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May 9, 2021

What Could Go Wrong? This.

There’s a game most of us play. It’s called “What Could Go Wrong?!” You know, like I’m going to hand my nine year old an automatic weapon – “What Could Go Wrong?!” Or, why not go bare-headed and drive a motorcycle really fast? “What Could Go Wrong?!” Then there is the always present, Why don’t we build a giant mine at the headwaters of the largest sockeye salmon fishing run in the entire world? “What Could Go Wrong?”

Many Alaskans have asked this question over the last decade regarding the proposed Pebble Mine in Bristol Bay. When the state government seemed to answer, “Nothing could go wrong,” tribes, fishermen and environmental groups pleaded with the Environmental Protection Agency to study and report.

I attended the EPA hearing held in Anchorage a few weeks ago. “What could go wrong?” had indeed gone terribly wrong at the Mount Polley Mine in British Columbia just last month. A breach in the dam had dumped millions of cubic feet of toxic waste into a tributary of the Fraser River – a salmon bearing river. In a stroke of irony, the town closest to the impact zone is named Likely. The experts have said the damage done is irreversible. That means it’s a waiting game to see if any fish at all return to, or survive the toxic soup.

Oh, and here’s a real shocker – engineers Knight Piesold are saying it’s not their fault because they aren’t working for that mine anymore. Oops. Sorry about your bad luck.

Many people who testified at the hearing thanked the EPA for taking up the issue of the safety of our salmon runs in Bristol Bay, and I lost count of how many said their hearts were breaking for the people of Canada, and for what they will endure from their epic mine disaster.

We got our answer to the question, and it was ugly.

See, the EPA has determined that a dam failure at Pebble is possible – and Northern Dynasty Minerals wants to build that dam anyway – in one of the most seismically active places in the world. Oh, and the dam needs to last forever, because sulfuric acid doesn’t have a half life. As author and former Bristol Bay fisherman Bill Carter notes, “In 1964 Alaska experienced the largest-ever recorded earthquake, which registered at 9.4 on the Richter scale. The industry standard is for a dam to stay structurally sound up to a magnitude-7.5 quake.” Um…do the math, folks.

In a submission to the EPA by Northern Dynasty, the firm who engineered the dam structures and designs at Pebble mine weighed in. The company? You guessed it – Knight Piesold. “Modern dam design technologies are based on proven scientific/engineering principles, and there is no basis for asserting that they will not stand the test of time,” they said.

Well, I guess the “test of time” was a pop quiz, and Knight Piesold flunked it. We have a basis now. What’s frightening is the largest Pebble mine disaster scenario studied by EPA (not the largest touted by Pebble proponents) is a spill an incredible 94.7 times bigger than Mount Polley. Seriously. The capacity in cubic metres was 49.3 million for Mount Polley. For Pebble? 4.67 billion.

What Could Go Wrong?

The EPA has held hearings all over Alaska. They were asked by Alaskans to come here. We now know what could go wrong, and it is unacceptable. But for some reason, part of our congressional delegation kept complaining about the EPA’s involvement.

As paranoid as Lisa Murkowski and Don Young can sound when it comes to “federal overreach,” they suddenly seem to understand the threat that a failed dam – even one in another country – has on our fisheries. The failure at the Mount Polley mine has woken them up enough to join Mark Begich in asking for investigations and higher standards for mines in British Columbia that straddle our border. Southeast Alaska has a tremendous salmon run of its own, and it shouldn’t be threatened by Canadian development. Twenty-eight percent of Alaska’s salmon are from rivers that flow from Canada into Southeast Alaska, and the Tongass National Forest. The Boundary Waters Treaty was signed with Canada in 1910; it says we are not supposed to pollute each others waters. It may be time to dust that thing off and use it.

One could argue that a Canadian mining company like Northern Dynasty/Pebble shouldn’t be allowed to threaten Alaska fish stocks and wildlife within Alaska’s borders either.

The EPA still needs to hear from you. The are accepting comments HERE until September 19th. We know what could go wrong. Wrong Mine. Wrong Place.

Comments

comments

Comments
11 Responses to “What Could Go Wrong? This.”
  1. NickWI says:

    Bristol Bay should be a national monument. and Once EPA blocks the mine- which it likely will, given the public opposition to the mine- then efforts need to be undertaken to protect the region forever, the watershed of Bristol Bay is included in the Fisheries Act which regulates what activities can go on the watershed, currently oil drilling is banned and the resolution on the ballot would ban mining greater than 640 acres or 1 sq mile. frankly the entire watershed should be set aside. if Bristol Bay became a monument, then it would be one of the largest in the country- the watershed is 40000 sq miles and the bay itself likely covers as much if not more. unfortunately the President is limited in AK to creating land monument of 5000 acres in size or less. which given Bristol ‘s size, is a drop in a bucket anything bigger requires Congress which means we’d neeed to flip the Houuse and keep the Senate to get a bill protecting Bristol Bay through.

