’re not a permitting agency. We will consult on essential fish habitat for per Magnuson Act. We will consult, as requested by the Army Corps, on the Endangered Species Act implications as well as the Marine
Mammal Protection Act. So we have a relatively limited role."
Oliver said the agency has to receive the requests and actual proposed action from the permitting agency before it can conduct a full consultation and the agency is still waiting.
But Cantwell was not finishing pressing her point.
"I think my colleague here this morning, and my other colleague from Alaska in the
appropriations process is making it very clear. The Army Corps of Engineers should not move forward until the science says that it’s there. And every agency that has an impact and stewardship over a resource that’s going to be impacted should be participating in that process," she said.
"So the Pacific Northwest is not going to stand by while the administration builds a gold mine in the middle of the largest salmon habitat area. We’re just not going to sit by. ... But a science agency has to participate in the process."
North Pacific Fishery Management Council; Public Meeting
A Notice by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on 10/01/2019
The North Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) Social Science Planning Team will hold a teleconference on Wednesday, November 6, 2019.
Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Pacific Ocean Perch in the Bering Sea Subarea of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Management Area
A Rule by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on 10/01/2019
NMFS is opening directed fishing for Pacific ocean perch in the Bering Sea subarea of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands management area. This action is necessary to fully use the 2019 total allowable catch of Pacific ocean perch specified for the Bering Sea subarea of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands management area.
Navy plans visit to Unalaska
Bristol Bay Times by Jim Paulin - September 30, 2019
A Navy ship with about 1,000 sailors and Marines will spend a few days in Unalaska this week following the storm-the-beach exercises in Adak, and the local police may have the shore patrol along for the ride.
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