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Trout Unlimited is victorious in lawsuit to reinstate proposed protections for headwaters of Bristol Bay
Court vacates the 2019 decision to withdraw the Bristol Bay 404(c) Proposed Determination
ANCHORAGE, Alaska—Today, the U.S. District Court for the District of Alaska vacated the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) 2019 decision to withdraw the Bristol Bay 404(c) Proposed Determination, reinstating important proposed protections for the headwaters of Bristol Bay. These proposed protections would limit the amount of mine waste that could be released into streams, rivers and wetlands at the headwaters of Bristol Bay. This victory concludes a two-year-long lawsuit by Trout Unlimited (TU) and comes in the wake of a recent ruling in favor of TU by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
“Today’s decision gets us back on track to finalizing protections for Bristol Bay’s headwaters and its world-class fisheries,” said Austin Williams, Alaska legal and policy director for Trout Unlimited. “As the science has shown time and time again, large-scale mining in the Bristol Bay headwaters would be catastrophic to the region’s fisheries, its economy, and its vibrant cultures. We look forward to working with the EPA to finalize these protections that are so critical to so many people.”
“Today’s court decision is fantastic news for the families, businesses and fisheries of southwest Alaska. Stopping massive amounts of mine waste from being stored in Bristol Bay’s headwater rivers is common sense—a no brainer—we are thrilled by today’s court ruling. It’s a solid next step to putting the Pebble Mine debacle behind us for good.” said Nanci Morris Lyon, King Salmon resident and owner of Bear Trail Lodge.
In 2019, the EPA under the previous administration sought to withdraw the 2014 Proposed Determination for Bristol Bay—a sudden decision based on politics that ignored the robust scientific record demonstrating the potential for unacceptable adverse effects. Trout Unlimited sued, challenging the EPA’s decision as arbitrary and capricious and contrary to the Clean Water Act’s governing standard. In July, 2021, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of TU, finding that the EPA could withdraw a proposed determination only if the discharge of materials would be unlikely to have an “unacceptable adverse effect.” Today’s decision vacates the 2019 withdrawal and reinstates the 2014 Proposed Determination. TU looks forward to vigorous engagement in the 404(c) process to ensure that strong and lasting protections are established for Bristol Bay.
Trout Unlimited, the nation’s oldest and largest coldwater fisheries conservation organization, is dedicated to caring for and recovering America’s rivers and streams, so our children can experience the joy of wild and native trout and salmon. Across the country, TU brings to bear local, regional, and national grassroots organizing, durable partnerships, science-backed policy muscle, and legal firepower on behalf of trout and salmon fisheries, healthy waters and vibrant communities. In Alaska, we work with sportsmen and women to ensure the state’s trout and salmon resources remain healthy far into the future through our local chapters and offices in Anchorage and Juneau.
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