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June 24, 2013
Natural areas of exceptional beauty and geographical significance are worth preserving, places like Mount Rainier, the Olympics, Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon. The recreational and spiritual value they provide far exceeds whatever monetary value may be derived by exploiting their natural resources.
Alaska's Bristol Bay region is just such a place. It's wild, scenic, the location of several major rivers and home to over half of the world's remaining wild sockeye salmon. Unfortunately, however, it may soon be lost if the Pebble Partnership has its way.
The Pebble Partnership is a joint venture of Northern Dynasty and Anglo American, Canadian and British mining companies that leased Bristol Bay mineral rights from the federal government. They plan to dig an open pit gold and copper mine of unimaginable size: several miles in diameter and 4,000 feet deep. They also plan to construct seven miles of earthen dams up to 740-feet high to retain toxic waste water, massive infrastructure for people and equipment, and a complex road system to haul ore to the Gulf of Alaska.
I have been active in the design and development of the urban landscape for several decades. I am a business owner, a believer in free enterprise, and a strong supporter of personal property rights. I am also adamantly opposed to the Pebble Mine.
The Bristol Bay region is one of the most spectacular natural areas in North America and should not be destroyed for monetary gain, which is essentially the argument Pebble makes for proceeding.
The importance of preserving natural ecosystems like Bristol Bay seems self evident. To some, however, it's not. Pebble has company in their push to develop wild Alaska.
I returned several weeks ago from an Alaskan kayaking trip, an activity I enjoy there frequently. I was reminded of how rapidly development is proceeding in previously remote and inaccessible areas. Places that were once well off the beaten path are now square in the middle of it. Portions of its incredible wilderness, salmon runs and other unique natural assets are experiencing death by a thousand cuts. That's all the more reason to terminate Pebble — the largest manâ€made excavation ever proposed on planet earth — now, before it's too late.
Wilderness is a fragile thing. Once lost, it cannot be recovered.
I recently wrote an editorial for the DJC urging people to write the EPA, which on April 30 released a chilling assessment of the damage Pebble would wreak on the Bristol Bay ecosystem. The public comment deadline, which was May 31 at the time of my prior writing, was subsequently extended to June 30.
The EPA has the power to decisively stop Pebble by invoking the Clean Water Act and will likely do so if the public supports them. So, if you agree with the importance of beating Pebble and haven't yet written, please go to http://www.ckcps.com and click on “Save Bristol Bay.” You'll be taken to a form letter that you can send as is, or personalize if you wish.
Thomas Quinn, a professor at the University of Washington's School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences, said “Bristol Bay is one of the last really big, fully functioning salmon ecosystems on the planet.” He went on to say that Pebble “would be bad for Alaska, bad for the U.S., and even bad for the world.”
Write now. Thank you.
Cary Kopczynski is CEO and senior principal with Cary Kopczynski & Co., a structural engineering company based in Bellevue.
The Daily Journal of Commerce welcomes your comments.