he legal showdown between the Environmental Protection Agency and the group behind the giant Pebble mining prospect near Bristol Bay is coming to a head, with the first oral arguments in one case set for Friday morning in Anchorage and the recent filing of a second lawsuit that claims the agency illegally colluded with mine foes.

Both cases, under the purview of Alaska federal District Court Judge H. Russel Holland, were filed by Pebble Partnership, owned by Northern Dynasty Minerals

For the past couple of years the City of Dillingham was much larger than it is today. That’s because the city successfully annexed much of Nushagak Bay into the city limits. However, earlier this year a judge in Dillingham reversed the annexation and basically ordered the process to start again. KDLG’s Mike Mason reports.

Region 10 of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is offering an online webinar on Sept. 9 and Sept. 10 to provide a brief overview of the Clean Water Act Section 404 (c) proposed determination for the Pebble deposit in Southwest Alaska.
The presentation will be offered Sept. 9 from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. Alaska time and from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Sept. 10.

The 2014 inshore Bristol Bay sockeye salmon run of 40.6 million fish ranks 7th out of the last 20 years (1994–2013) and was 17% above the 34.7 million average run for the same period. This year’s sockeye run was 53% above the preseason inshore forecast of 26.6 million fish. Togiak was the only district to come in lower than preseason forecast with Naknek/Kvichak, Egegik, Ugashik, and Nushagak districts all larger than predicted. The 28.8 million sockeye salmon commercial harvest was 61% above the 17.9 million preseason forecast.

At its August meeting, the Dillingham city council voted to move forward with a draft petition to annex the waters of the Nushagak commercial fishing district. The vote was not unanimous; councilman Tracy Hightower cast the lone dissenting vote.
The 194-page draft petition, which will likely be filed with the Local Boundary Commission, looks very similar to the petition drawn up in 2010. The boundaries for annexation are the same. The proposed tax rate of 2.5 percent has not changed. And already a few "Ax the Tax" signs have popped up around town.

Political group Bristol Bay Forever is sponsoring a ballot measure that would put additional environmental protections on the area known as the Bristol Bay Fisheries Reserve. The area, consisting of 36,000 square miles of land and rivers in Southwest Alaska, was established in 1972 as a way to protect the local salmon populations from the effects of oil and gas development. For any oil or gas company to get surface entry rights, they need to obtain a legislative declaration that says their activities won’t harm the fish.

Extreme Seafoods made waves as they entered the Bristol Bay fishery this year. The company, founded in 2013, purchased the Paug-Vik Corp facility in Naknek that most remember as the old Baywatch plant. A company email circulated around the fleet promised $2 per pound for sockeye, long before the season began, as well as a $5,000 signing bonus and up to a $10,000 advance. Payments would be made within weeks of each delivery, and a fleet of tenders, including two new vessels, would service both the Naknek and Egegik River fishermen.

Hundreds of people turned out in Anchorage to comment on a proposal that would severely restrict development of a massive gold-and-copper mine in the Bristol Bay region.

The proposal, made by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency last month, effectively would bar the type of project the mine’s owner, Northern Dynasty Minerals, has discussed.

The agency is hosting public meetings in Alaska this week, though written comments can be submitted through Sept. 19.

A huge mine waste spill in one of Canada's most productive salmon-producing rivers has Alaska fishermen fearing for their livelihoods and sympathizing with their counterparts in Canada.

"This is just heartbreaking," said Katherine Carscallen, who grew up in Dillingham and gillnets in Bristol Bay.

"This is what we've been afraid of happening here, and just seeing it play out in someone else's life the way it could happen here is terrible," she said.

Commercial fishermen appear to be having success in harvesting pink salmon in the Nushagak District. KDLG’s Mike Mason has the details.