  2. Granny says:

    Well let’s hope Parnell gets tossed like the tator tot he is to the big oil…then we well see that the OIL belongs to a ‘birthright owner’ as Hollis French coined eons ago…I hear that will be handed back to the Natives…hmmm…
    What could go wrong? This….it will be an interesting series of court trials from what I hear on the grapevine…

    • Intel says:

      I heard about that ‘ordeal’ of foreign funds in the USA…invested in HUGE business in Alaska…ouch indeed!
      Just make sure when it’s passed back to the Natives, have NANA build the ‘poor little rich girl’ a house, eh?
      It would seem the Natives are not the only one’s to be ‘left to live in third world conditions’ isn’t that right? :/

  3. mike from iowa says:

    Once again you see wingnut backed efforts to remove science boogeyman from the food chain and bring you Frankenfish,whether you want them or not.

  4. Mo says:

    More on Mt. Polley, for gluttons for punishment:

    Quesnel Lake is pristine wilderness at it’s’ best and is a treasure that should be protected for all time. You will not forget this lake once you have seen and experienced it.
    http://www.horsefly.bc.ca/quesnel-lake.html

    and the Vancouver Sun is on it – interesting links in their sidebar, such as this one, with a pic:
    http://www.vancouversun.com/news/metro/dangerous+occurrences+mine+tailings+ponds+past+decade/10148841/story.html

  5. Mo says:

    Thanks, Shannyn.

    I drove through that area in June. BC is building a gigantic powerline to connect the Skeena River to the Red Chris Mine. Holy cow. Read all about it here:
    http://riverswithoutborders.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Red-Chris-Briefing-2013-04.pdf

    And I dutifully commented thus as the EPA site:

    A Chinese proverb supposedly says “One picture, ten thousand words.”
    Well, here are two quotes with the same effect as ten thousand words:

    I attended the EPA hearing held in Anchorage a few weeks ago. ?What could go wrong?? had indeed gone terribly wrong at the Mount Polley Mine in British Columbia just last month. A breach in the dam had dumped millions of cubic feet of toxic waste into a tributary of the Fraser River ? a salmon bearing river. In a stroke of irony, the town closest to the impact zone is named Likely. The experts have said the damage done is irreversible. That means it?s a waiting game to see if any fish at all return to, or survive the toxic soup.Oh, and here?s a real shocker ? engineers Knight Piesold are saying it?s not their fault because they aren?t working for that mine anymore. Oops. Sorry about your bad luck
    .–Shannyn Moore in “What Could Go Wrong? This.

    “http://www.themudflats.net/archives/44233

    And, from Scott Adams:
    The goal of every engineer is to retire without getting blamed for a major catastrophe.
    http://dilbert.com/strips/comic/1993-04-23/

  6. Zyxomma says:

    No Pebble. Not now, not ever. I submitted my comments to the EPA already. They know where I stand.

  7. mike from iowa says:

    If the koch bros can walk away from their responsibilities,what would stop Pebble from doing the same? Wingnuts?

  8. juneaudream says:

    In..minds eye..I can see how the ‘powers that be’..jus KNOW nothing bad will ever, Ever..happen due to the mining. I mean..haven’t each of the corps and politicos..who swear..they have the honest, scientific goods to PROVE..it is safe..for EVER..lined up their birth order kids..and bought a small jungle of tents, bar-ques..and solar panels..so that it is their flesh and blood..sitting in the way..of any event. spill. Yeah..that is what they are doing..showing us..how..they will stake their daughters and grandchildrens lives..by putting them in what ..we call..harms way. Is that not a wonder..that they have their sons..pulled out of elite universitys..to take 4 month slots..at this Salmon-Salvation Camp-a-Lot? In Canada..dig under the wreakages there..you’ll find those children..of the folks who swear..it cannot happen. You will..so help me..you will…(and in a Pigs Eye… 🙁 Abuse..and rape..are happening all over this World. So then..maybe..only one ‘child’..per corp. power for..all this ..might be sent..to be ..penned up for..24 hours. Would the powers that be..go for that? Nope. They will read this, smile at the inane comments..and flash back to discussing their vacation choices..for the family..for the Christmas season..while we dry and wriggle..with the fish hook..searing through our communal bellys. Rape, abuse..it happens….we are but human-flakes for the huge corporations..solentgreen..so to speak…..

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