Alaska … the Last Frontier Salmonfest … the Rally Cry!

Posted by Lauren Sedam | August 16, 2019

From our owner, Bill Weinaug

If you follow us on Mary’s Facebook, you know we just got back from Alaska. Their license plate’s tag line is “the last frontier”. I’d say, setting Antarctica aside, it is so true. It is a beautiful and wonderous place on this planet. Unfortunately, it is under attack.  

Now … you might ask … what drew us to this remote American gem-land? I’d have to say first and foremost, the answer is great friends! So, we’d like to thank Joseph and Jessy Martens (i.e., Hindu Cowboys and JUNOsmile) for inviting us up for their hospitality and sharing their beautiful frontier. Every year they take off to Alaska to share their musical gifts with the other folks that make this mystical place their home when the weather breaks.

The second reason for traveling there was for an event that happens every year – Salmonfest. For three days, thousands of people turn the Kenai Peninsula’s village of Ninilchik into one of Alaska’s largest cities as families and friends fill the region with love, music and hope. While the majority of attendees come for the fun, the underlying rallying cry is for salmon and the wilds that sustain this precious species.

Salmonfest always has been, is, and will continue to be focused on promoting and conserving salmon habitat on which this miraculous species so depends. Major beneficiaries of festival proceeds include Alaskans Know Climate Change, Musicians United to Protect Bristol Bay, United Tribes of Bristol Bay, and Stand for Salmon.  To learn more about Salmonfest, please go to https://salmonfestalaska.org

At Salmonfest, there has always been a very serious focus on the status of a mine that is proposed at the headwaters of the Nushagak and Kvichak rivers in the Bristol Bay.  If constructed, this mine, being named the Pebble Mine, would be one of the world’s largest open pit copper/gold/molybdenum mines. It would have an earthen dam 60 stories tall that would ultimately hold up to 10 billion tons of toxic tailings and contaminated water. Studies by the mining company and the Corps of Engineers note this huge toxic lake will need to be cared for— forever.  

The mine site sits just north of Iliamna Lake, the largest lake in Alaska and one of the most important sockeye salmon nurseries in the world. Iliamna Lake flows into Bristol Bay. Together they are home to one of the most important wild salmon fisheries on Earth. Annual sockeye salmon returns here top 60 million fish, feeding a wide variety of wildlife and human communities, from grizzly bears to Alaska Native families to a globally important commercial fishery. Seventy-five percent of U.S. salmon comes from Bristol Bay (i.e., representing $16 billion annual revenues and over 100,000 related U.S. jobs). But the Pebble Mine threatens all of that. It will directly harm over 80 miles of salmon streams and 3,000 acres of wetlands. It will dump 10.6 billion gallons of polluted wastewater annually into the Bristol Bay watersheds. The thought of this brings tears to my eyes and puts pain in my heart. 

Sixty percent of Alaskans oppose the Pebble Mine. I hope, once the word gets out, similar numbers of Americans will as well. Of course, Mary and I emphatically oppose it. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have been directed to fast track the permit despite huge unexplained risks and information gaps.  To learn more about this, read CNN’s recent recap of the situation at https://www.cnn.com/2019/08/09/us/epa-alaska-pebble-mine-salmon-invs/index.html.

The moral of the story is that it’s time for Congress to push to pause on this questionable permitting process. I hope this blog inspires you to do some additional research, which will convince you to help us in this fight. The most important step is joining the cause, helping to spread the word, and reaching out to our representatives in Washington, DC. 

If you are interested in taking action now, go to https://www.sealegacy.org/pages/pebble-mine or to https://www.wildsalmoncenter.org/2019/07/22/take-action-for-bristol-bay-2/.  Of course, there are many places to donate cash if you feel compelled to do that as well.  A few sites to do that include https://www.wildsalmoncenter.org/donate/online/, https://gifts.tu.org/bristolbay, and https://act.nrdc.org/donate/pebble-mine-appeal-170911.

At Wekiva Island, we are not just passionate about the local environment. We understand how we are all connected—and essential to protecting—our home, the planet. That’s why we are passionate about causes like this one, and we hope you are too.