Clean Waters

Senator Lisa Murkowski
709 Hart Senate Building
Washington D.C., 20510

Dear Senator Murkowski,
Greetings from Crested Butte, Colorado. I had the pleasure of meeting you last Saturday, June 7, in Dillingham, Alaska at a meeting hosted by the Bristol Bay Economic Development Corporation. As you may recall, I am a member of the Training Without Walls leadership program, which is sponsored by the Bristol Bay Native Corporation (BBNC). While I am not your constituent, as a person of Aleut descent and a member of BBNC, my heritage and identity are lodged in the Bristol Bay area. I hope you will take my comments into consideration.
As you know, several leaders from southwest Alaska spoke about their reservations regarding Canadian-based Northern Dynasty Mineral’s plans to develop a large-scale copper, gold and molybdenum mine in the Bristol Bay’s headwaters, which we agree is one of the world’s richest fisheries and a national treasure. My family members and hundreds of others depend on this precious resource for both subsistence and commercial fishing.
Therefore, I was dismayed at the confidence you expressed in modern mining technology to potentially mitigate impacts of this mine, which would be the largest open pit mine on the globe. Senator Murkowski, there is no mine that doesn’t pollute.
Here in Crested Butte, we’re facing a similar (albeit smaller) proposal from Wyoming-based U.S. Energy Corp., which is proposing to develop a molybdenum mine near our town limits. The community has rallied together to unanimously oppose the mine specifically because of the project’s potential to negatively impact our sensitive watershed.
A local environmental group, the High Country Citizens’ Alliance, cites a study completed by James Kuipers of Kuipers and Associates of Butte, Montana and Anne Maest of Buka Environmental of Boulder, Colorado that found that 76 percent of all modern mines evaluated had exceedances of water quality standards during operations in spite of predictions of full compliance during permit application. The study found that over 90 percent of modern mines caused groundwater pollution when they’re developed in sulfide ore bodies and close to groundwater. Fish biologist Carol Anne Woody told the San Francisco Chronicle that even the smallest increase of heavy metals in water could damage salmon’s olfactory senses, stunting their ability to distinguish predators and swim to their spawning sites. In other words, even the slightest pollution has the potential to damage this fishery.
The scale of the proposed Pebble Mine is simply too large. Northern Dynasty and its partner, global mining giant Anglo American, want to build the several massive damns to hold large-scale tailings ponds or mining rock waste. These proposed earthen dams are in one of the most active earthquake zones in Alaska and would divert water from three streams in the Bristol Bay watershed. The size of the proposal is staggering. The Pebble prospect covers 32 square miles and the initial open pit would be more than a mile long and a mile wide.
Many people, including your colleague Senator Ted Stevens, have stood up to oppose this project. Bristol Bay Native Corp., which represents 8,000 natives with roots in the area, found 69 percent oppose the mine. I urge you to consult the Renewable Resource Coalition’s Pebble scoreboard to see other individuals, governments and organizations who are opposed to the mine.
From your stance on Saturday, I understand that you have not made up your mind whether to support Northern Dynasty’s project or not. I strongly believe the presence of such industrial activity, coupled with the mining industry’s track record, pose an unacceptable risk to Bristol Bay and the $400 million annual salmon industry. I implore you here to join Senator Ted Stevens in strongly opposing this project.
Aleesha Towns
Crested Butte News
CC: Senator Ted Stevens,
Senator Ken Salazar,
Senator Wayne Allard

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